All Americans, except for Native Americans, can trace their ancestry to immigrants from other nations around the world. In absolute numbers, the “American Dream” has attracted one of the largest immigrant populations in the world, with 47 million immigrants as of 2015. This represents 19.1 percent of the 244 million international migrants worldwide and 14.4 percent of the US population.
How immigration in the US has evolved over the years
Immigration has been a significant source of population growth and cultural exchange throughout the history of the United States. The US began regulating immigration soon after it won independence from Great Britain, and the laws since enacted have reflected the politics and migrant flows of the times. Early legislation tended to impose limits favouring Europeans, but a sweeping 1965 law opened doors to immigrants from other parts of the world.
A 1790 law was the first to specify who could become a citizen, limiting that privilege to free whites of “good moral character” who had lived in the US for at least two years. In 1870, the right of citizenship was extended to those of African origin.
Long-standing immigration restrictions began to crumble in 1943 when a law allowed a limited number of Chinese to immigrate. In 1952, legislation allowed a limited number of visas for other Asians, and race was formally removed as grounds for exclusion.
In 1965, though, a combination of political, social and geopolitical factors led to the passage of the landmark Immigration and Nationality Act that created a new system favouring family reunification and skilled immigrants rather than country quotas.
Dual citizenship in the US
Practically speaking, the US government does not require naturalised US citizens to relinquish citizenship in their country of origin. Although the Oath of Allegiance to the United States speaks of renouncing “allegiance and fidelity” to other nations, US immigration law does not explicitly address the topic of dual citizenship.
The best summarisation of the US government’s position on dual citizenship lies in a US Supreme Court opinion, which explains that “a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both.” The US Department of State also has a more technical discussion of dual citizenship.
However, just because the United States allows dual citizenship, it doesn’t necessarily mean your country of origin does, too. Some countries, such as China and India, do not recognise your status as a naturalised American on their soil. You may even lose your citizenship automatically in those countries upon becoming a US citizen.
In an interesting turn of events, in the last two years, the coveted US passport that many have given up citizenship in their country of origin for has seen a new trend. Many have started to renounce their American citizenship to become citizens elsewhere to escape the harsh pandemic repercussions in the country and as a means to secure their wealth and future.
Before 2009, renunciation levels in the United States of America remained under 750 people per year. However, the renunciation rate more than doubled to 1,500 in 2010. In the first nine months of 2020, over 6,000 US citizens gave up their citizenship. The question to ask now is, why?
Decrease of passport power during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic declined the United States passport’s power, meaning that Americans could no longer travel as freely as they did before the pandemic. During this time, those with second citizenship had the luxury of enjoying loosened travel restrictions and could conduct their business globally without much problem.
With a new administration in charge, the United States is rearing to overhaul policies left behind by former President Donald Trump. Notoriously known for his tax cuts, Trump was welcomed by America’s wealthy. However, with the economic fallout of COVID-19 felt on every corner of the nation, the newly appointed Biden administration is shaking things up.
To learn more about how second citizenship helps protect wealth, read this.
In addition to a declining passport and changing economic policies, the political climate of the US has remained quite unstable for the past year, which has led some Americans to consider moving abroad. Many opted to secure citizenship through familial descent or naturalisation in another country since policies for working from home have become common.
Citizenship by investment: A new kid on the US immigration block
Acquiring second citizenship has previously been associated with having significant ties to a country, whether through marriage, naturalisation or familial descent. However, the last few decades have seen the growing popularity of investment migration programmes that offer a legitimate citizenship route for those who can make a qualifying investment.
While these programmes have been prevalent in regions like the Middle East and Southeast Asia, the last year witnessed a growing number of Americans enquire about CBI. This is primarily due to the US’ weakening passport, rumours of a potential wealth tax, economic and political uncertainty, and at one point, having the world’s highest cases of COVID-19.
To further explore this emerging trend, CS Global Partners conducted a study to track rising American interest utilising Google searches from January 2019 to May 2021.
Some key findings included:
Forty-two percent increase in search interest in 2020: According to data, 2020 saw a 42 percent increase in interest in CBI from Americans, with a spike between March and August most likely linked to COVID-19 and the first waves of lockdowns in the States.
During an interview with CBS, Micha Emmett, CEO of CS Global Partners, noted: “The number one reason people cited was a better life for their families.”
Forty-nine percent increase in middle retention keywords: When it comes to the keywords witnessing the highest increase over the last year, statistics divide interest over three types of searches: low retention, middle retention and high retention.
Low retention focuses on general searches about CBI, while medium looks at searches for cheap, fast or easy programmes, whereas high retention demonstrates a user’s intention to obtain citizenship looking at words like “buy” or “get”.
All three categories of searches saw a significant increase in 2020. However, middle retention keywords saw the most extensive growth. This indicates that Americans are searching to acquire citizenship rather than seek out educational materials.
Most popular CBI programmes in the US
Sixty-five percent increase in Caribbean CBI in 2020: Last year also saw a dramatic increase in searches for Caribbean citizenship by investment programmes. With some of the most established and oldest programmes on the market, the region is a leader in CBI, with its nations ranking at the top of the CBI Index report by the Financial Times’ Professional Wealth Management magazine. Its proximity to the United States and its currency pegged to the US dollar are also attractive appeals for Americans who want to continue to have close ties to their native home.
The Caribbean is home to some of the most affordable and straightforward CBI programmes: Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Grenada and Antigua and Barbuda. However, applicants must first undergo stringent vetting procedures and demonstrate a clean source of funds before becoming citizens.
Our advice to US clients
There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to choosing the second citizenship for you. However, considering the many needs of our American clients like a nation’s proximity to the US, and an island climate to die for, we recommend St Kitts and Nevis. To read more about why click here.
Resources to stay on top of CBI news and updates
The movement of people and wealth reflects the state of current affairs. To keep on top of both, we recommend signing up for resources like the annual CBI Index report by the Financial Times’ PWM magazine. For more daily coverage, check our news section.