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July 16, 2020

Which second citizenships offer the most passport pulling power?

Following the latest update of Henley’s Global Passport Index, we evaluate the global mobility you can expect from securing a second passport.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that not all passports are created equal. Some countries (read: Japan) boast passports that give citizens free access to nearly 200 other countries, while others grant access to just a few.

Obtaining second citizenship and securing a second passport therefore can open many doors, giving you not only the freedom to travel without restrictions, complications, time and costs, but also the opportunity to do business and live in other countries.

But it’s not just about the number of countries a second citizenship will give you access to, it’s also about which countries these are, because access to European countries or key business hubs such as Singapore, the US, the UK and China may well be very important.

And while passport strength has become temporarily meaningless due to the unprecedented global health emergency that is Covid-19, as countries begin to open their borders once more and international travel kicks in, the power of the passport will become ever-more critical in the delivery of opportunities.

So, what opportunities do the passports of the countries offering second citizenship by investment offer?

Vanuatu rising

According to the latest Henley Global Passport Index (2020 Q2), a platform that measures the global mobility score of nations, published in April 2020, the island of Vanuatu is now among the top 10 most improved passports of the decade.

While Vanuatu, which is the only Asian Pacific country to offer a Citizenship by Investment programme, only jumped one place in the latest rankings, from 42nd place in the 2020 Index Q1 to 43rd place in the 2020 Index Q2, this South Pacific island nation has shown a remarkable 70% increase in its passport power after gaining 53 visa waivers in 10 years.

Gaining second citizenship in Vanuatu, which delivers one of the fastest processing times in the world, at just 45 days, will now give citizens access to 130 countries, including the key markets such as the UK, EU Russia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Passports moving up the rankings

It’s not just good news for Vanuatu, however, with other countries that offer the Citizenship by Investment programme also enhancing the power of their passports.

The Caribbean island nation of Saint Kitts & Nevis, whose CBI program is the world’s most established and continues to be considered as the ‘platinum standard’ of CIPs, also strengthened its passport positioning, moving up one place from 27th to 26th and giving its citizens visa-free access to 156 countries (two more countries since January 2020). This continues the dual-island nation’s top ranking in passport power of all CBI programme-holding Caribbean countries.

While already high in the passport rankings, positioned as 7th in the world, Portugal has moved up one place since January 2020 and its passport is now placed an incredible 6th out of 199 countries, higher than both the UK and the US.

Similarly, the European island country of Malta, which has been operating a popular CPI for the last six years and which recently made significant changes to its programme, has seen the power of its passport improve, with its ranking of 9th in the world upping to 8th giving its citizens access to 184 countries.

citizenship by investment passport power

Retaining its passport positioning

Of the other CBI program-running Caribbean countries, Saint Lucia and Grenada both maintained their passport rankings – in 33rd place with access to 146 countries and in 35th place with access to 143 countries, respectively.

Citizenship of both these Caribbean countries offer visa-free access to important business hubs such as the UK, Schengen area, EU, South America and Singapore; however, Grenada holds a freedom of movement power over Saint Lucia and the other Caribbean countries, despite its access to less (143) countries.

Not only does Grenada offer visa-free access to China, the only Caribbean country to so far gain access, but due to the country’s multiple E-2 visa treaty with the US, a passport from Grenada allows citizens to live and work in the US with the majority of the benefits of a US resident.

Turkey, whose CBI programme became the most popular one worldwide when it cut its minimal investment threshold by 75% in 2018, has also managed to hold on to its passport positioning, continuing its ranking of 55th place. This gives citizens visa-free access to 111 countries, which isn’t particularly high, but (and this is what matters), it does include key business hubs, such as the Schengen area, the US, Canada, the UK and China.

And the European country of Bulgaria, whose citizenship by investment programme launched over a decade ago, further retained its ranking of 18th worldwide, giving citizens of Bulgaria access to 171 countries. A very high ranking that certainly justifies the country’s CBI programme minimum outlay of US$560, though perhaps not its programme processing time of up to five years. And while countries such as Australia, South America and Canada are among its offerings, the US is not.

CBI programme-holding countries that fell slightly

According to the latest Passport Index, Montenegro, which recently unveiled its CBI programme, fell one place from 47th to 46th, however, the European country continues to have access to the same number of countries (124 countries). And as it is expected to join the EU in 2025, the strength of its future passport looks highly promising.

While the Caribbean island of Antigua & Barbuda fell one place from 30th to 29th in the rankings, it still ranks highly in global mobility with visa-free access to 151 countries. And Dominica, which delivers one of the best CBI programmes worldwide, also fell one place from 37th to 38th giving the country visa-free access to 140 countries.

The rankings consider the passports of 199 destinations around the world with each passport scored for mobility, or the freedom that citizens have to visit other destinations worldwide. In the last year alone, an additional 12 countries were added to the list

Since its inception in 2006, the index has provided the authoritative annual ranking of global passport strength and the first ranking of 2020, published in January this year, conclusively confirmed that overall, people were the most globally mobile than we had ever been in history.