This piece was originally written for and published on InsideOver
“For Sale: 3+1 Villa, Comes With EU Residency Permit”
“REDUCED GOLDEN VISA OPTION: Hurry, selling fast!”
There are ads like this on the internet. You may buy yourself European citizenship if you are willing to invest 500,000 € and wait a couple of years for naturalization. The reduced option mentioned here is a 30 % reduction in the investment cost for buildings that are more than 30 years old and in need of renovation. That is 350,000 € instead of 500,000.
“Cash-for-passport!” started in the Pacific and Caribbean in the 1980's; and today, there are many countries giving out these Golden Visas. They are called golden visas because just like the gold credit cards without limits, people with money can get access to the world without borders.
Even the US and UK have them. They are just a bit more on the expensive side, that's all. In most cases, you don't necessarily need to reside in these countries. You go and stay there for a short period of time, then you go on living your normal life in your own country. After about 5-6 years you can apply for citizenship. Your family can get citizenship through you as well.
In her book “The Cosmopolites” Atossa Araxia Abrahamian writes how the UAE- United Arab Emirates bought citizenship to solve its bidoon problem. Bidoon means “without” in Arabic. The bidoon are the stateless people within the country, those without citizenship. The Emirates did not know what to do with them. These people basically had a right to citizenship but were unaware at the time that they needed to apply or did not bother with it thinking they'd go on living the way they have been living, they did not see the point. Then, there came a point where bureaucracy got more complex and they couldn't live their normal lives without papers.
So why didn't the UAE simply give them papers? The answer lies in basic economics and politics. An Emirati has a house provided for him, has a fixed regular sum paid, gets extra cash when getting married. All these mean you get a share of the oil money. Whereas this is distributed carefully among family lines. The other side of the coin was politics. The Emirates did not wish to grant citizenship to people who might be their opponents. Yet, they were being pressured by the international community to solve the problem of stateless people. UNHCR has an #IBelong campaign to end statelessness by 2024. So the Emirates found a better solution. Buy citizenship from a poor neighbor country, the Comoro Islands. A place where most of the bidoon had not even heard of and would never set foot on in their lives. In fact, that was among the deal, the Comorans were not going to be burdened with their new “compatriots”.
The president of the Comoros was excited about the offer, this was money which the poor island could use to fix its roads, build some infrastructure. It was a win-win for both parties. UAE got an extra win because you cannot deport the stateless people in your country as they do not have any papers. In fact, one dissident was told he needed to get citizenship in order to renew his car's plate license, then he was promptly deported.
You get the “genuine” form of citizenship either by blood, jus sanguinis, through your parents or by being born within a country, jus soli, where countries recognize it. That's why there is even birth-tourism to the US for example and Trump has being talking about ending this birthright.
There is also citizenship by marriage, jus matrimonii. Then there is naturalization for people who reside in a territory for a certain period of time.
As Encyclopædia Britannica states, citizenship is the “relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection.”
There are duties, rights, and privileges of citizenship. Your political and social rights derive from the contribution you make to the community, the public life. You participate in the economy by working by consuming goods, you pay taxes, you do your military service or abide by other social obligations that the state imposes on you. Then you have rights like access to public services, e.g. schools, hospitals, roads etc. and the right to have a say in the political arena by voting or being eligible for elections yourself. When you are travelling abroad, you have a right to protection by your state. This is like the active membership to a club.
Now, at another end of the spectrum is the citizenship by investment or Economic Citizenship. The wealthy can buy citizenship, but countries cannot really buy loyalty. When the “dirty” proposal was first made by the Emirates, some Comoran parliament members opposed to the plan. They claimed it would be like selling a piece of the country's soul.
Today, many rich Russian and Chinese have gotten foreign “Western” passports this way. Some businessmen carry a portfolio of 5-6 different passports.
The question to ask is... When there is a price tag on citizenship and passports, what does nationality even mean?