What Is Citizenship?

The first flag on the PT list is citizenship, though I would argue that for most people it should not be the first thing that they try to do when internationalizing themselves and their family. I believe that people ought to start with their personal residency, but that is not where the PT theory starts.

Does Citizenship Matter?

The harsh reality of life is that the world operates on what Warren Buffett calls the Ovarian Lottery. How successful a person may or may not be is determined in very large part by the start they are given in life. People born into successful families (mainly intelligence and wealth) in countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, have a much better chance at success than almost everyone else. If they also happen to be English speaking, male and white, then the deck of life is stacked in their favor.

In contrast, people born to poor families in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, will need to overcome mountains of obstacles to have even a small level of success. Life is not fair.

Other people are born fairly lucky in countries only to find that their country descends into some sort of conflict or political tyranny. It is generally very difficult for citizens to leave or escape from a country if their government decides that they cannot travel. Civil wars, for example, trap the people inside a country and have a nasty habit of making almost everyone a refugee. The tragedy is unimaginable for people lucky enough, like me, to have never been through it.

How Does Citizenship Impact Your Everyday Life?

For most people on earth, the background of their lives are impacted by just a few factors:
– their citizenship
– their country of birth
– the languages they speak
– their income and wealth

Obviously, some of those factors are out of our hands and the others are heavily influenced by factors that are also out of our control. Therefore, being able to influence and improve upon any of those factors ought to be very important to us all.

Not only does the national situation impact a person at home, but it has a reach outside your home country’s borders as well. In the modern age, after two wars, an Iraqi passport almost guarantees it’s holder to be checked and interviewed relentlessly at every border, to need special visas for all travel and on and on. In contrast, a German passport holder can travel to almost every country in the world with no visa.

If you live outside your home country and have a “weaker” passport, then there will probably be some sort of annual qualification standard to be met (a job, spouse, insurance, etc) to enable you to remain. The grinding process of government will be a regular feature in your life. It also means that ruthless employers can exploit you knowing that you need their job or you will likely need to leave the country. Your life is in their hands.

For people in these types of situation – probably hundreds of millions of people worldwide – does citizenship impact their everyday life? Yes it does!

How Can Citizenship Change Your Life?

In normal circumstances, being able to add a second nationality is a very good thing. Most of us are not global nomads, which means that being able to acquire the citizenship of your new adopted nation will make many everyday activities much easier.

Many of those annoyances, stresses and weaknesses are removed when a person or family becomes a national of the “right” country. In the developing economies of the world, it is often the case that nationals and foreigners are treated very differently by the law – even though the laws may be identical for both groups.

What Is Dual Citizenship?

There are a number of ways to describe having more than one passport and nationality. Sometimes it is referred to as a second passport, other times as multiple or dual citizenship. It is possible to have more than two passports – I have once met a person with three, but they are very rare individuals.

Not all governments allow their citizens to also be citizens of another country. In some countries this is one of those laws that exists in theory, but everyone ignores. In other countries a person is legally required to renounce nationality if they take up another. However, most countries allow nationals to have more than one country.

A few of the bigger countries are:

– Australia: legal
– France: legal
– Japan: illegal
– United Kingdom: legal
– United States of America: legal

If you wish to acquire a second or third nationality it is very important that you check that each of the countries allows this. There is no point in breaking laws like this and causing yourself trouble.

Some countries have surprising laws in place related to nationality. For example, I am told that in Japan dual citizenship is not allowed, all successful applicants must be able to pass written and spoken tests in Japanese and are required to change their name and take up a new Japanese name! It will be no surprise to learn that Japan is not a particularly popular passport in the international circuit.

How Long Does Citizenship Take?

Let’s imagine that you agree with the above thoughts and think that having a second citizenship is a good idea, how long does citizenship take to be granted?

Firstly, it needs to be pointed out that being a citizen of a democratic country comes with many advantages, which means that governments and civil servants take their work very seriously. They do not issue new passports easily.

There are multiple ways to apply for citizenship of a country:

– by birth
– by marriage
– by naturalization (living in the country for a number of years)
– by financial investment (opening a business or creating jobs, buying real estate or government bonds)

Each has it’s own specific protocol and process to be followed and each will be different in every country. Even in the European Union, which writes laws to create harmonization, the qualification criteria and application process is different in each Member State.

In most countries there will be some combination of face to face interviews, citizenship tests (the US test is described here), language requirements and oaths of allegiance. Yes, governments really take this seriously and it can take a lot of effort to become a citizen of a new country.

If you qualify by birth or marriage, then the application process will take some time, in most countries it would be rare for this period to be less than one year. If you buy your citizenship through an economic citizenship program, the terms are laid out in advance. A normal period would be between six months and two years.

However, for those of us that choose the naturalization route, your host country will have written laws that govern this process. In some countries that qualification process can be as short as two years. In others (Switzerland comes to mind) the qualifying time is twenty years. The majority of countries require residence of between five and seven years. On top of these numbers, the application process itself will likely take an extra one or two years. You need to be committed to do this!

Which Citizenship Is Easiest To Get?

Understanding which citizenship is easiest to get will require a detailed understanding of a person’s personal situation and family history. Some passports are virtually impossible to obtain, but might be very easy for some people because of their background. Working out this puzzle will require you to think carefully about your family tree and then carefully researching any possible avenues.

Which Citizenship Is The Best In The World?

This is also a subjective question. Which citizenship is the best in the world can be looked at dispassionately, but there might be no way for you to qualify for it, making the subject academic at best.

However, there are a few ways to think about passports and nationality if you want to be theoretical. Firstly, a person might not want to be committed to anything too difficult. Some countries (such as Belgium) insist that all nationals vote in elections. Not voting is a criminal offense and they fine people that do not comply! Other countries insist on national or military service or high taxes. Some countries do none of these things.

Next, it is interesting to look at the number and range of countries that can be visited visa free by nationals. In this respect, European Union passports always seem to be considered the strongest. In recent years, both Sweden and Germany have been considered to be the best passports in the world.

Can Citizenship Be Revoked?

Every country has it’s own laws for this, but broadly speaking, yes it can. Normally this would only happen if a person has convicted of a serious crime. Ultimately, revoking a passport is a decision made by government and if a government decides to, it will find a way. The best advice we can offer is not be convicted of a serious crime!

Can Citizenship Be Revoked After Divorce?

This is a slightly trickier question to answer and once again, the rules will differ in each country. Many people have this fear though – if I apply for naturalization by marriage and then one day we divorce, will I lose my citizenship?

Under most circumstances, the answer would be no, you would not have your status withdrawn or revoked. Civil servants working in these departments do not go checking on past applicants every few years, so there is no real reason why anyone should be interested. The most likely reason that an investigation might occur would be if the divorced spouse were to make some sort of official complaint.

However, if a person was to divorce before the application process was completed, then it probably would not be granted. In a similar way, if a person was to complete the process, become a citizen and then divorce the following week, this probably would look suspicious if any official looked into it. It would also be unlikely for an application to be granted if the person had already divorced their partner. In that situation, they would probably need to wait longer to apply by naturalization and not by marriage.

All of this means that under normal circumstances, if a person was eligible on the day, then they were eligible and unless there are some unusual additional circumstances, they qualified legitimately.

Can Your Citizenship Expire?

As a rule, no. Once a person becomes a citizen of a nation, they will retain it for life and depending upon the situation, their family and children will also retain it.

In contrast, a passport is issued with an expiry date, which would usually be either five or ten years after issue. This period of time differs from country to country. When the passport expires, it is important to follow the procedure to have it renewed, otherwise future international travel may not be possible.

Can You Renounce Citizenship?

Normally this would need to happen in a government office or embassy and there would be a procedure to complete. For most nationalities, simply letting a passport expire might be enough, if it is then never renewed. However, renouncing nationality generally becomes an issue when there are additional financial circumstances, such as taxes.

Why Would You Renounce Citizenship?

The USA requires each national to make an annual tax declaration and pay any amount that might be due, no matter where in the world they live. For people that have lived outside of the US for years, or even decades, this can be very troublesome. Because of this, there is a small, but real, stream of people that renounces their American citizenship each year.

Some countries forbid their citizens to be nationals of another country and will require that they renounce one. This would most typically happen when a person is able to acquire a much stronger document, such as from the EU, but is unable to retain their weaker document, from say, an African country.

It is important to point out that renouncing nationality should not be done unless there is another to replace it already. Who would want to deliberately become stateless?

Can An Employer Keep Your Passport?

Situations like this happen all too frequently to people that have traveled to begin a new job. Employers keeping passports will almost always be illegal and usually is proof that they have moved the person illegally to exploit them as cheap (or slave) labor. If you ever hear of a situation where this is happening, please help the person because they are probably trapped against their will and there will likely be many more in the same place.

Where Can People With An EU Passport Live And Work?

One of the fundamental freedoms of the European Union is that it’s citizens can live and work legally in any other Member State. This level of travel and openness is a wonderful opportunity to millions of people to alter and change their lives and follow their dreams. With only a few exceptions, EU citizens can travel to any other European Member State without a visa. Within the Schengen Area, there is no need for them to use a passport as the national borders are open to internal travel.

Can You Renew A Passport Quickly?

There is no point trying to hide it, there is massive variance between renewal times for passports. When times are desperate and you really will and can do anything to renew a passport quickly, then there is usually an additional service level that offers a 24 or 48 hour turnaround.

It ought to be pointed out that embassies are usually good places to renew a passport quickly (if you are abroad) because they will generally have far fewer applicants. If you are in an embassy in a big city like New York, expect them to be busy. If you are in an embassy in a small country like Latvia, expect them to be much less busy.

What Is A Perpetual Traveler?

So what is this PT thing?

Back in the mists of time, an international financial services author named Harry D. Schultz published a paper recommending readers use “3 flags” to preserve their freedom and wealth. Each of those flags represents a different country in the world. It is also why the header on this website has different national flags.

His core idea, which is actually quite simple, but can be complicated and expensive to implement, was that a person’s liberty and financial freedom will be enhanced by internationalization. In other words, when every part of your personal finances relates to one nation, that nation controls you. When you add in a second nation, the first nation controls you a little bit less and so on.

This idea is enhanced by carefully selecting countries for their existing rules – seeing the world as it is and choosing to use countries more like service providers or businesses than nation states.

The key word is FREEDOM. This means that the theory is different shades of libertarianism, though often quite extreme in it’s views. Personally, I think I am only a very moderate libertarian, at best, but that does not stop me from thinking that freedom is generally a good idea.

How To Be A Perpetual Traveler – Version 1.0

In the original idea, a person would need a passport from a second country. Ideally, that country would not want it’s subjects to serve national service in the military and would preferably be an independent nation that is highly regarded throughout the world, such as Ireland, Sweden or Denmark.

The same thinking was applied to residency. If a person wanted to avoid excessive taxation, one way to do this would be to be personally resident for taxes in a tax haven. This might be an island in the Caribbean, for example. In Schultz’s case, he was a resident on Monaco for decades.

In his original idea, the suggested plan was to drop out and travel extensively. This would mean that no single government would think the person to be their resident and so would ignore him or her for tax purposes. This might have been possible in the 1970s, but in our computer and database age it is very difficult to do in reality. Databases have long memories!

However, it was this concept of regular travel that spawned the idea’s enduring name: Perpetual Traveler

The third flag of his theory related to where a wealthy person might locate his or her liquid assets – international banking and asset management. Once again, carefully selecting a location where privacy and financial management talent and services prevailed would be important. If the location happened to also have low taxes on savings and capital gains, then even better!

How To Be A Perpetual Traveler: Version 2.0

The founding concept was later expanded on by WG Hill who authored a number of books on the subject. His thinking expanded the number of flags still further.

These extra flags were a business base and what are termed playgrounds – other countries where your own personal lifestyle tastes are considered to be normal and accepted, letting you live your life with little or no fear of the law.

This meant that the full list of flags became:

1. Citizenship – hold documents from more than one country
2. Personal residence – preferably in a low tax nation
3. Business base – where you earn the majority of your income
4. Asset base – where you keep your money and funds
5. Playgrounds – several locations where you choose to spend time each year

Through the 1990s, a UK publishing firm called Scope International published a series of books relating to different aspects of the theories, focusing on one aspect – such as passports or banking – or suggested locations – such as Monaco or Andorra. There are also a wide number of stories relating to the efforts of government to catch up with and shut Hill down – how true they are, who can say, but they seem plausible. (For reference, both Schultz and Hill were Americans by birth).

As with anything that has a counterculture feel, is riddled with conspiracy theories, or is just plain old confusing, there were also scammers and fraudsters in the space. One such character was Adam Starchild. I highly recommend that you click on that link and read his profile. There are few people like that in the world! Even that wikipedia page describes that, “He left behind a remarkably diverse list of registered companies”.

What Is A Perpetual Traveler?

The reality is that PT is designed to maximise personal freedom through travel, wealth and the careful use of international locations. This means that a PT could be almost anyone.

In recent years your author has spent some time in Malta, a tiny Mediterranean Island. It has low personal tax rates and lots of sunshine, both of which attract wealthy retirees. This has lead me to meet quite a number of people that either live or identify themselves as PTs. I have probably met 30 or more people like this, which is actually quite a number.

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Who Are Perpetual Travelers?

They came from a wide range of northern European countries, such as Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and the UK. They mostly speak excellent English, which is why they are not in Monaco. They are mostly aged 55 or more, like sunshine, are well educated, have made some nice money in their working lives and like to have fun. That could be almost anyone!

Of the people I met, the reality is that most had not heard of or were thinking about a fixed strategy. Instead, they simply wanted to move to sunnier climes for their early retirement and if they planned to do that, they were going to go somewhere low tax. People that had made it their life’s work, were very rare in comparison.

Does Being A Perpetual Traveler Work?

The reality is much more complex these days than it ever was in the 1980s or 1990s. In Schultz’s time people really could “drop out”, travel the world and untangle themselves from government. This is almost impossible today. Not being resident somewhere, at least as seriously as is required for everyone to believe that you are actually resident, is a strategy that is very likely to cause legal problems. Don’t do that.

Additionally, things like offshore banking and offshore companies are much more complicated and expensive to set up now than they were some years ago. In early 2016 a data leak lead to The Panama Papers which essentially proved a few things: rich and powerful people routinely cheat on their taxes and offshore companies and attached bank accounts can be very hard and expensive to set up, even when working with one of the shadiest operators in a shady industry…

This is one of the reasons why this website does not look at offshore banking and / or companies. Their potentially very high costs (both financial and legal) make them unlikely vehicles for most people to use, unless the level of their wealth is really high or their legal situation is conducive to safety.

Additionally, the rules of the banks that offer accounts changes regularly in line with ever changing anti-money laundering and Know Your Client rules. This website is not designed to offer you consulting advice or charge fees in these areas, so it feels better to not discuss them in any depth. Any steps you take in these areas will require your own first hand research.

However, just looking at the news in 2016 showed that some level of internationalization is preferable, if possible. For example, the atrocities of civil war in Syria showed the costs of not being able to leave a country when times get scary. The surprise Brexit result in the UK plunged several million people (approximately 3.5 million EU citizens that live in the UK and around 1.5 million UK citizens that live in the EU) and their legal status into doubt.

Perhaps a more direct example happened in January 2017. As you will read here, holidaymakers from the UK were being evacuated from The Gambia after a political crisis. Many other firms and governments were trying to help their citizens. Nobody was offering to help Gambians, they were stuck and had to suffer through the problems.

Having a second passport is mostly a very good thing for you and your family. Situations like these, with people suddenly stuck in some form of legal limbo, not of their own doing, shows some of the benefits of being an international citizen – whether or not that means PT to you is your decision.

If you don’t believe me, then look at the example being set by American billionaire Peter Thiel as was exposed in January 2017. He has arranged for citizenship in New Zealand and also purchased a large estate in the nation. He is ready for anything! It seems unlikely that he is a PT as we might imagine, despite his initials, but he has certainly taken some of the steps and has probably calculated that this is an optimal approach for his lifestyle.