The Rights and Wrongs of Buying Citizenship

buying and selling citizenship

Warmer questions

  1. How important is your country to you? What would you do to help your country?
  2. If someone pays to become a citizen of another country, can they really love that new country?
  3. Is selling citizenship a good way for governments to raise money for education, healthcare, and other services?

Reading section

Can we own everything?

Once you’ve earned your money do you have the right to buy anything you like? Sure, you can buy a car or a house, but what about buying a planet? Yep, you can buy Jupiter or Neptune if you like, as it states in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 that no government shall own a planet, it, therefore, leaves an opening for people to own land on these heavenly bodies. While traveling to Mars and buying a plot of land is not going to be happening anytime soon, then what about buying citizenship?

It is becoming increasingly easier to buy citizenship to a country, with now 17 nations in the world offering such a service. While it was originally as a way to constrict natural immigration but attract wealthy investors, you might be surprised how cheap it is to do so today. Some countries have become so popular that their GDP has grown as a result of these policies. The tiny island nation of St Kitts and Nevins is reported to have 14% of its GDP drawn from “investor visas” which offer citizenship, but only after applicants fork out millions of dollars to invest in the nation. The trend is not just with less economically developed states, richer nations are trying to cash in with the US EB-5 Programme (currently $1million USD), the UK (Tier-1 £500,000), and New Zealand ($NZ 1.05 million) also offering visas for those who buy millions in government bonds, or invest directly in sanctioned schemes, and businesses.

Questions which arise from this;

  • Are new arrivals ‘stealing’ opportunities from locals, who have worked to build up the nation?
  • Is tax being avoided in the process?
  • Are poorer nations having their wealthy removed?
  • Is citizenship more than just a document?

Video: How to buy American citizenship

The following video is a great classroom primer to help your students better understand the issues.

Vocabulary to pre-teach before watching the video

  • Hurdle, obstacles (Noun, an object in your path and stopping your progress)
  • Controversial (Adj, issue which divides people and does not have a firm answer)
  • Outcry (Noun, topic which angers the public and then demands change)
  • Outdated (Adj, old, obsolete)
  • Overhaul (Verb, radical change)
  • Influx (Noun, entry of a large number of things or people)
  • Capital (Noun, money used for investment)



The video above was made by NowThisWorld and the questions below can be used in conjunction with the video.

Comprehension questions

Task: Try to guess the answers to these questions and then watch the video to check if you guessed correctly

  1. How many years can it take to get a long term permanent visa in the US?
  2. In 2014 how many people ‘bought citizenship in the US’ using the EB-5 programme?
  3. What percentage were Chinese nationals?
  4. When were EB-5 Visas created?
  5. How many people who they need to employ?

Answers: 1. 10 years   2. 11,000    3. 85%    4. 1990   5. 10 people

Pros of buying citizenship

  1. People can leave their country if they do not feel safe and can resume their lives without fear.
  2. Business people who move between countries often can take up another citizenship so that they can make their lives easier.
  3. It is a legal way for a country to sell passports and raise money for the nation.
  4. It encourages people to move to countries which have a declining population.
  5. it is a way to attract a specific group of people like, nurses, doctors, entrepreneurs.

Cons of buying citizenship

  1. It is hard to encourage new citizens to be loyal to their new country.
  2. A passport is just a ticket to live somewhere.
  3. Citizenship has become a way for the rich to move and not help their country of origin.
  4. Richer countries are able to attract the wealthiest in the world more easier through selling citizenship.
  5. Poorer countries can suffer a financial drain or a skills drain from the number of people leaving to live elsewhere.

Potential debating topics

  1. Citizenship is part of your identity and should not be traded.
  2. Having a ‘passport marketplace’ means countries will work harder to attract the best people.
  3. Selling citizenship is the best way for nations to raise money and to become a cosmopolitan society.

Final remarks

What do you think about citizenship? leave your comments and ideas below and let the discussion commence.

Have a look at our other debates on faith and religion.