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Passport Privilege

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In the past week, dozens of friends have reached out to me as I have been helping them apply for a Golden Visa in Portugal, to get a path to citizenship in Europe. The highly popular investment program is about to close forever.

The experience has opened my eyes to the privilege of a passport.

Growing up in Canada, the son of Indian immigrants, I had no idea just how valuable my Canadian passport was. It wasn't until my parents shared their story that I realized how different my life could have been. They immigrated to Canada just one month before I was born, which means I could have easily held an Indian passport instead of a Canadian one. That seemingly inconsequential detail has, in many ways, shaped my life.

Now living in Portugal, I find myself surrounded by a diverse mix of nationalities. As my friendships deepen, I've begun to understand the struggles that many individuals face due to the limitations of their passports. I've seen firsthand how these struggles can impact both personal and professional lives.

One such friend is from Russia, having left her home country long ago. Sadly, she's unable to renew her passport and is stuck, unable to travel. Another friend of mine, who had worked in Iran for a while, is now worried about entering the United States because of a few undesirable passport stamps. My own cousin, born in India just a week after me, faces constant challenges when attempting to secure visas for international travel.

As for me, I've had the fortune of traveling to over 30 countries without so much as a second thought. My Canadian passport has granted me the freedom to explore the world, learn about new cultures, and expand my horizons. It's also played a significant role in the success of my business, which currently serves 300 clients in 30 countries. Without the ease of travel provided by my passport, I might have struggled to grow my company and achieve the same level of success.

It's an uncomfortable truth that the world has globalized in terms of trade, information, and business, but it has not done so in terms of mobility. During the pandemic, we witnessed countries prioritizing the rights and safety of their citizens over others. This situation served as a stark reminder that citizenship still matters, and that passport privilege is very much alive and well.

My own experiences have made me acutely aware of the impact of geopolitical issues on international travel. I've never done business in Russia, and I don't currently feel the need to. However, looking ahead a decade or two, I may very well want to conduct business in China, as it's predicted to become the world's largest economy. Yet, should Canada and China find themselves at a political impasse, I might be unable to travel there.

It's important to recognize that while I've benefited greatly from my passport, it's something that I didn't earn. I was simply born into a fortunate situation.

As I continue to enjoy the benefits of seemingly borderless travel due to my Canadian passport, I would like to believe that I can raise awareness of this issue that others face and advocate for change. Unfortunately, this is ‘above my pay grade’, as they say, and I am not confident that despite our globalization efforts, things will get better.

Over the past five years, we have seen highly developed nations begin to close their borders and introduce more nationalistic policies. With greater disparities, be it a result of technological evolution, rising wealth gaps and more, I suspect we will continue to see more closed and nationalistic policies.

Fast forward one or two generations, thinking ahead to my unborn children and maybe grandchildren, what is the passport privilege that they will have? I meet so many non Europeans living in Portugal that I am extremely jealous of, as they have a European passport through some deceased relative they have never met and barely know about. It amazes me that countries will prioritize descendents who may not even live in the place above people who are there and contributing to the local economy.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that my Canadian passport has afforded me. I recognize that I've been granted a level of freedom and mobility that many people can only dream of.

We really do not know what the future will look like and the greatest teaching I have internalized through a decade of mindfulness and spiritual practice is that ‘everything changes’.

I feel grateful to my parents for having the vision to plan ahead for my future.

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