A Little More on Second Passports
Super Tuesday it is.
The mailbag was full when I checked this morning and I’ve already responded to everyone. Thanks for that!
I’m a huge fan of iteration, which means if I veer off on a topic, you can pull me back in. But many of you seem to love the idea of a second passport.
Some of you asked pretty direct and good questions I’ll try to answer as we go along.
Let’s get to it.
The Journey Was Totally Worth It
I remember well the first conversation I had with the Italian Embassy staff in Manila. I had already hired an Italian law firm to help me gather all the information I needed to submit my documentation for Italian citizenship.
It was one of the funnier conversations I ever had:
“So you are claiming from your mother’s side?”
“Yes. My maternal great-grandfather did not become a US citizen until after my grandfather was born. So my Jur Sanguinis claim is valid.”
“And you’re American?”
“Not anymore. I renounced. I’m a British citizen.”
“But you were born in The States?”
“And your parents?”
“They’re still in Texas.”
“And your wife?”
“And you got married here?”
“No, we met and got married in Singapore.”
“No, in Hong Kong.”
“And where do you live?”
She looked at me, exasperated!
“Are you kidding me?”
“No, and I swear I didn’t plan it this way!”
That conversation was at the beginning of 2019. It took nearly 2.5 years to gather all the documentation and have it apostilled.
Apostille is a French word meaning “certification.” It’s like an international notarization.
The apostille is attached to your original document to verify it is legitimate and authentic so it will be accepted in one of the other countries who are members of the Hague Apostille Convention.
So just having your documents isn’t enough. They all must be apostilled.
That meant I had to gather all my documents in the US, UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines because documents can only be apostilled in the country of their origin.
So every time I had a business trip to one of these places, I’d bring my wife, Pam, and son Micah along. It was Pam’s job to go to all the embassies and agencies to get the documents sorted out.
The reason the Italian law firm I hired came in handy was threefold. First, they told me exactly what documents I needed to recover and apostille. Second, they gathered all the documents in Italy that I needed about family that’s been long dead. Third, they helped my mother gather all the US documentation.
For instance, I needed my great-grandfather’s birth certificate and my great-grandmother’s birth certificate. Those documents were in the commune of Mirabello Sannitico in Campobasso, Molise. I never would’ve found that on my own.
The law firm also coordinated with my mother in the States to get all the US documentation we needed, such as:
- My birth certificate
- My mother’s birth and marriage certificates
- My father’s birth and marriage certificates
- My grandmother’s birth, marriage, and death certificates
- My grandfather’s birth, marriage, and death certificates
- My great-grandfather’s marriage, citizenship, and death certificates
- My great-grandmother’s marriage, citizenship, and death certificates
All those docs had to be apostilled, as well.
Pam had to gather all her Philippine documentation like her birth certificate, our Filipino marriage certificate, and her certificate of no marriage.
The Certificate of No Marriage or CENOMAR is a document that ensures she only has one husband. (I find it hilarious that kind of documentation exists.)
In short, the gathering of all the documents is not trivial. It’ll take time. But probably not as long as it took me!
Second Passport: What’s Your “Why?”
There are quite a few ways to go about getting a second passport.
The first thing I’d do is answer the all-important question: “Why?”
I’ll share with you my Why.
When Pam and I got married in 2011, I told her I was going to renounce my US citizenship. I did that the week after we got married.
I didn’t want any children we’d have to get caught up in the IRS tax net.
The IRS had already opened a Beijing office and I had heard horror stories about how they were targeting “Oops Americans.” Oops Americans are people born in the US to foreign parents but went back to their native countries at a young age. For instance, it could be married Taiwanese engineers working for Oracle for a year in the States and had a baby while in Silicon Valley.
The babies are still Americans, and the IRS was knocking on their doors as grown-ups looking for their squeeze.
Most of these people didn’t even know they were Americans! Many Taiwanese who got caught up in this didn’t even speak English.
My children wouldn’t be Oops Americans per se. But I knew I wasn’t moving back. So I didn’t want them to ask me why they’re paying US tax if they never lived in America.
Between us, I didn’t see Trump coming. I was sure – in 2011 – the Hildebeast was going to get coronated come 2016. I’m so glad I was wrong about that!
Since then, the United Kingdom made it onerous to bring spouses into the country if they are non-EEA. The EEA is the European Economic Area and includes all European Union countries plus Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein.
As Pam in Filipino, she’s non-EEA.
Incidentally, an English friend of mine, who has a wife from Hong Kong and recently moved back, called the process “hell.” And he’s not short of financial resources, to say the least.
Here’s what I’d have to do to move back to England and pay 45% income tax for my pleasure:
- Since I’m a freelancer and not employed, I’d have to park about GBP 65,000 (about USD 90,000) in a bank account and not touch it for a year to prove to the UK government I wouldn’t live off welfare.
- Pay about GBP 1,500 in application fees.
- Pray that even though her son and I are British citizens, the UK government would let Pam in.
“Bollocks!” as they say in Old Blighty.
So my big question was, “What are my alternatives?”
It wasn’t until that need arose that I really thought about my Italian ancestry. And then of course, the “I wonder if…” scenarios started flying through my head.
I found out that having Italian citizenship automatically grants the spouse the right to entry… and the application is free. That answered my prayers.
Not only that, once Pam passes the Italian B1 language test, she can apply for an Italian passport, herself!
Do you have any idea how much money I’ve spent on visas for her so we could travel together?
It’s a non-trivial number, that’s for sure!
And those days will be over.
As Pam speaks four languages fluently, I have no doubt she’ll add Italian to her arsenal quickly.
Then she can bust my balls in five languages! Bully for me!
One regret I have is that I waited my entire adult life to ask that question. I can’t tell you how it would’ve changed my decisions.
For one, if I had my Italian passport in my early 20s, I could’ve studied in Europe with no visa and done that tuition-free. It was unheard of in the 90s, but European universities are every bit as good as American universities.
I also could’ve worked in London without the visa rigamarole. More importantly, I could’ve quit my job sooner. I had to stay on because unemployed people can’t apply for UK citizenship. That’s a year of my life I can’t get back!
I may have even decided to move to Italy sooner. Who knows?
And that’s precisely what I wanted Micah to avoid.
Micah will know, from the earliest time possible, that he can live and work in the UK and the EU. He can also return to the Philippines if he wants to. (I’m pretty sure that won’t be his first choice, but he could.)
That is, his options are already laid out in front of him. Micah doesn’t have to fly around the world like his crazy old man to open the possibilities. He inherits them trouble-free.
So find out your Why? Is it your wife? Kids? Heritage? A vacation home? Freer travel?
No “Why” is more valid than any other. All that matters for you is your “Why.”
Have a think about it and we’ll talk more tomorrow.
Remember, write to firstname.lastname@example.org whenever the mood strikes you!
All the best,
P.S. If your concern is economic, and that’s one valid concern, have a lookie-loo at this video from Jim Rickards. It could help you focus on what you need to do to get moving.