Warren Buffett has said that anything good that happened to him could be traced back to the fact that he was born in the right country, the United States, at the right time (1930). More and more new parents are consciously choosing to give birth abroad to set their child up with a second citizenship from birth, to give them more options than what they see them having in the US in the early 21st century. There are a number of countries which offer birthright citizenship, jus soli, which means that any baby born on that country’s soil automatically has a right to citizenship. In response to this trend, many agencies are even starting to offer ‘birth tourism’ packages, and can help expectant parents navigate both the travel details, legal issues, and the medical system abroad.
Depending on the country, a second citizenship and passport can possibly give your child greater freedom to travel, different tax liability, access to more affordable or free health care or college, and more employment and investment opportunities. A second citizenship will increase your child’s options, and although his or her adult future may seem a long way off, it can be well worth planning ahead. Before you jump right into this idea, there are a few main factors which need to be considered.
1. Dual Citizenship Laws
It may seem obvious, but don’t assume that just because you give birth in a country that your child will automatically be granted citizenship. Do your homework. Not all countries allow dual citizenship, and there are a number of countries that only allow dual citizenship with a limited number of other countries. Find out about the dual citizenship regulations of your home country and the country you plan to have your baby in…well before your baby is born.
2. Military Service Requirements
Some countries have an obligatory military service requirement for all citizens. Find out about these requirements as well as policies regarding involuntary drafting in times of war. By having your baby abroad, you are trying to offer them more freedom and options, not less.
3. Tax Liability
Many countries do not tax income that is gained beyond its borders. The US is one country that loves to tax global income, making it possibly more expensive in the long run to be a US citizen living outside the US than to be a non-resident citizen of another country, depending on how you have things set up. Consult a tax consultant to figure out the best way to handle this for any present or future situation.
4. Cost of College Education
With costs of higher education reaching astronomical levels, and only looking to continuw to rise, this is a huge reason in itself to consider giving birth abroad. Many foreign public institutions offer inexpensive quality education, or even free university education, for citizens of their country.
5. Prenatal Care &Birthing Options
No matter where you choose to give birth, it’s crucial to understand well your prenatal care and delivery options. A country’s citizenship may seem ideal, but if the medical system there where you will be giving birth seems too sketchy for your liking, or if you cannot afford the care there, then you should look for a different option. Also, at a time where a VBAC is almost unheard of in the US for liability reasons, many moms like being offered the option of a natural birth abroad, when they may not be able to have one easily in the US. Overall, there is a much greater acceptance and availability of midwives and homebirths abroad.
Currently, the following are the countries that offer birthright citizenship. This information can change at any time, so please do your due diligence and double check before you plan any birth abroad.
North America: Canada, United States, Mexico
Caribbean: Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Christopher & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago
Central & South America: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela
Asia: Azerbaijan, Pakistan
The Economist recently published the “Where to Be Born in 2013” index which predicts countries that offer the greatest possibility of having “a healthy, safe and prosperous life,” and, surprise, surprise!, the United States isn’t the place of choice. The last time the study was published was 1988, and the US had the top spot. Today, it sadly did not even make the top 10, largely due to the huge debts that young people are inheriting from the boomer generation. It fell in at 16th place.
Although European countries score well in the index, interestingly, only one nation in the top 10 is part of the Eurozone. France came in 26th place, and Britain at 27th place. Greece ranked 34th on the list of 80 countries.
The study is based on the results of a series of life-satisfaction surveys and takes into account indicators such as geography, demography, policies and economy. Its quality-of-life index links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys—how happy people say they are—to objective determinants of the quality of life in that country. Being rich helps, but it is not all that counts; crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter also. Some factors are fixed, such as geography; others change only very slowly over time (demography, many social and cultural characteristics); and some factors depend on policies and the state of the world economy. EIU’s economic forecasts were used through 2030, roughly when children born in 2013 will reach adulthood.
What are your thoughts? Does birth country matter as much as some people think? Would you ever consider intentionally having your child abroad to give them a presumed advantage? Do you have two citizenships? Leave your comments, or connect with Cathy at @LatinAmerExpats, Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LatinAmericaExpats, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.