A few months ago, I shared with International Man readers my experiences obtaining a second passport via the Dominica Economic Citizenship Program. At that time, the only other established and legitimate program like it was St. Kitts & Nevis' program. Now there's another option emerging—Antigua & Barbuda—also a tiny Caribbean island nation.
I was curious to do an apples-to-apples comparison to see how they stack up against each other. But before I show you what I found, there are a few things to keep in mind should you get serious about one of these programs.
First, get a crystal-clear idea of why you want a second passport in the first place.
Editor's Note: See the top 6 reasons why everyone needs a second passport here.
Second, keep in mind that phony passport websites and phony experts are popping up everywhere on the Internet. Our very capable editor Nick Giambruno did a very thorough job on this topic in his recent dispatch, and I highly recommend reading it.
Also, I do want to be clear on terms. Whenever you see the words "Economic and Citizenship" or "Investor and Citizenship," you're looking at a program where the host country needs your cash and is willing to grant you legal citizenship status for a specified sum.
For most other naturalization scenarios, there's a significant time element involved during which you have to actually live in country to qualify for citizenship. Inevitably it takes years to get citizenship and the all-important second passport you're looking for. For many people, this is not an option due to other commitments in life, as it was for me.
Fortunately, the countries we're going to look at now do not have an onerous time element.
With that said, let's take a look at the key elements of each program. Keep in mind that these figures (in USD) are for a single individual. "Family plans" are of course available too, with correspondingly higher fees.
Let's take a closer look at what the comparison shows.
Age of Program
Dominica and St. Kitts have 20 and 30 years of credibility to hang their hats on, while Antigua is just getting started. This established credibility is an important distinction to consider.
An Antigua passport has a lot to offer. The question is, how comfortable are you with an untested program relative to the other options?
Consider all the factors before making a decision, as you would with any other substantial investment.
Visa-Free Travel Countries
One measure of value of any passport is how many countries you can travel to where no visa is needed or one is issued upon arrival (typically for a small fee). In the chart above, you can see you get a whole lot more visa-free travel countries with St. Kitts and Antigua than Dominica.
But the story is not only about the visa-free count. You have to consider which countries you "get" with your new passport and whether or not it matters to you in the first place.
For example, with St. Kitts and Antigua you get a lot more travel throughout most of Europe and Scandinavia, while Dominica affords you only Great Britain and Ireland.
Take a look at the VisaHQ website for a comprehensive list of passports and the corresponding countries with visa-free entries they give you.
Base cost simply means the core amount that goes into the government coffers. In the cast of Dominica, you write a $100,000 check and that's it. With the other two, you have more options.
St. Kitts allows you to make a straight payment like Dominica for $250,000, or you can buy approved real estate for at least $450,000. So if you ever wanted a nice home in the Caribbean, here's your chance to get one with a second passport sweetener.
Similar to St. Kitts, in Antigua you can pay a straight fee of $250,000 or buy an approved property for $400,000; or you if you plunk down $1.5 million to start a business, you can become an Antiguan.
As an aside, I do find the competition and choices being offered up between these sovereign neighbors fascinating.
Government fees are fees you pay for paper processing and in-country interviews with the local minster, etc. They are not insignificant, and in the case of Antigua, it is outrageous. It seems the bureaucrats and their appointees must be kept well fed. But of course, when shopping for anything you should always weigh the overall costs versus the value received.
This is where you pay for the legitimacy of the program. By that I mean in order to ensure the program is taken seriously, there are certain checks and balances that are in place.
Namely, you will be required to hire an approved agent affiliated with the program, get an FBI background check (including submitting your fingerprints), a birth certificate with Apostille, a certified diploma from your university, original marriage certificate, and perhaps more. It can add up to a substantial paper chase.
Economic citizenships are citizenships for a fee; the lengthy in-country time requirements usually required to become naturalized are waived. For the Dominica and St. Kitts programs, you submit the paperwork and funds, spend a few days in the country for an interview, and in a few months you are good to go, passport in hand. Or if you love the place, stay forever; I'm sure some do. The key is, it's your choice either way.
Not so with Antigua. Somewhere the government decided it wants you to show up periodically, and if you don't, no passport. The time is not egregious, only 70 days over a five-year time period—basically a couple of months and you're home free. If you like the place or buy a home, then it's not big deal at all.
In my view, however, it puts the program at a disadvantage to the other two.
Total Time Involved
One question that always comes up is how long does it take to get your passport?
Each program claims that it takes as little as three months. The truth is that a lot depends on you. After all, the immigration folks cannot begin until they have all of your paperwork.
I said earlier the paper chase is substantial, and it is. Add in a background check including fingerprints sent to a clogged FBI processing center, plus you working around your full-time work schedule, family schedules, and the weeks and months can begin to tick by quickly.
The truth is it will most likely take you the better part of a year. Now here's a tip to substantially reduce that amount of time: have administrative assistant move things along faster than you could.
Hire one of the millions of unemployed college graduates in the US (or Europe). They'll love you for it, and all you'll have to do it sign on the dotted lines. Their only focus should be to take the list of required documents needed (this comes from your agent) and start gathering them up.
I wish I'd done this.
On the other hand, if you are exceptionally organized and have all originals of all your important papers close at hand, you'll move to the head of the class.
Editor's Note: You don't need to drop five or six figures on an economic citizenship program in order to get the immense political diversification benefits of a second passport. There are other, less costly paths to obtain a second passport as well. Be sure to download our comprehensive guide on another country that is also one of the easiest to get citizenship in.