This myth has been going around for years – no doubt perpetuated by representatives of 2nd passport programs. A national of Country X has US visa problems – because of a criminal incident 20 years ago making him inadmissible to the US. He decides to obtain a passport from a European Union country by making a very substantial investment. Because he has been told that nationals of his new country are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) – a program that allows for travel as a tourist or business visitor to the US for up to 90 days without a visa, with no visa interview required – he is under the impression that he should qualify too. Until he reads the fine print – or consults with a US immigration lawyer.
Before boarding a flight to the US without a visa, citizens of VWP countries pre-register with the US authorities. This pre-registration process is known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). As a part of the process, one must complete an online application form, which includes a question about criminal history. And upon disclosure of such a history, he will be directed to apply for a visa at the nearest consulate. (N.B. Failure to disclose the criminal history could lead to a permanent bar for a material misrepresentation under Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.) Similarly, those with previous 214(b) and other visa refusals will be required to apply for a visa.
When he applies for that visa, he will be treated not as a national of Country X or the EU country, but as a person with a criminal record who requires a nonimmigrant waiver. Whether he will be able to obtain that waiver of course will depend in great part on his personal circumstances, the nature and recency of the crime, whether he poses a danger to the US, and the purpose of his visit to the US. The fact that he has obtained a passport of an EU country may speak to his wealth and comfortable position, which may help him obtain the waiver. The time period for the waiver validity may also be longer using the passport of the EU country than from Country X. But acquiring that passport does not “solve” his problem.
Also, being an EU national does not expedite the processing time for receiving the waiver. The current processing time for nonimmigrant waivers is 4-6 months, regardless of country of origin (with limited exceptions).
There are certainly legitimate uses for a 2nd passport. For example, some – such as St. Kitts – may allow for 10 year US visas. For some travelers, that prospect alone may be worth it if their home country is limited to 1, 2 or 3 year US visas. But to think that the appearance of a new passport will magically open the golden gates to the US without a visa for someone who is inadmissible or has previous 214(b) refusals – that is just another myth, one to be aware of before making that investment.