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A second passport is an item of great value, no matter where you live in the world. But before you consider applying for one, you need to consider several aspects including your current tax situation and whether you will be required to pay tax on your worldwide income, even if you don’t live in your home country.

It’s also important to remember that as a South African, you need to formally apply for dual citizenship prior to receiving your new citizenship, otherwise your South African citizenship will be immediately forfeited.

Routes to citizenship

You can usually gain citizenship through one of these three routes:

1. Citizenship by descent
If you have ancestors from another country, you may be able to obtain a second passport, quite inexpensively, through citizenship by descent. The viability of this route depends on how close your ties are to your ancestor – for many countries ties more distant than grandparents are not considered for citizenship.

2. Citizenship through investment
If you have a significant amount of cash to invest in a business in a country, your passport process can be accelerated. Many countries have citizenship investment programmes – although the ‘price’ of citizenship varies from country to country.

3. Citizenship through marriage
If you fall in love and marry someone with a foreign passport, it’s usually possible to become a naturalized citizen of their home country. Foreign spouses often qualify for a shortened waiting period for naturalization.

Five countries that offer fast citizenship

1. Macedonia – 1 year
In first place is Macedonia, located south of Serbia in the Balkans. Macedonia offers you the best of two worlds – all the advantages of Europe and visa-free entry to the Schengen Area, and you can live here without having to adhere to any EU restrictions or laws. It is regarded as a business-friendly country with tax rates for both companies and individuals set at a flat 10%. To become a citizen of Macedonia you need to start a business and hire local workers. Alternatively you can choose to invest at least 400 000 euros into a real business. Either of these two routes will enable you to become a Macedonian citizen in less than a year.

2. Dominican Republic – 2 years
The Dominican Republic claims to offer second citizenship to foreigners if you invest $200 000 in real estate or in a business. However if you have a steady income and are able to spend time in the Dominican Republic, this investment requirement can be waived.

3. Paraguay – 3 years
Paraguay has long been considered one of the easiest countries to gain citizenship and a big bonus is that your citizenship comes with visa-free travel to Europe and all of South America.

4. Russia – 3 years
Russia is working hard to attract startups and entrepreneurs and if you are willing to start a business or move your existing business to Russia, you can obtain Russian citizenship within three years by simply paying your taxes. Russia’s passport does not offer visa-free access to Europe but you can obtain long-term Schengen visas.

5. Uruguay – 3 years
If you are living in Uruguay as a family unit, you are able to apply for citizenship after three years, as long as you can prove that you have strong ties to the country. These can include owning real estate, having a local doctor, being a member of local social clubs or even renting an apartment.  The term family unit does not depend on you having a spouse, but can also include a single child living with a parent.

If you’re considering emigrating in 2018, contact FinGlobal for more information about how we can assist you with transferring retirement savings, accessing foreign exchange and claiming tax refunds.