The blockade has reinforced national identities, including the rise of nationalism. Many individuals have had to return to their countries of origin, and border restrictions have temporarily reduced the value of mobility privileges as has happened, for example, between EU countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has been the first major blow to the post-globalisation mobility system, for several reasons.
Paradoxical as it may seem, however, the consequences of the pandemic will end up accelerating a trend that already existed before COVID-19: the acquisition of second citizenships. The method by which, for several years now and more than ever since the pandemic, international elites have been seeking a safety bubble against future shock events..
In the early 2020s, with almost every country on the globe closing its borders in an attempt to stem the entry of the virus, waves of people returned to their countries of origin. These were not just interrupted holidays. It was the lives of students and overseas workers, among others, being held hostage by an unknown virus.
For the most part, they were all travelling to states to whose passport they said they belonged. To their safe haven. It was a reminder of how important the concept of citizenship still is.
Historically, citizenship has been about where a person is from. The place one has always —except in cases of political exile— the right to enter. But in the wake of globalisation, that right began to be taken for granted, to be undervalued, especially among citizens of rich countries, who had never encountered obstacles to travel almost anywhere. It's as if no one noticed the importance of nationality any more.
What about the wealthiest individuals in these societies, who for years had enjoyed significant global mobility privileges. For them, even the provenance of the passport was of little consequence as long as it was accompanied by a wallet worthy of the wealthiest percentage of the population. But that all changed with COVID-19.
US passport case
The most paradigmatic case of this change of scenery has been that of US citizens. They, accustomed to travelling the world without hindrance, were only welcomed for a few months in 2020 and part of 2021 in a handful of states. Here was the spectacle of a group of Americans, unaccustomed to being denied entry into a country, being turned away in Sardinia after arriving in their private jet. It was a clear example of change.
As COVID-19 spread, almost all states allowed their citizens to enter while almost completely repressing the entry of others. Even US citizens.
For reasons like this COVID-19 is making people feel their citizenship more than before.
Now, holders of first-class citizenships have an incentive to get a second citizenship. Americans who were barred from entering Sardinia may, for example, be tempted down the path taken by fellow countryman and Google founder Eric Schmidt, who applied for Cypriot citizenship. In other words, the range of nationalities has become more interesting.
It is not just a way to travel more freely, as may be the case for Schmidt. Many see the possibility of additional citizenship as a kind of health insurance against future pandemics.
The incidence of COVID-19 in Malta has been relatively low and New Zealand has managed the pandemic very well. Both countries have now become favourite destinations for those seeking second citizenship for fear of further pandemics. And of course: both New Zealand and Malta have a pathway to citizenship specifically for investors.
To be sure, such an option of access to citizenship by investment is restricted to the very wealthy, but mortals also have their avenues to access this privilege. See: citizenship by descent, residence, marriage, or other eligibility factors. And there is no doubt that there are more and more reasons to seek it. The problem is that these avenues are not known to the vast majority of people..
States' interest in dual citizenship
For their part, states have no incentive to repress instrumentalised citizenship or residence. Quite the contrary. Prior to COVID-19, Golden Visa processes were already well advanced in a large number of states. Now, there is no indication that this acceptance will be reversed.
The number of people who enjoyed a globalised life will eventually return to that life sooner or later. When the distribution of vaccines is complete, travel restrictions will ease, and interstate mobility will return. But after that and because of the pandemic we will leave behind, citizenship will remain highly relevant in its traditional conception, no longer just as a mere personal attribute. And more and more people will acquire additional citizenships to protect their global privileges in the post-COVID-19 era. The resurgence of nationalities is coming.
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