When planning an overseas trip, one thing we all need is a passport, and while passports may all look the same, the country of its issue directly affects your ease of travel.
Even for travellers that have supposed “strong” passports, getting through passport and border control can prove laborious, and even pricey in countries that require a visa upon arrival. While there are many different types of visas, visa-free access is what determines how powerful a passport is.
What is a Visa?
A visa is an authorisation placed in a passport that allows the holder official permission to enter, leave, work or stay in a specific country for a stipulated period. The most common visas are usually tourist, work or transit visas and depending on where you are going, they can be valid for single to multiple visits, and can sometimes even carry a validity period of up to 10 years.
Many visas require an application and a visit to the local consulate, while others are granted upon arrival at the destination country. However, certain countries have agreements with others that allow their citizens to travel in and out of that country without needing a visa, eliminating the lengthy application process and cutting costs.
What is Visa-Free Travel?
Visa-free travel refers to the freedom to enter a country without obtaining a visa in advance or upon arrival, and this often depends on the country the passport is issued.
Holders of a US passport, for instance, require a visa to enter countries like China, with travellers needing to apply and pay a fee to receive their visa. . This travel freedom is a luxury afforded to the citizens of only a small number of countries, with the majority of the population still required to obtain a visa before travelling internationally.
Ease of Travel with Citizenship by Investment
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of obtaining visa-free access to hundreds of different countries is through a second passport, obtained by investing in a Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme. Nations offering these CBI programmes, such as the Caribbean island nations of the , allow well-vetted investors and their families the opportunity to contribute to a government fund or pre-approved real estate in exchange for a second passport.
These second passports give investors and their families visa-free access to major nations around the world and make them eligible for citizenship in a country without having to emigrate or have any ancestral ties. As visa applications can be a costly, time consuming and a generally frustrating procedure, buying into a CBI programme eliminates the need to apply for visas to those countries altogether.
Citizens of many Western countries who already have visa-free access to a myriad of countries, might not see a need for a second passport as much as a person from Russia or China might.
Chinese citizens, for example, only have visa-free access to 75 countries, so a second passport from St Kitts and Nevis – allowing visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 150 countries – sounds appealing. Similarly, Dominica’s CBI programme, consistently rated number one in the world by the CBI Index, a publication by The Financial Times, affords investors visa-free access to 140 different countries.