The first comprehensive on-the-ground investigation of the global market for citizenship, examining the wealthy elites who buy passports, the states and brokers who sell them, and the normalization of a once shadowy practice.
"[A] fascinating study of how people―and their capital―seek to move around a world that is at once hugely interconnected and driven by inequities…definitive, detailed, and unusually nuanced.”
―Atossa Araxia Abrahamian, Foreign Affairs
Our lives are in countless ways defined by our citizenship. The country we belong to affects our rights, our travel possibilities, and ultimately our chances in life. Obtaining a new citizenship is rarely easy. But for those with the means—billionaires like Peter Thiel and Jho Low, but also countless unknown multimillionaires—it’s just a question of price.
More than a dozen countries, many of them small islands in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and South Pacific, sell citizenship to 50,000 people annually. Through six years of fieldwork on four continents, Kristin Surak discovered how the initially dubious sale of passports has transformed into a full-blown citizenship industry that thrives on global inequalities. Some “investor citizens” hope to parlay their new passport into visa-free travel—or use it as a stepping stone to residence in countries like the United States. Other buyers take out a new citizenship as an insurance policy or to escape state control at home. Almost none, though, intend to move to their selected country and live among their new compatriots, whose relationship with these global elites is complex.
A groundbreaking study of a contentious practice that has become popular among the nouveaux riches, The Golden Passport takes readers from the details of the application process to the geopolitical hydraulics of the citizenship industry. It’s a business that thrives on uncertainty and imbalances of power between big, globalized economies and tiny states desperate for investment. In between are the fascinating stories of buyers, brokers, and sellers, all ready to profit from the citizenship trade.
Forceful, original, and packed with empirical detail, this is a major contribution to our understanding of the current global order. Kristin Surak makes clear the wider social, economic, and geopolitical implications of a Faustian bargain in place between the super-rich and some of the poorer countries of the world. Her pathbreaking book deserves to reach a wide readership.
Kristin Surak offers a chilling look at the thriving industry of citizenship. In an unequal world, it enables the rich and super-rich to bypass laws, sanctions, and other perceived disturbances. A must-read!
Required reading for policymakers working with small countries. But it is also a fascinating study of how people—and their capital—seek to move around a world that is at once hugely interconnected and riven by inequities…The Golden Passport is a definitive, detailed, and unusually nuanced account of the industry.
Precise and persuasive.
A compelling and illuminating resource for anyone interested in understanding the intricate world of citizenship by investment and its far-reaching implications. It is commendable for expanding the scholarship beyond the European context, and for providing a detailed map of the complex and multifaceted industry which will be invaluable for future research. The book thus provides a valuable and novel contribution to the ongoing discourse on this fascinating yet contentious practice.
Surak is adept at showing how the citizenship-by-investment sector often exploits the language of human rights and freedom of movement while commodifying citizenship and stripping it of its former values.
An in-depth look at the rise of CBI, or Citizenship by Investment, the process by which impoverished nations benefit by selling citizenship to wealthy individuals in exchange for large investments in the country.
Comprehensive… [Surak’s] meticulous on-the-ground investigation sheds light on the intricate network involving wealthy elites, states, and brokers, revealing the transformation of a once clandestine practice into a prevalent and significant phenomenon.
This superb book, deeply researched and skillfully narrated, gives the lie to the idea that the current version of globalism is based on free markets. Citizenship by investment is a salient case of the incursion of raw capitalism into extra-market realms where it doesn’t belong.
This pioneering book illuminates how globalization, sovereignty, and citizenship work at the level of the individual. Combining a keen eye for fascinating personal stories and the sometimes bizarre details of this industry, Surak also provides a new perspective on some of the biggest political controversies of our day: who belongs, who doesn’t, and how much this should be left for money to decide.
A tour de force, offering at once a history of ‘citizenship by investment,’ a business school case study in market-making, and a peek into the lives of the super-wealthy. Surak’s book is a sharp-eyed contribution and a major milestone.
- 336 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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