Buried within the pages of a publication in Cyprus last month, a tiny notice appeared written in the Greek alphabet, except for one name written in English: "Eric Emerson Schmidt," of Atherton, Calif. That notice in Alithia was an announcement of an application and approval for Cypriot citizenship, and that Eric Schmidt is the same Eric Schmidt who used to helm Google, per a report in Recode. Schmidt's wife, Wendy, and daughter Sophie have also applied and been approved for citizenship, per that same notice. It appears the former Google CEO has taken advantage of what's known as a "passport for sale" program, in which Americans can basically pay their way into a foreign nation's citizenship without the long wait or residency requirements, simply by making an investment in the country. There are less than a dozen countries worldwide that offer such programs.
Critics worry that these programs can be exploited by those who want to flee their home countries to avoid criminal prosecution or hide their assets. Recode notes that Cyprus' program in particular is notoriously scandal-ridden, with mostly Russians applying, and that the country announced last month it was shuttering it. It's not quite clear when Schmidt applied—Recode guesses between six months to a year ago—or why. Immigration experts say it could be so he and his family have options during the pandemic (the passport would allow them to flout current travel bans to the EU); part of a business strategy; or for possible tax breaks. Business Insider notes that seeking citizenship in a second nation isn't uncommon among the Silicon Valley set, with New Zealand being a recent popular destination. Schmidt so far isn't commenting on the notice. (Read more Eric Schmidt stories.)