I recently read The Sink which you can find here.

It explained countries "sell" passports (maybe also citizenship) to people with enough money. I believe it is still possible today, with Dominica charging $175,000 for example shown here.

In the book it explains how they certain African countries and other small islands were selling them as an easy way for the country to increase income. It was a smart idea as they did not have any other industries.

America almost completely forced these countries to stop "selling" second passports, and one island in particular actually recalled all passports it had "sold".

Question: Why? I know someone is going to say it is because of terrorism, but surely if someone called John Smith is a wanted terrorist a passport from Ukraine should be no different to a passport from Dominica? There are still countries today offering these passports (although they I must say are less corrupt then some of the African countries).

  • 2
    @SJuan76 - there are plenty of tax heavens all over without caring about citizenship. It was the passports that were problematic, not just - or even primarily - taxes
    – user4012
    Nov 21 '16 at 3:29
  • Exactly. I don't see why the USA stopped countries selling passports.
    – k1308517
    Nov 21 '16 at 10:51
  • 2
    @k1308517 - hopefully my answer clarified that for you. Please note that it didn't actually STOP the countries from selling passports. it simply either made those passports less useful (by stopping the visaless entry), or forced them to take greater care/scrutiny as to who they give passports to to avoid the visa backlash.
    – user4012
    Nov 21 '16 at 14:54

There are several main differences between passports from, say, Ukraine, and Dominica:

  1. Dominica's Economic Citizenship Plan didn't just sell regular passports - it sold diplomatic passports.

    Diplomatic passports are generally treated with more deference (and may, thought they don't always do, go as far as provide the holder with diplomatic immunity. The whole Dominica thing blew up explicitly when Francesco Corallo - wanted by Intepol for organized crime - tried to get diplomatic immunity this way).

  2. Dominica's Economic Citizenship Plan generally seemed to attract bad actors (big ones), with no attempts to filter them out.

    Another scandalous event was Serge Roger De Thibault De Boesinghe affair.

    In general there are concerns from USA about people who seek such citizenship, for example, to bypass economic sanctions (not just terrorists and criminals). E.g. St. Kitts was used by Iran.

  3. Unlike Ukraine, some of these islands had passports that allowed easy visa-less travel to USA/Canada etc... to people that US/Canadian government would prefer NOT to bypass standard visa issuance/immigration process to screen out various undesirables (criminals, terror suspects etc...)

    For example, your question mentions passport recalls. Most likely, this refers to St Kitts' program, and the passports were recalled (just to be clear, not citizenships - passports) because the result of not vetting the applicants was Canada stopping visa-less travel to passport holders because they didn't vet people well enough.

    Note that, for a lot of people, these passport programs' main attraction was not just having a passport, but having a passport from a country whose citizens can travel to most Western world countries without a visa. St Kitts selling point was explicitly "facilitates you and your family's ease of travel throughout the world to over 100 countries visa free."


Actually, many countries in Europe, including the most wealthy such as Germany and poor like Ukraine give citizenship for investment.

I think it is a good thing because it encourages the government to make the place attractive for foreigners: build better infrastructure, reduce crime, basically make a paradise from the place.

The negative side may be that some criminals may employ that way to get asylum from their home country's persecution.

  • 4
    Persecution or prosecution? Nov 21 '16 at 10:09
  • 7
    I think details matter a lot. The USA for example has a program that allows rich buisnessmen to get "conditional permanent residence" relatively easilly but to upgrade that to unconditional permanent residence and citizenship requires them to actually live in the USA and run their buisness. Nov 21 '16 at 17:02
  • 3
    "Andrew Grimm what is the difference?
    – Anixx
    Nov 21 '16 at 20:43
  • @Anixx prosecution = legitimate legal proceedings, persecution = unjustified harassment in multiple different forms. Dec 14 '16 at 9:34
  • @Taladris Who are you thinking of? Some French actors, industrialists and tennis players took up residence in Belgium or Switzerland but citizenship isn't necessary.
    – Relaxed
    Oct 6 '17 at 21:27

I think it's necessary to define your terms better. For example, many developed countries with advanced social welfare schemes discourage retirees and others without employment from other countries from settling in their countries because they are afraid they may become a burden on their social services. (this came up in the news recently with regard to Americans who threatened to "move to Canada" in the event of a Trump victory.)

But in many such countries the would-be-immigrant can get around this if they are wealthy and are willing to post a surety bond as insurance against becoming a burden to the local taxpayers. If they do this they can become resident aliens long enough to apply for citizenship and thus become naturalised citizens, and thus obtain a passport. Thus they're buying the right to have the opportunity to become citizens. Does that constitute "buying a passport"?

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .