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Global Citizenship - Is the world ready? Print E-mail

Thursday, 05 December 2013 00:00

Written by Michael Totten

You travel abroad regularly. You are equally at home in fast-paced Tokyo, laid back Rio de Janeiro, the glass and chrome of the City, and the contrasts of Mumbai. Home is where you hang your hat. Maybe you've started wondering how you can take it to the next level. Is it truly possible to become a citizen of the globe?  

Currencies move freely

Modern currency exchange is easy. The world foreign exchange market runs through $4 trillion US dollars every single day.

Most currencies move freely across borders, although there are limits to how much cash you are allowed to bring across. However, no one objects to your bringing credit cards instead. It's still a good idea to keep some cash on hand in local and "hard" currencies for small purchases and to keep the wheels moving smoothly.

A global bank will allow you to have multiple bank accounts, each in a different currency. This is the easiest way to minimize currency exchange fees.

For a few currencies, such as the renminbi, you have to plan ahead. Useful in-between destinations which recognize the renminbi are northern Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. One trick is to keep a renminbi-currency account in Hong Kong and renminbi-based credit cards out of Macau. As of July 2010, the Chinese government has also loosened banking restrictions in Hong Kong.

People don't move freely

It's not always easy to cross borders. Those traveling on a US or European Union passport can cross most borders without the need for time-consuming visas, but not all.

If you have dual citizenship, you are also subject to both countries' laws regarding enemy states. For example, an Israeli citizen is not allowed to visit Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, or Syria without explicit permission from the Ministry of the Interior.

Even where you have a valid passport and visas, a border may be closed, especially in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The border closure may be just during a local holiday, or it may be of longer duration. Either way, it is wise to plan an alternate contingency route.

Each country has its own restrictions on what you may and may not bring in, and how much extra duty you have to pay. Even the registration of your car may become an issue, especially if permissions for foreigners to bring in foreign-registered vehicles have been suspended.

What does the future hold?

Although there are clear advantages to global citizenship, the world is a long way away from it. Modern security issues mean that more borders are restricted now than at any time since the Cold War. Yet there are signs that the public attitude may be changing.

The European Union has successfully abolished most border issues between its member nations. Those with EU passports can travel freely to any other EU country. Other regions of the world are watching the European experiment closely. Some, such as the Gulf Arab states, may follow suit.

The World Service Authority, a non-profit organization based out of the District of Columbia, is issuing "world passports" and asking national governments to accept them as if they were any other passport. Four countries have accepted: Ecuador, Mauritania, Tanzania, and Togo. Every other country has not. None of the developed world countries have signed on, and most have policy statements stating that WSA documents are not acceptable for crossing borders.


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