Trump Ban: How to Be Prepared Against The Growing Trend of Extreme Vetting

The Trump ban is only the beginning of a wider call for extreme vetting spreading fast across the developed world. This article looks at the growing clampdown on freedom of movement and explores the solution for citizens of targeted countries…

Anyone holding a passport from Iran, Iraq or Syria will tell you: it is a source of constant hassle. Their citizens seem to be endlessly under siege from all sides. With such a passport, everything is a problem, from travelling abroad or opening a bank account to passing due diligence. The latest executive order by Donald Trump on banning citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the US adds more pressure on the citizens of these countries.

But the Trump ban is just the beginning of a wider call for extreme vetting spreading fast in the developed world. Many countries are already tightening up their immigration rules. The Brexit vote was mostly about getting tough on immigration. Similar trends are happening in France, Austria and the Netherlands with the rise of parties whose main policies are centred on immigration issues. Even the Gulf countries are making it now difficult if not impossible to let new entrants from Muslim countries on Trump’s blacklist.

So what are the implications if you are an Iranian or a Syrian national? It will become increasingly difficult to travel and do business. I was in Dubai last week discussing with local lawyers and bankers the various options available to their clients from the region and in most cases the only practical solution to overcome these problems is via obtaining a second citizenship. However, not all second passports are equal. If you are from Iran, you really need a strong second citizenship to protect you from the political stigma attached to your citizenship of origin. Though a Caribbean passport (St Kitts, Dominica, St Lucia, etc.) will do a fine job to travel visa free to most countries, an EU passport will carry more weight when it comes to opening a bank account in Switzerland, in London or in Dubai, or entering countries with extreme vetting such as the United States. An EU passport adds an extra layer of reassurance for financial intuitions that are constantly tightening up their due diligence process.

Some will argue that in the case of the Trump ban, dual citizens are also affected by the ban. However, the UK and France have already negotiated with Trump that their dual citizens should be allowed access to the United States and most likely other EU countries will follow suit, unless Trump is ready for total diplomatic isolation. On the other hand, it’s doubtful that smaller isolated countries will have the same clout to defend the right of their citizens to enter the US in case of dual citizenship with a blacklisted country.

So what are the options? Obtaining a second citizenship with an EU country is the main avenue to explore. If you are not ready to wait for years to obtain an EU passport, then only two EU countries offer a fast track citizenship by investment program that does not require physical presence in the country and offer citizenship in less than two year. The first one is Malta. It takes up to 18 months to obtain the Maltese passport and requires an investment of approximately €1.15m. The problem with the Maltese program is that there have been quite a few rejections and most of the investment is in fact a donation to the Maltese government. The second option, and currently the most practical and straightforward one, is Cyprus. With the Cyprus citizenship by investment program, applicants can obtain their citizenship in six months without having to reside in Cyprus. They can include all the member of their immediate family (spouse, children and parents) in their application. Citizens of Cyprus enjoy the right to live and work anywhere within the European Union and have visa-free access to 158 countries and territories. The program requires the applicant to invest €2m in real estate, approval is granted within three month and permanent resident status within a week of filing the application. Most of the real estate portfolio can be sold in three years, only a property of €500,000 must be kept as the main residence, making the actual mid-term investment very reasonable and low risk. Many investors do it for the family, so that their children can easily study in the best universities, gain access to better jobs and discover real freedom of movement that we in Europe take for granted but which in fact is becoming a rare and sought after commodity.

With the growing threats of immigration bans, travel restrictions and the rise of extreme vetting, access to freedom of movement has never been as essential as in today’s world. Freedom to travel requires a strong citizenship that comes at a price, but it is the only insurance available against the worrying trend of citizenship discrimination and extreme vetting that could get even more severe in the years to come.

If you are interested in finding out more about the citizenship and residency programs and how it can benefit you, please do not hesitate to contact me on +447730929921 or pg@shorexcapital.com