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Once renowned as a golden ticket into almost any country in the world, a U.S. passport can’t get you nearly as far during the COVID-19 pandemic — especially when it comes to traveling to any of the EU’s 27 member countries.
The EU’s ban on American travelers has been a frustrating conundrum for travel advisors whose livelihood largely depends on open borders, but one agency — Embark Beyond — took matters into its own hands.
After noticing an influx of calls from travelers looking into ways to get a foreign passport by investment (an expensive way to attain citizenship in a second country), Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of New York City-based Embark Beyond, began offering a solution that both fulfils his clients’ needs and creates opportunities for additional revenue for his agency.
“The polarized political atmosphere and pandemic-related travel bans have been a wake-up call to many Americans, and our clients, in particular, have been extremely frustrated with a feeling of claustrophobia coupled with a startling realization that America is no longer the center of the world,” he wrote in an email. “They are not used to being told ‘no,’ especially when it’s related to going to a familiar destination, such as Italy or London. Feeling like a pariah of the world, they’ve told us loud and clear that they want more options.”
Enter Embark’s new Dual Citizenship Program, which allows advisors to facilitate foreign citizenship and the delivery of second passports for 15 EU countries based on a client’s descent (rather than residency or legal intervention); in some countries, this ancestry can be quite light, dating back up to 600 years.
There are many creative ways to get an EU passport that may not be obvious. Some countries are easier, faster and cheaper. By going to a [law] firm directly, you would not get that advice.
“Clients just need to prove lineage,” Ezon said. “It may vary whether that lineage is from the mother or father [and by country.] For example, Italians cannot get citizenship by their mother’s family prior to 1941.”
Although much less expensive than attaining a passport by investment, rates for Embark’s service aren’t exactly cheap (rates begin at $2,000 per application), and processing time can take anywhere from three months to two years. However, the service — which can be quite tedious and bureaucratic under normal circumstances — is made seamless thanks to Embark’s partnership with local law firms, citizen specialists and local genealogy companies in each country.
Can other travel advisors implement this service as an add-on? Perhaps, but Ezon warns that “there is a high barrier to entry.”
“This took a tremendous amount of research, relationship-building and resources to put the whole program and platform together,” he said.
In addition to an in-house specialist who assists Embark’s advisors throughout the process, employees use a new section of the company’s intranet that lays out the eligibility requirements of each country; provides email templates with “next steps” for clients; and more. The advisors’ main responsibility, Ezon says, is to help consumers understand their eligibility, and assist in gathering all necessary documents, including long-form birth certificates and marriage certificates with requisite Apostille certification.
“The value Embark brings to the table is no different than the value we bring to our clients when working on a multi-country trip working with local destination management companies,” he said. “Our first step is strategizing what countries a client can be eligible for. Since European borders have changed over time, there are many creative ways to get an EU passport that may not be obvious. Some countries are easier, faster and cheaper. By going to a [law] firm directly, you would not get that advice.”
Although the program was just launched, Ezon says the waitlist for this service is already 100 clients deep, with top requested destinations being Portugal, Italy, Ireland and the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (which includes modern-day Austria and Hungary in addition to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia and parts of modern-day Poland, Romania, Italy, Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia and Montenegro).
When asked whether the EU travel ban may pose a challenge to Americans seeking out secondary citizenship, Ezon said he anticipates “challenges and wrinkles” — but not due to the present ban.
“EU countries are actually overwhelmed with new applications, not just from the U.S. but also the U.K. as a result of Brexit,” he said. “We see how overwhelmed countries are with this due to COVID-19 and Brexit, and you never know how long they will keep these options open.”
Embark Beyond’s new Dual Citizenship Program can help clients from the following countries (based on descent and ancestral heritage):
- Austria (and any country originally part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire including parts of Ukraine, former Yugoslavia, etc.)- Bulgaria- Croatia- The Czech Republic- Germany- Greece- Hungary- Ireland- Italy- Lithuania- Poland- Portugal (including Sephardic Jews who can trace ancestry to most any Arabic country or the former Yugoslavia, where Sephardic Jews may have fled after 1492). - Slovenia*Note: Several European countries also allow Americans of Jewish descent a relaxed path to getting a passport by reparation if an ancestor fled due to religious persecution.
The DetailsEmbark Beyondwww.embarkbeyond.com