Why We Should Be Allowed to Trade Citizenships

In today’s world, a lot of people will find something to dislike about their current country. Whether its laws they disagree with, substances or items being regulated or allowed they think shouldn’t be or politicians and parties they think stand against everything they care for, there’s often a feeling that the grass is greener elsewhere.

Yet despite the rhetoric, few people ever really follow through with the concerns. Oh, sure, some will claim they’ll leave the country if things work out badly (just see how many in the US screamed about moving to Canada or Europe when Trump was on the ballot), but few actually moved elsewhere because of it.

And part of this comes from the complexity of actually going through with said moves. Immigrating to a new country is difficult, especially when you’re not already employed there and don’t have thousands of dollars in cash to speed up the process. It’s designed to be slow and inconvenient, to limit the amount of people moving to any one place or using too many resources there.

But there is a solution to this issue. One that pleases practically everyone, and significantly simplifies both immigration and emigration at the same time.

Namely, let people trade citizenships with each other. That way, those who want to live under one legal system or in one society can simply find someone who wants to live in their current one, and trade nationalities with them.

This would solve a lot of problems people have with legal systems and ethics right now. For instance, got a left winger who dislikes how freedom of speech allows for ‘hate speech’ in the US? Well then, they could just trade their US citizenship with a European citizen who prefers the US system, and everyone will be happy. The ex American now gets to live in a country with more restrictive freedom of speech laws, and the ex European gets the opposite.

And the uses just go on and on. Want stricter or more relaxed gun ownership laws? Trade with someone in a country that has the type of laws you want. Want a type of drug legalised? Trade with someone in a country where said drug is legal. It basically means anyone who dislikes their own country can put their ‘money where their mouth’ is, and give up their citizenship to someone who’d appreciate living there more than they would.

What’s more, it may fix many of the problems we have with immigration now too. After all, it’s already difficult to immigrate to many highly desired countries right now, since said countries have millions of others who want to live there too, and limited resources to go around. It’s why people in India are stuck waiting 20 or so years for a chance to get a green card in the US, or why Australia’s points system is often tricky to overcome.

But every one of these countries has its detractors, and I’m sure a fair few of them would be happy to leave at the earliest opportunity. So perhaps the future of immigration may involve these voluntary trades as well. Maybe even complete with chains of immigration changes and trades to make everyone happy.

For instance, a migrant family could land in Spain or Italy, get citizenship for one of those countries, then trade it with a retiree from the UK or US in order to move there. Heck, maybe it could even end up being more complicated than that, with the same family or individual trading through a chain of multiple EU nationalities in order to finally be able to live in the country they want to live in.

It’d basically help solve the immigration crisis and provide a way out for political underdogs in one quick law change.

In theory, it’s a win-win situation. Those who dislike their home country get to leave, and those who want to live there get the chance to without any awkward extra prerequisites.

But I can see people may have problems with the system. Problems like:

  1. Criminals might use it to escape prosecution

In the same way they used to run for the border after committing a crime. In theory, trading citizenships seems likes a really good way to get out of trouble, right?

Well no. Not quite.

For one thing, an individual doesn’t have to be a citizen for the police to arrest them, the courts to charge them or to end up in prison for decades on it. Otherwise tourists would be getting away with murder all over the place, and that clearly doesn’t happen.

So any criminal who did try and trade their citizenship would simply be arrested as usual, likely long before they even made it to the plane/boat/vehicle used to leave the country.

This wouldn’t affect the trade, and would still let the person being traded with get the chance to enter the country unhindered.

And things don’t exactly change if someone does manage to use the setup to leave the country either. Again, extradition laws exist, and are often used on people that aren’t citizens of the country they’re being charged in. That’s not seen as an issue for the most part, especially when said individual actually visited the country in question to commit said crimes or otherwise had a noticeable impact on its society.

If this system can work for imprisoning foreign cartel leaders, it can work for a criminal citizenship trader too.

2. People might regret giving up their citizenship for another one

True, they might.

But they also might regret quite a few other things too. They might regret changing their job, moving house, marrying a spouse or getting a divorce, etc. Point is, just because someone makes a life changing decision they may regret doesn’t mean they get to revert it when things don’t work out the way they want them to.

3. The government of said countries might not like the exchange

Again, true. Especially if of of the two parties involved is poorer/less educated/of a lower status than the other. I can certainly see governments getting annoyed by billionaires moving abroad, or thousands of people without high school educations moving in.

Yet isn’t that how things work already? The rich and powerful can already move to pretty much any coountry they want to, and often do so to dodge things like taxes as it is. Short of sending the army to stop them leaving the country, there’s not really much you can do to prevent that.

Nor is there much reason to want to. Again, people aren’t property, regardless of whether that ‘owner’ is a private party or the government. They’ve got their own rights, and if they decide they want nothing to do with you or your regime, then you shouldn’t be able to intefere in that.

Still, I guess you could always restrict things a bit if you absolutely despise the idea of unequal exchange. Like say, have it so people can only trade with others with a certain level of education or wealth or something. That works too, even if it limits the system a bit more than before.

4. It could turn countries into echo chambers

That said, not all the issues people might raise are without merit here. Indeed, I do worry that this system may cause issues with political polarisation worldwide.

Since by definition, the people who are most likely to want to live in a country are those who identify the most with its moral or cultural values. For instance, those who agree with the US constitution the most are those who are most likely to apply for US citizenship under this sort of system.

And so there’s a definite worry that such a system may lead to more and more political extremism across the board, since those who dislike the existing setup are most likely to want to leave.

This may be problematic in places with widespread facist/communist sympathies, or where populist leaders are currently pissing off large portions of the population. A world where someone like Trump or Bolsonaro has a 99% approval rate or where neo Nazis or communists or SJWs make up virtually the entire population of a country may not stay particularly peaceful for long.

Still, I think it’d work better than the current setup, and compared to ‘allow in anyone’ or ‘use a points system’ or ‘have a whole bunch of semi opaque requirements based on personal connections’ feels a lot more practical and humane too.

So what do you think? Could letting people trade citizenships be a solution for immigration? What interesting effects would be seen if you could choose to live anywhere you like, so long as you can find someone else to trade places with?

Let me know in the comments below!

Written by

Gamer, writer and journalist working on Gaming Reinvented.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store