Jose Colorado

Helping basketball players achieve their pro dreams.

Overseas Basketball: Why Your Passport is The Most Important Asset For Professional Teams (2022)

What you need is a passport, not a jump shot.

While you may think pumping iron tonight or launching another five-hundred jump shots is the way to go, what thousands of professional overseas players have quietly discussed for years amongst ourselves is this:

You passport - and citizenship - is likely the greatest asset you can have as a pro player.

And now, I’ll let you in on the secret.

Let’s begin.

Basketball passports: Import or national

In FIBA-sanctioned leagues, players are not lumped into a single category.


They are classified within two separate distinctions:

  1. Imports

  2. Nationals

Based on this, domestic clubs are then presented with a limit of how many players of each type (i.e. import and national) they are allowed to sign.


In laymen terms, an import is a player who is registered on a professional club and who does not hold citizenship within the country or region in which they are playing in.

For instance, if you are American and only hold an American passport then you can only play as an import in countries outside of the USA (please note, the NBA has its own rules onto itself and nationality limits are not imposed).


Meanwhile a national is the opposite of an import; it is any player who holds citizenship within the country or region they are playing in.

For example, if you are Brazilian and wish to play in Brazil’s top league then you’d be penciled in as a ‘national.’

All of this plays a huge role when it comes time for managers to form their clubs.

Essentially, teams can’t sign the 12 best players money can buy.

Instead they can only sign the 12 best players who fit within the classifications of imports and nationals in that particular region/country.

Become a 2x National, 1x import

In the vast majority of countries the number of imports allowed per team is significantly lower than that of the ‘national players.’

And this makes sense when considering domestic pro leagues are meant - among other things - to improve the play of its homegrown talent.

Each country and region varies greatly, especially when tackling Europe, but as a general rule, remember: globally, there are much fewer spots for imports than nationals.

That means aspiring pro players would greatly increase their chances of landing a roster spot by obtaining multiple citizenships/passports.

In this way you would be considered a national in two separate countries (making you eligible to every team in each division of your countries) alongside the possibility of being an import globally.

How to stack the odds: Jus Soli or Jus Sanguinis

Typically there are two main ways to gain citizenship.

Jus Soli (Latin for right of soil) is the first method and it is the nationality principle stating anyone born within the territory has the right to said country’s citizenship. For instance, if you were born in Canada then you immediately have the right to a Canadian citizenship.

Typically jus soli is most common within the Americas while it is very rare in the rest of the world.

The second manner comes via jus sanguinis - Latin for right of blood.

In this instance, citizenship is determined through the ethnicity of one’s parents.

This method is most common in Europe.

If you think you may be eligible for another passport either through your birth place or your parents’ blood line, now is the time to begin researching.

Have discussions with your parents, grandparents and even inquire about your lineage dating back to your great-grandparents as some countries permit this.

If there is even a hint of a possibility of securing a second passport, contact the nearest embassy (or preferably go in-person if it’s close enough) and explore what the next steps or possibilities are.

Depending on how far you have to trace back your proof of heritage, this process can be an extremely tiresome and testing.

My own quest to dual nationality took over three years and likely a half-dozen out-of-town visits to my nearest embassy.

But the end result was my ability to get my foot in the door as a national in El Salvador - something that has opened up opportunities for me throughout Latin American and the rest of the world.

All Passports are not made equal

A European Union (EU) passport is one of the most coveted.

All players with an EU passport are considered a national within the other countries within the EU.

That means if you were Italian you would be eligible to play as a national within all 27 countries of the EU.

Other passports can be just as profitable however.

I have many friends currently playing in Asia (a big money market) making a killing off the jus sanguinis principle (i.e. gaining nationality through their parents’ blood line).

As an import, it’s unlikely they would have even received a contract.

As a national, they’ve made a comfortable living.

Once you’re in the pro game and clubs, managers and teams put a face to the name, it’s much easier to land future jobs, network, demand higher salaries and truly make it a viable career choice.

Otherwise the odds are stacked against you in an already ultra-competitive profession.