Travel visas to most countries are limited to a maximum 90-day stay, at which point, you must leave the country.

Americans can typically travel to and stay in Canada and Mexico for up to 180 days in a year, and there may be extended stay options in some other countries.

Staying longer than 90 days requires an education visa, a work visa, permanent residency or citizenship.

Those who wish to live in another country – for any reason such as retirement – need a permanent residency visa.

Residency can be tough to get, depending on country, your age and situation, and other factors. As a general rule, permanent or long term stay visas are typically limited to a handful of situations:

  • FAMILY: Certain family situations – such as parents, or rarely, grandparents, were born there – or via marriage may enable “children” to obtain a residency visa.
  • EDUCATION: Via higher education in the country and obtaining a job in the country after graduation and living there for 3 to 10 years and demonstrating proficiency in the local language.
  • WORK: Some employment situations. A friend of mine took a job in Canada and has worked there long enough he received permanent residency.
  • INVESTMENT: Many countries have programs granting residency to those who make a significant investment in real estate or a business in the country.

The first two are mostly for young people (marriage and education), and the last is oriented towards the wealthy. A few countries previously offered retirement visas but these have mostly transitioned into “investment” visas. In the popular literature, these “investment visas” are still referred to as “Golden visas” even though they are now investment based. A handful of nations had or still do make it possible for U.S. retirees to settle in, long term, with a straightforward process but these visas are also in flux. Until October 2021 it was nearly a rubber stamp process for a U.S. citizen to get a long stay permit in Mexico, renewable annually. But Mexico changed its rules and now that path is no longer clear.

A new category is the Digital Nomad visa. As white-collar workers moved out of the office during the Covid pandemic, many could work from anywhere. Many countries developed “digital nomad visas” making it easy for such workers to come and stay in these countries for extended periods, with options to renew the visa. This is a win-win as it brings outside money into the destination country.

Terms

  • Dual citizenship means what it says – a citizen of both countries.
  • Dual residency means you have permanent residency in the country (but not citizenship) – you can live there as long as you want and may receive a passport from that country. Dual residency often means the same benefits as a citizen, except you may not vote in local elections.
  • Dual nationality is a term used by some countries instead of dual citizenship.

Examples

WORK: A U.S. resident can get hired by a firm in Canada, and with a job offer in hand, can receive a work and residency visa to live and work in Canada, eventually apply to become a permanent resident.

Dual nationality is similar to dual citizenship. I know someone born in Germany but whose family moved to the U.S. when she was young. She is a U.S. citizen who also has German dual nationality and has both U.S. and German passports. As a German, she has the rights of a EU citizen, even though she has U.S. citizenship. Germany calls this “dual nationality”. She has traveled to and from the U.S. and Europe during the pandemic, even when travel restrictions were in effect – because she could enter the U.S. with her U.S. passport and enter the EU with her German passport.

The U.S. has no rules on dual citizenship – hence, it is possible to for U.S. citizens to have citizenship in more than one country.

RIGHT OF DESCENT: For some countries, if at least one parent was born in the country, children may have a right of citizenship, regardless of where they were born. This depends on the rules of each country and whether the parent retained citizenship at the time of the child’s birth, and other factors.

Dual citizenship means you have recognized citizenship in more than one country.

For example, if you have Italian ancestry – and any of your ancestors back to your great grandparents were Italian citizens, you can apply for a right of descent citizenship in Italy.

My wife’s Dad was born in Alberta, Canada. Due to changes made to Canada’s Citizenship Act, she is eligible for Canadian “right of descent” citizenship. The application is straight forward and routine if she chooses to do that. She would then have citizenship in both the U.S. and in Canada, entitling her to permanent residency in Canada, if she wished, or to work there and have access to all other benefits due a citizen of Canada. Canada taxes income that is earned in Canada, thus, she would not incur additional income tax as a U.S. citizen/resident living in the U.S.

If we were to move to Canada, she could then “sponsor” me for residency, which mostly requires that I have sufficient financial resources so as not to become a burden on Canadian taxpayers.

Why have Dual Residency or Citizenship?

For some, such as an American retiring full time abroad, it may be desireable to have dual citizenship. For others, it may be that they would like to live or work elsewhere for an extended period. Or just to have options as to where they live – options not available to those without dual residency status.

During the Covid pandemic, most countries permitted their own citizens and those with permanent residency to re-enter their home country with little hassle. Simultaneously, anyone else was prohibited or required lengthy and expensive quarantines upon arrival. Having dual residency or citizenship made travel to and from those countries easier (even possible!)

Dual citizenship or residency can open enhanced travel opportunities. For example, if a U.S. resident obtains residency in any EU country, then the U.S. resident can travel freely within the EU and stay as long as they wish – without regard to the normal 90 day visa restriction. A permanent resident may also be entitled to other benefits, and free to take a job within the EU region without having to seek another visa approval.

For some people who are cleverer than I, they figure out tax advantages. The U.S. is only one of two countries in the world that taxes your global income, regardless of where you live. But some have figured out ways to get around this – in some cases by changing citizenship. This is no longer simple as the U.S. put a stop to this by enacting a 30% “wealth tax” on Americans who renounce their U.S. citizenship. That means turning over about one-third of your assets if you decide to leave U.S. citizenship behind. Not a big deal for a young person with limited assets but impossible for an older adult nearing or at retirement after a lifetime of savings. Yet for some, there may be tax advantages and tricks that I do not understand.

Of course, you may move outside the U.S., and even get dual citizenship, without renouncing your U.S. citizenship. However, you are still required to pay U.S. income taxes.

In the 21st century, I expect that having dual residency or dual citizenship will become the de facto standard of the elite and will become common among much of the professional class.

In fact, it will become a standard status symbol for the elite and demonstrates their superior global knowledge and thinking skills.