At the peak of the global COVID-19 lockdown, most countries shut their borders to international travellers. The restriction was more telling on those from countries with high infection rate. This made many people stranded at different locations against their wish. Interestingly, those with dual citizenship had a better chance at international travel as they could access at least two countries despite the lockdown.
Passport has become a must-have tool for international travel since after World War I. Before then, people didn't need a piece of document to move from one country to another. Ever since then, it determines where people can and cannot visit. And as witnessed during the lockdown, passport will continue to matter for international movements. However, having more than one means you are much less restricted even during a crisis. The following are some of the areas a second passport can be helpful during a crisis.
The COVID-19 experience has once reminded us that nothing can be as important as the safety of lives. Fortunately, a second passport can be harnessed for safety during a crisis. At the pandemic outbreak, the epicentre kept shifting from one location to another, increasing tensions among residents in those countries. At that moment, home no longer felt like home for many people. A Pew Research report shows that 1 in 10 young adults in the United States had someone who moved into their household due to COVID-19.
Given the heightened fear of contracting the disease in those epicentre countries, many residents' biggest wish would have been to relocate to another country they considered safest for them and their families. This is because as the virus ravages many places, some countries had very low cases of infections and deaths, and the atmosphere was much calmer in those places. Unfortunately, most people with a desire to move couldn't actualize it because the passport they carry doesn't support that. With border closures in almost all countries and rigorous international travel process, running for safety was difficult or impossible. Having a second passport will make it much easier to move to another country considered safer during a crisis.
Everyone desires the ability to move about - to anywhere and at any time they want. Unfortunately, a crisis-induced movement restriction can be a huge barrier to this, as witnessed during the pandemic outbreak. Even those from countries with strong passports were stranded as no nation was ready to welcome them. For instance, when the US became the epicentre, almost all countries shut their doors to their citizens. As a result, crucial travel plans were put on hold. The United States has one of the highest annual global health tourism rates. Millions of Americans seek healthcare services in other countries due to reasons ranging from costs and regulations. The movement restriction also affected international business travel, leaving many entrepreneurs stranded. But for travellers with more than one passport, it was easier to move from one country to another.
This has been the greatest advantage of multiple passports, as you are less restricted by a country's laws because you have multiple options. In addition, a second passport will automatically increase the number of countries you can visit visa-free or visa-on-arrival. Some passports are so powerful that they can unlock the doors to many places. A good example is the British citizenship, which according to UK Immigration Lawyers, can be obtained through various routes. The passport grants access to over 180 countries, either visa-free or visa-on-arrival. Other countries with such high passport privilege include the United States, Canada, and Singapore.
Having a second passport can help you stay close to your family during a crisis. At the outbreak of COVID-19, many families were torn apart as a result of global travel restrictions. Various reports show the devastating effects of the restrictions on people stranded at different destinations abroad - away from their loved ones. Among the most affected were the international students who were caught amid borders closure and administrative difficulties and couldn't return home to their families. In August 2020, African News reported how tens of thousands of African students were stuck in France and their struggles coping with confinement, isolation, and loneliness thousands of miles away from their relatives.
On top of the excruciating mental effects of the restrictions, some of them also faced financial downturns and had to rely on food banks on several occasions. "It's hard. Not only without work but at the same time you can't see your family," an Algerian student complained. Thousands of couples were also divided for several months, as spouses got stuck thousands of miles apart. Also, many children couldn't see their parents for several months, and families had to catch up via digital means such as video calls. Despite the digital avenues, many people still expressed frustrations due to the sudden lockdowns that tore their families apart.
A second passport can be one of the most important possession during a crisis, especially a health-related one like coronavirus. The rapid spread and high fatality of the virus quickly put pressure on the healthcare system in many epicentre places. Coronavirus treatment became the highest priority, and many patients suffering from other conditions were given less attention. In many countries, thousands of patients with chronic non-COVID-19 cases faced difficulties accessing a specialist. For instance, in Italy, one of Europe's epicentres, there was a drastic reduction in hospital admissions for non-COVID conditions. The fear of being infected by the virus also discouraged many people from visiting the hospital.
The situation was even worse in countries with inadequate health facilities and a shortage of medical professionals. The best option for many people who found themselves in this situation would have been to access their much-need healthcare service abroad. Unfortunately, the global travel restriction made medical tourism practically impossible. According to the American Journal of Medicine, around 16 million people embark on medical tourism yearly, spending $45-$72 billion. That shows the significance of outbound medical care services on the world population. However, due to the restriction, the industry cratered and left millions of people with little or no option of getting their desired healthcare. This is one of the crucial areas where second citizenship can prove to be invaluable as it can be leveraged to seek medical care abroad.
How to Get a Second Passport
Obtaining a second passport has different procedures depending on the citizenship and immigration laws in different countries. For instance, the eligibility criteria for getting US citizenship include being a permanent resident in the country for a specified number of years. Other requirements are age, good moral character, and physical presence in the country. Other countries with A-list passport privilege also have similar requirements.
In Britain, you must demonstrate at least 5 years of continuous residency in the United Kingdom, with no longer than 450 days spent abroad within the 5-year period. Though the process can appear to be somewhat lengthy due to several steps involved. However, by working with experienced UK citizenship and immigration solicitors, you can fast-track the application procedures and receive your citizenship without delays.
Apart from these, you can also explore the fast and affordable citizenship options in Caribbean countries like Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis. Other countries with similar options include Grenada and Malta. In some of these countries, you can complete the citizenship by investment process in less than 6 months. It usually requires investing a specified amount of money in the country's economy or donate some money.
Again, requirements and process vary widely from one country to another. The most important thing is to do your due diligence and ensure you meet the requirements before proceeding with the process.
OlusegunAkinfenwa is a correspondent for Immigration News, a news organization affiliated with Immigration Advice Service London. IAS is a leading UK immigration law firm that helps applicants navigate their British immigration and citizenship application process.