Passports: I’ll Take Two!

It’s Monday, again!

I’m off to Manila today to get fingerprinted for my Italian passport.  Since this is such an important and sensitive topic, I’ll talk about it from my point of view.  That is, this piece will be empirical and anecdotal, not the type of information you want to base your decisions on.

As always, never make life-altering decisions without talking to your accountant, lawyer, and family, at the very least.

“We have a package for you, Commander Bond.”

“Mr Ring,” the receptionist said, “we have a package for you.”

I was in the Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi, where I was teaching a CFA Level I review course for one of the big companies there.

“Thank you,” I said to the lovely lady, as she handed me the DHL envelope.

I went to the elevator and pressed the button.  Upward I ascended to my floor.  I got out, looked left, turned right, and headed to my room.

As I removed my card key, I took one last look around, to be sure I hadn’t been watched.

With my door unlocked, I walked into my room and put down my computer bag and the package.

Smiling, I grabbed the tear strip on the package, pulled hard, and removed the contents.

There was my American passport, with the requisite Russian visa for my trip to Moscow.

I could breathe a sigh of relief.  The trip to Moscow was a go!

I’ll tell you, pretending you’re James Bond – even if you’ve got a 40+ inch waist and a bald head – is one of life’s great pleasures!

Let me take you back a few weeks prior to demonstrate why that whole exercise was necessary.

My company’s London office:

“Seanie, we’ve got an issue.”

“What’s up, my friend?”

“You’re scheduled to be in Abu Dhabi and then fly straight to Moscow via Amman, Jordan.”

“Yup…”

“There’s just no way we can get your UAE visa [you needed one in those days] and your Russian visa done in time for the trip.”

“Ugh…  Wait a minute.”

“Yeah?”

“What if we use my UK passport to fly to the UAE?  Get that visa done first.  While I’m in Abu Dhabi, you can use my American passport to get my Russian visa done.  And then you can mail my US passport to me at the hotel.  Then I can teach both courses and we’ve got no issue.”

“I think that works!”

That was one of my most fun teaching trips just because of the passport kerfuffle.  And the advantage of having a second passport is self-evident.

Playing with your visas is just one of the options having multiple passports affords you.

The Yank

Even when I was living in London for over six years, and had just received my citizenship and passport, I was “The Yank.”

It’s absolutely fine with me.

Some people think it’s weird when I say “we” with regard to Americans, but the truth is this: you are who you are.

I eat, drink, think, and feel like a Yank.  Actually, I think like Americans who aren’t brainwashed… circa 1999, which is when I left.

Almost no one asks about passports.  But even when they do, I’m totally truthful.

“You renounced?  Really?”

But it’s usually information gathering on how they can do the same.  It must be the crowd I hang with.

Very few get upset about it.  They’re usually parasitic taxeaters like government employees or union guys.

Funnily enough, I find military guys more receptive than most when I talk about renunciation.  I guess they’ve seen the Pentagon Rot up close.

Getting Through Heathrow Easier

If you live in a foreign country and they don’t have worldwide taxation like America, there’s almost no reason for you not to get their passport.

If you choose to live in a high tax country like the UK, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, for instance, why wouldn’t you get that passport the first chance you get?  (There are issues with Australia’s retirement taxation, so talk to your accountant about that.)

But all else equal, a powerful passport gives you more travel freedom.  It also makes coming and going much easier.

I loved my new British passport just because getting in and out of Heathrow Airport is a breeze compared to doing it on a US passport.

Getting my Italian passport gives me access to the entire EU, which has many low tax countries within its make-believe border.  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czechia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Poland are all great countries on the up.

Banking in Your New Country

The US passport holder is persona non grata in most countries where you want to bank.  

Most American expats have to bank at their local Citibank branches in their host countries because foreign banks (their new home banks) don’t take American citizens.

That’s thanks to the asinine burden of FATCA.

FATCA is The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which generally requires that foreign financial Institutions and certain other non-financial foreign entities report on the foreign assets held by their U.S. account holders or be subject to withholding on withholdable payments. 

If you have another passport, they still won’t bank you.  But now you have the option to renounce, if you want it.

Renunciation is a very emotional decision.  I wouldn’t even go there yet.

Just get used to having another passport around to feel that extra freedom.  It’s real.

99% of Passports is Emotional – Until You Start Collecting Them

Let’s use my son, Micah, as an example.

He’ll have his Philippine passport from his mother.  It’s a pretty useless passport right now, to be honest.  But one day it may be worth more.

But he’ll also have his British passport and his Italian passport from me.  Now those passports offer options.

Micah can get a job with Goldman Sachs in London, the world’s largest financial center.  No visa required.  (I had to get a work visa to work in London my first time, as a US passport holder.)

Micah can also work in Rome, Paris, Barcelona, Munich, Madrid, and all the other European capitals and great cities.  He’ll have an easier time working in Zurich and Oslo, as well, even though Switzerland and Norway aren’t in the EU.

With both British and European passports, he’ll also be able to travel to many other parts of the world visa-free.

If you’re a traveler like we are, that genuinely matters.

I don’t know if Micah will grow up to be a chest-thumping Italian – we plan to raise him there – or a more refined European sort.  It doesn’t matter to me, as long as he has a sense of pride and place and home.

But for fully-formed adults, you know who you are… and so do your loved ones.

Getting a second passport isn’t a DNA-altering experience.  It’s just another key, unlocking a door you couldn’t unlock before.

If you can take advantage, you should take advantage.

And if you can pass on that advantage to your children, that may be the greatest gift of all.

All the best,

Sean

P.S.  Write asksean@paradigm.press if you’d like me to talk more about this sensitive subject.  If not, no worries!

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