Second Passports – A Guide of What Not To Do
Panama and Guatemala are not the first names that spring to mind when you think of offshore tax havens and second passport jurisdictions for expatriation. Areas that probably spring to mind first are the salubrious locations of Monaco, the Bahamas or Switzerland. But these playgrounds for the rich and famous have been coming under attack recently from European government and in so doing so have left many to look further afield for their privacy.
One of the pitfalls in this has been though, that through the proliferation of information and services provided on the internet, the scammers are out in force. Their aim, to take your money and run. Due to the secret nature of many of the enquiries made, little or no recourse can be found once the money is lost.
The first rule that should be applied when looking for an offshore jurisdiction or service is to identify who you are dealing with. In terms of second passports or citizenship applications this should always be a licensed lawyer in the country you are looking to relocate to. Anything less than this and you will probably be waving goodbye to your money offshore, but into some-one else’s bank account! At least with a lawyer, you will know that they have been vetted by their countries authorities and there will be a procedure in place for recourse in the event of mal-practice.
The second rule which relates to citizenship or expatriation for tax purposes, is that you will be expected to appear in person when making an application. Not only this, but you will be appearing at a government office, a large building, flying the flag of the nation you are in. It sounds ridiculous to mention it, but there are so many tales of people who actually turn up in a country to apply for a passport and are taken to a little third floor office some-where in an obscure building and hand over their money after signing a few ‘legal’ documents.
The third rule is that your lawyer should always be present with you when the application is being made. He will be able to cover all matters regarding any assets you may be transferring into the country through offshore trusts or companies. In places such as Panama you are able to register under the ‘pesionada’ provision, giving you a multitude of discounts as a retired citizen. To do this you must show an income from a pension, trust or similar account. You can register at any age over eighteen as long as the income is sufficient.
I mentioned Panama and Guatemala at the beginning of the article because these are two of the lesser known jurisdictions for offshore tax havens. Saying that, Panama at one time had more offshore companies on its register than all of the Caribbean countries combined. Many of these were lost in the eighties when a combination of General Manuel Noriegas dictatorship and the formation of the first IBC companies led to a departure of many companies to the Caymans and Bahamas. Since stable government has been restored, Panama has once again become a prime location for offshore trusts and companies.
Finally with regards to second passports, there are a few no-nos to look out for and avoid. These include anything that purports to obtaining a diplomatic status passport, a passport from a third world African nation other than South Africa or an obscure nation that will require you to obtain a visa to enter a country like the USA or UK. Also avoid anything that involves marriage and adoption to enable you to obtain a passport. All these methods will put you in harms way should you attempt them. If you keep to the rules mentioned here you will safely find a lawyer in the country of your choice who will guide you successfully to your end goal. Good Luck and Bon Voyage!