I was at a birthday party up in Harlem last night (which, by the way, has gentrified significantly in the past ten years) and was catching up with a friend of mine that recently married a British girl. He’s American and I was thinking about how he would now be eligible for a British passport. But, when I pointed this out to him he seemed rather surprised by the idea and then confessed that he’d never even thought about it or looked into it. I guess I just think differently than most people…
Anyway, on the subway ride home, that conversation led me to start thinking about what would be the absolute best passport to have.
A British passport, such as my friend will become eligible for, is nice since they are part of the European Union and one can therefore have access to not just Britain, but the entire EU. I have one myself… And, in fact, that is mine pictured above.
However, if you travel as I do, or Luxury Rogue does, or Eleonora Ames does, or Ben Walker does, etc. the only thing worse than having a British passport is an American passport.
Americans and Britons are always compelled to pay the highest fees for visas and we have to deal with the most shit from suspicious border control officers (how great would it be to have a diplomatic passport?) in countries like Sudan or Syria or Belarus…
My American passport undergoing heavy scrutiny in Somalia:
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have a dear Pakistani friend and she is not even able to visit the United States and has to deal with a monumental amount of bureaucratic hassle to travel practically anywhere. So, I know that I could have it worse from a bureaucratic perspective.
But, there are other considerations of importance to me in determining the best passport than just avoiding bureaucracy… When challenged, my goal is to pull out a passport that will not lead to me being in front of a video camera in an orange jumpsuit with my head being involuntarily separated from my body:
Does one’s passport really make that much of a difference? Yes, it does. To give just one example: During the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, hostages that were holders of American and British passports were killed on the spot, while others were allowed to live:
“They wanted anyone with British or American passports”
At some point in the future, I will acquire an Italian passport. Now, that’s a pretty good one to have because nobody hates the Italians and if one does get abducted, the Italian government pays ransoms to get its citizens out of such situations. Also, Italy is an EU member. So, like Britain, with an Italian passport, one has access to the entire European Union.
But is there something even better than an Italian passport?
People suggest New Zealand passports to me often, but there is a problem there. Israel’s Mossad is quite aware of New Zealand’s reputation and over the years has stolen and forged a number of New Zealand passports. Thus, governments in places such as Iran or even the United Arab Emirates are immediately suspicious of New Zealand passports. That’s not a good thing.
So, what else?
Those would all be great passports to have in certain circumstances. But, when it comes down to it, I want a country that I know is willing to put some cash on the line for me.
For the record, I do understand the reasoning behind the official policy of the British and American governments in their refusal to pay ransoms. I even agree with the policy on a rational level. However, when you are the one with the knife against your throat in front of a video camera, that perspective can look a lot different.
This brings me back to the Italian passport. Yes, Italy is a member of NATO. And from the orange jumpsuit perspective, that is not an ideal situation. But, let’s delve into that a little more…
Examine the Iraq Hostage Table below… The number on the left is the number of citizens from that particular country that were killed after being taken hostage. The number in the middle is the number of citizens that were freed after being abducted. And the number on the right is the number whose fate is unknown:
|Iraq Hostage Table|
You’ll notice the Americans have the worst stats (if you include the unknowns, which, unfortunately, we can safely say have not survived).
Italy’s record is not unblemished, but I believe the apparently glowing numbers for a country such as Iran are misleading. If one is picked up by Shiite militants, then the Iranian passport is a definite asset. However, if one is picked up by Sunni militants, the Iranian passport would almost certainly be an automatic death sentence. China, which at first glance appears to have excellent numbers as well, also is not as clear cut a situation as it might initially seem. There are parts of Africa, for example, in which the Chinese have been heavily involved where a Chinese passport would likely be fatal. Same deal with a Turkish passport… You’d better hope you do not get picked up by any Kurds.
So, again, I keep coming back to the Italian passport. Yes, there are times when if one knew everything about a situation, it might make sense to pull out, say a Maltese passport. However, reality is rarely so collaborative and when one is confronted by gun-wielding men with their faces concealed, it is often necessary to make a quick decision with little information.
In that situation, I would pull out the Italian passport because no matter who kidnapped me, I would at least have a chance based on the fact that a ransom will be paid for me. It makes me worth something. As an American, I’m worth something too, but not for the right reasons.
An American is worth something for propaganda purposes. So, one would likely either spend years as a hostage (such as Bowe Bergdahl) or be executed in a dramatic and unpleasant fashion such as the unfortunate Nick Berg (pictured above).
If I were to pull out a passport from Macedonia, for example, that might not be offensive to anyone, but it also isn’t really worth much from a political or financial perspective either. So, one might just be gunned down on the spot for the sake of the attackers killing a Westerner, while the more valuable Italians would be kept alive to be bargained away.
Another benefit of the Italian passport? According to the latest Henley Visa Restrictions Index, Italy ranks in the third slot behind only Denmark, Finland and Sweden for the number of countries that an Italian citizen can visit without obtaining a visa before arrival. And even then, top-ranked Denmark, Sweden and Finland have only two more countries than Italy that citizens can access without obtaining a visa before arrival.
Unfortunately, there are some instances in which you’re going to die no matter which passport you are carrying merely based on the color of your skin or the clothing you are wearing. As that circumstance is beyond our control, I have focused on circumstances that are in our control and, thus, my argument for the Italian passport being the ideal passport:
The only time I can think to pull out the American passport is when one is actually entering the United States. Otherwise it is a liability.
For avoiding the most bureaucracy, I would suggest the American and British passport combination.
And from a purely financial perspective, one would want a passport from the U.A.E. or Qatar given the largesse they shower on their citizens.
But for the most versatility and survivability, I would put my money (and my life) on an Italian passport.