The former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, is finalizing a plan to become a citizen of the island of Cyprus, Recode has learned, becoming one of the highest-profile Americans to take advantage of one of the world’s most controversial “passport-for-sale” programs. From the report: Schmidt, one of America’s wealthiest people, and his family have won approval to become citizens of the Mediterranean nation, according to a previously unreported notice in a Cypriot publication in October. While it is not clear why exactly Schmidt has pursued this foreign citizenship, the new passport gives him the ability to travel to the European Union, along with a potentially favorable personal tax regime. The move is a window into how the world’s billionaires can maximize their freedoms and finances by relying on the permissive laws of countries where they do not live. The Cyprus program is one of about a half-dozen programs in the world where foreigners can effectively purchase citizenship rights, skirting residency requirements or lengthy lines by making a payment or an investment in the host country. They have become the latest way for billionaires around the world to go “borderless” and take advantage of foreign countries’ laws, moving themselves offshore just like they might move their assets offshore, a phenomenon documented by the journalist Oliver Bullough in the recent book Moneyland. […] The way the program works is that once a foreigner lays down between $2 million and $3 million worth of investment in Cyprus, typically through a real estate purchase, they can apply to what is technically called the “Citizenship by Investment” program. After the government reviews the applicant’s background, conducts a security check, and hosts a visit from the foreigner, their application can be approved.
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