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August 22, 2010


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well, if you want to become a swiss citizen, you have to live in a country for 10+ years. A part from that, the local municipality will charge you something between 5K and 100K+ CHF, depending on where you live.

The cost to become a citizen may have been more than just money. For example, many foreigners become US citizens via military service.

ironically the trend in the number of wealthy individuals giving up their US citizenship is rising. the US is still the land of opportunity where dreams become (or can become) reality. for the ultra wealthy however (especially with those with global income sources), a US citizenship means paying an effective tax rate of almost 50% since the US taxes global income. should there also be a cost to giving up a citizenship? food for thought...

Interesting in that my search found Paul became a citizen because ...

Though Paul was a circumcised Jew, and a Pharisee, he was born in the city of Tarsus(Acts 22:27, 28) .Over a hundred years previously, the Roman politician Anthony had conferred Roman citizenship upon all the inhabitants of Tarsus, and this was later attested to by Emperor Caesar Augustus . (Acts 21:39; 22:3)

Paul's father had Roman citizenship bestowed on him presumably for some service to Caesar. This automatically covered his son as well.

Either way it was a high honor to be a citizen of the roman empire.

You already can 'buy' US Citizenship:

The EB-5 visa for Immigrant Investors is a United States visa created by the Immigration Act of 1990. This visa provides a method of obtaining a green card for foreign nationals who invest money in the United States. To obtain the visa, individuals must invest at least $500,000, creating at least 10 jobs. ( )

It is possible you can "buy" Canadian citizenship also. Invest $1,000,000 (Canadian, I assume) in any Canadain Company or investment plan, per person, and you get in. Many Hong Kong Chinese families did so in the uncertain period just before Hong Kong reverted from British rule to Chinese ownership (1998?). I have no idea if both (Hong Kong/Canada) being members of the British Community of Nations was a legal factor.

I like the idea of a potential citizen having some form of compensation to the country he wants to live in. Why should a country just bestow its blanket of care on a person just because. It costs the country some money depending on use of medical, roads, education and etc. Why shouldn't they serve the country in some way. Be it financial or service.

Years ago, Belize was selling citizenship for a mere (relatively speaking) cost of $50,000 as a way to pay down it's debt.

In Belize, as in most of the rest of the world except the U.S., you have to be a full citizen to own property (wish we had that here! (go ahead and flame me)).

The program was wildly successful. says:
It didn't 'cost' but you needed to be a man, born in Rome and not a slave

This is not Historic Romans but they might have some insight:

I'm thinking the "cost" had more to do with your life than that of money.

Gary Becker believes that immigrants should be charged 50,000.

According to the commentary at Bible gateway (

"The tribune responds, possibly sarcastically, I had to pay a big price for my citizenship. He is referring to the bribes he paid to intermediaries in the imperial secretariat or provincial administration to ensure that his name would appear on the list of candidates for enfranchisement."

While not an exact number it does give some insight into it.

As you requested, masterpo, consider yourself flamed. fwiw.

@Extra Money Blog: There IS a price for giving up citizenship. If you have more than a couple of million USD in assets, and decide to renounce your US citizenship it is presumed to be for tax reasons. You pay a theoretical capital gains tax, computed as if you sold everything on the day of renunciation.

If you spend more than a very small number of says in the US after that date, you fall back under US tax laws.

I don't know FMF. The Roman citizenship was highly sought-after because they were a slave state with a slave economy. That is, there was a large difference between the standard of living of citizens and non-citizens. Hence the great appeal.

Certainly, there is some benefit and appeal for citizenship our modern US citizenship, but I would like to think that we are much more egalitarian than the ancient Romans. I would prefer that our society would not be made available only to the highest bidder....

Another point to consider is that the Roman empire was structurally unsound in its governance, which lead to itself being economically unsustainable, which ultimately lead to them selling citizenship for a princely sum to help fund the state coffers, but ultimately still resulted in its own collapse. Do we really want to follow their footsteps?

Sorry that I didn't exactly answer your question. I don't know how much it cost back then become a citizen. (I think most non-citizens paid in blood through military service rather than money.) I just wanted to say that ancient Rome, despite all its glory and achievements, was also deeply flawed, and I'm hoping that our society can learn and avoid the mistakes they made.

I took some classes on ancient warfare and many non-Romans earned citizenship by serving in the army for I think 15 years. That in itself is a high price to pay and a dangerous one. But once citizenship has been earned, they are able to own land and property.

Today, we have non-US citizens who are serving the US military. Generally, the US government tries to speed up the process granting non US citizens who have completed tours of duty citizenship.

I spoke with my Theologian wife, who has vast resources outside of Wikipedia and Google to pull from, and she has this to say:

"There appear to be only two sources which speak about the purchase of Roman citizenship. The Acts of the Apostles (written in the early 60s AD), where the guy says he purchased his "for a large sum of money". The history written by Dio Cassius (during the early 200s AD), which says that citizenship began to be sold under the reign of Claudius (in the early to mid 40s AD). He says that Claudius' empress, Messalina, originally sold citizenship for large sums of money, but eventually the price went down and down and down, until she was selling the privilege "for small pieces of glass"

Other than those two, I can't find any evidence that Roman citizenship was ever sold.

Which means that either:

- it was often sold during and after the reign of Claudius, but nobody thought it was interesting enough to write about,

- it was only briefly sold during the reign of Claudius, but then they quit selling it, or

- it was never sold, but people came to think it was due to Luke (the author of the Acts of the Apostles) wanting to pull a "gotcha" in his story by having Paul's citizenship outrank the Tribune's citizenship, and Dio Cassius wanting to make Messalina look like even more of a whore than Suetonius and Tacitus had."

I'd like to add that it's also possible that the purchasing of citizenship may have been so completely out of the reach of the writers (economically or by virtue of station) of the time that while they knew it existed, they never had the opportunity to discover how much it cost (similar to a lot of people today knowing that islands, missile silos and decommissioned Navy vessels are for sale, but don't have the first clue how much they are sold for). I'm inclined to believe her suggestion regarding Dio, however.

FMF - you are taking this passage too literally. The commander "paid a big price" for his citizenship insofar as he had to perform military service (the 15 years that others have mentioned rings a bell for me).

The analogy that Luke is trying to convey here is the idea of salvation by faith versus salvation by works. It was Paul's Roman citizenship that spared him death in this circumstance. Citizenship that he was born with, not citizenship that he had to earn (as the commander did). Similarly, salvation comes through faith alone - we are born with the ability to save ourselves. Works are not required.

This passage also points out what a unique character Paul is. He is born both a Jew and a Roman citizen, and yet he converts to this new faith called Christianity and ends up being absolutely critical in spreading the new Church, in particular to the Gentiles who had been excluded previously.

You can buy U.S. citizenship via real estate investment. It's actually becoming quite popular to finance projects through the EB-5 immigration program. The investor has to put up $500,000 in capital. However, they get green cards for all family members. The Brooklyn Navy Yards has used this and now Ratner is looking to do the same to get capital for the Brooklyn Nets/Atlantic Yards Development project. New York is not alone, more than 115 regional centers are offering citizenship in exchange for a $500,000 capital investment.

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