They define who we are, where we come from and where we go to. For decades the passport has been the document which gives us an identity in front of governments and institutions around the world. Wealthy individuals have found in new citizenships and passports a new way to overcome political, social, travel and banking difficulties, being this a multi-million-dollar industry that attracts more and more investors as days go by.
However, with high cash-flow on the game, there will always be companies in the black market that will want to make “easy money” out of your plans and dreams.
Nowadays modernised passports have security components that cannot be easily simulated by forgery. With the arrival of electronic passports, it is becoming increasingly difficult for criminals to pass off a fake passport as a legitimate passport. However, unscrupulous individuals might offer you a second passport or citizenship at a glance; can you imagine what would happen if you end up having a fake Passport? Or even worse, what could happen if you are caught by authorities with a fake passport in your possessions? Be aware, so this never happens to you.
Our Citizenship-by-Investment Programs Experts have provided some important suggestions that you must consider if you are planning to become a global citizen and obtain a second or even a third Nationality and Passport.
The following tips will help you identify if someone is offering you a fake passport:
1. Ignorance is not bliss
Remember that even if you are not aware of the illicit, having a fake passport might get you in serious trouble if you get caught, so have these tips in mind to avoid any unwanted situation that could put your freedom in danger.
2. Certificate of Naturalisation
Every single Government-approved agent, agency or consultancy firm that provides citizenship-by-investment programs must provide a certificate of naturalisation along with the passport issued by the Government. This document proves the authenticity of the passport, and it is given by the government as proof of a person having obtained the citizenship through investment or naturalisation.
If you never receive any official document or certificate of naturalisation issued by the government besides your new passport, it indicates a “red flag”.
3. You cannot apply by yourself
Applying for economic citizenship is a process that you cannot do or complete on your own. Potential applicants to the programs are cautioned that they may only submit their application through a licensed agent or government-approved agent.
How can you find out if a particular company is an approved or authorised agent? Just visit the Government's website, and you will find a section only for authorised agents, an example of this is Antigua and Barbuda's Citizenship-by-Investment Unit Website. On the website, you will find a list of Government-approved agents.
If it happens that the company offering the passport-by-investment program is not listed as an authorised agent, then you might have a passport scam right in front of you.
4. Know who you are dealing with
Any legal consultancy firm that provides citizenship-by-investment programs must have a trade license and physical address. If you discover that the “company” you trust with your private information and investment does not have any of those, then you should distrust it, as it might be a passport scam.
5. It takes time
Never trust on those individuals or companies which guarantee you a passport in less time than established by the Government issuing the passport. Application processing timeframes vary depending on the country, so be very careful if someone offers you a passport in a shorter timeframe than the time set by the Government.
When applying for citizenship or residency, due diligence needs to be performed before the issuing of a passport. Therefore, you will never find someone who can offer you a passport from one day to another, and if you do, you might have someone in front of you who wants to profit fraudulently out of your dreams.
6. Market price matters
If the passport you are being offered is cheaper than usual, this is cause for another “red flag”. Keep in mind that there are only a few ways of obtaining a legal passport: investment, naturalisation after residing for a certain period or naturalisation through marriage. All these options take time, due diligence and budget. We strongly recommend that you not trust in those offers that look “too good to be true”.
The Commonwealth of Dominica CBI program, for example, is one of the most cost-effective programs, with an investment amount of USD100,000. Obtaining a Dominica citizenship takes 4-5 months, so if someone offers you a passport at lower prices or less time, you should suspect this is not a legal and authorised company.
7. Is the program real?
Make sure the passport program you are being offered is real, and it is endorsed by the local government. With a short investigation, you can, in fact, compare the available Citizenship & Passport programs in the market. If it happens that the program the shady company is offering you is not listed in the competitors' program list, then it could probably be a passport scam.
Consider the following extra tips if you want to keep any passport scam at bay:
- Never accept a damaged, defaced or altered document
- Never accept expired documentation, it is not valid and therefore illegal.
- In the case of doubt, always ask for a second opinion from a colleague or consult with the local authority or authorised agent.
It is worth highlighting here: Passports are federal documents, so if you are caught while using a fake passport, besides the legal consequences which are confined to whatever country or state you were caught in, you could be prosecuted at federal and criminal level.
Anything that looks suspicious for a passport that you know well is a sign that you should do a more thorough check. If you already have the passport in your hands, look at the cover carefully, put the passport underneath a UV light, check the data page, check micro text with a magnifier, examine the photo, the printing, the holograms, or you can also use a flashlight for watermarks, etc.
As an authorised representative and Government-approved agent, Savory and Partners have contributed and assisted more than 900 families and individuals across the Middle East in obtaining their second passport and citizenship successfully.