Scam Busters: Second Citizenship and Passport
22 September, 2008
The only official economic citizenship programs in existence are those of Dominica, St.Kitts & Nevis and Austria. The cheapest one will cost you somewhere close to US$ 100,000. There are also countries that do support a kind of economic citizenship programs, quite formal and legal, but they don't speak loud about this sensitive issue wishing to avoid disapproval by the world's community. Such silence creates a mystery giving the ground to innumerable scams and making it very difficult to find a real promoting agency. Below are some advices to those seeking on their own.
So you found a website promoting second citizenship and passport programs in one or several countries. Start with analysis of the offer itself and have in mind that at least:
- There are no "instant" passport programs taking 1-15 days. Any country is supposed to thoroughly vet your application and facts from your past, which takes at least a month, and happens quicker in lucky cases.
- There are no too cheap options. More or less real prices start with US$ 30,000 and that will be a citizenship of one of the Central or South American countries for that price.
- You can hardly find a real program with "no need to travel". The only exception known to me is St.Kitts & Nevis program, but the absence of such requirement is being compensated by very strict verification and due diligence procedures. There's an option in Dominica citizenship program to arrange a personal interview in the country of your residence for an extra fee. I don't know other reliable programs with no need to visit the country in person at least once.
- There are no programs granting "passports to everyone no matter of your current nationality or citizenship; just pay money and you get it". Your current citizenship's country may fall into lists of countries where it's impossible to check your background, so your application can be rejected.
If everything sounds nice, go further:
Google the company's name including its domain name and any specific names appearing on the website to see if there are any negative comments left on their service by their former clients. Absence of bad information is a good sign but far not a proof.
Check the website's history at http://web.archive.com if any. If the website is freshly baked, or has no history at all, be careful. Earlier versions of the website may help you to recognize the hidden agendas.
However, you should have in mind that some scam websites are still able to exist long enough and have stable history and background. A simple reason is that not every victim is willing and able to tell the world that he or she got scammed, and this is indeed so stupid sometimes. Besides, the scammers' gains in each particular case are not substantial to develop into an international scandal or involve Interpol into investigation. The hiding scammer is difficult to find and punish. The scam site is alive and thriving.
Phone the company to speak in live. In most cases you even don't get through or reach their voicemail.
Contact them by email with interest about a specific program. In most cases you will be requested to pay first, which is actually quite a normal practice among second citizenship promoting agents both real and fraudulent. With invoice you get more information to examine and possibly find a trace on the Internet. Some frauds are not smart enough, or sometimes simply not able, to create a new underlying legal entity with a new bank account. It might happen you'll find interesting facts about that company's past performances.
Still looks good and reliable? Ask for legal basis details, other than just "by means of naturalization if you fit the criteria". What are the criteria?
Some frauds will furnish you with a legally looking document, which is sometimes worse than not giving anything. You risk to get a passport of a defunct person with just replaced photos in it, or a passport printed on a canceled blank subject to be destroyed, or the one simply stolen. No need to tell about inescapable problems at the first border you try to cross with that passport.
Those "criteria" are a very sensitive part of the process and only a local licensed legal firm in the country where you want your second citizenship is able to handle it within the letter of the law.
The climactic moment is payment of money. After you did it you may never hear from those people again.
The best recommended way to arrange the deal is to take a vacation, travel to the country, meet those people in person, have a lawyer to go with you everywhere, see the immigration offices and the whole application process with your own eyes. Even so, unlike with those official economic citizenship programs, there's no guarantee that the passport will not get withdrawn in future, but at least you reduce risks to a possible minimum. You don't do this often, probably once upon a life. You can afford such travel. You better do.
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