According to the mass media (including Vanuatu Daily Post), applicants for the Vanuatu citizenship-by-investment program will soon receive identification documents of a new type. The passport of an ‘economic citizen’ of the country is going to carry a special stamp that will indicate that citizenship of Vanuatu has been acquired by investment. Passports of native-born people are not going to have such a stamp. Does this mean that the possibility of acquiring citizenship of Vanuatu by investment should be discarded now? Let us look into the issue in a bit more detail.
Wealthy individuals from different countries of the world (and from China in particular) have been showing a great interest in ‘purchasing’ Vanuatu passports. The country’s citizenship-by-investment program is quite transparent, the requirements are not too tough, the price is competitive, and the passport acquisition time is relatively short.
Over a dozen other countries offer similar opportunities. What makes the Vanuatu program so competitive? Why do many foreign investors prefer the state in the South Pacific to Caribbean countries, for instance? Let us stress the main advantages of the Vanuatu citizenship-by-investment program.
- The foreign investor can acquire the passport of Vanuatu within six to eight weeks without travelling to the islands or going through any other troubles.
- The whole process of Vanuatu citizenship acquisition can be implemented remotely. The applicant does not even have to leave home to obtain a second passport.
- The Vanuatu passport holder enjoys visa-free access to around 130 countries including the EU states, Great Britain, Ireland, and the Russian Federation.
- Citizens of Vanuatu are eligible to apply for a guest visa to Australia (subclass 600).
- There is no personal income tax in the country (applicable to tax residents of Vanuatu who spend the best part of the year on its territory). No wealth, inheritance, nor capital gains taxes are levied either.
Sounds attractive indeed, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, the new regulations might prove to become the ‘fly in the ointment’ in a sense.
The special stamp in the Vanuatu passport
The Government of Vanuatu has issued a decree that makes it obligatory for all new economic citizens of the country to have a stamp in their passports showing that the document has been acquired in exchange for an investment. Government officials claim that the new requirement is aimed at increasing the trustworthiness of the Vanuatu passport and protecting the wholesomeness of the local citizenship-by-investment programs.
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Two such programs are administered in Vanuatu: the VCP available to citizens of China only and the VSDP available to people from all other countries. Both immigration schemes allow acquiring citizenship of Vanuatu in exchange for a non-returnable donation of US$ 145,000. Both schemes are extremely popular with foreign investors as Vanuatu offers an opportunity to obtain a second passport in the fastest way. No other country administering a citizenship-by-investment program processes the applications so quickly.
So the passport of an economic citizen of Vanuatu is going to be different from the passports of a native-born citizen as the former will carry a special stamp. Moreover, additional payments are going to be required in connection with the new regulations. The following additional amounts will have to be paid for the stamp:
- US$ 500 — for a single applicant;
- US$ 800 — for a family of up to four members;
- US$ 1,000 — for a family of more than four members.
In 2019, the Government of Vanuatu started issuing passports with a new cover thus commemorating the 39th year of independence. Besides, the passport term of validity was increased from five years to ten. This certainly has added to the popularity of the Vanuatu citizenship-by-investment program.
It is not quite clear so far how the new regulation is going to affect the interest to the local economic citizenship program on the part of foreign investors. Some experts are rather skeptical about it, we must admit. Vanuatu Government officials try to justify this move by claiming that the special stamp will make the Vanuatu passport a more trustworthy document in the eyes of the customs officers in other countries. Frankly speaking, we have yet to see if this assumption is going to turn out correct.
An alternative to Vanuatu citizenship: A second passport of a Caribbean state
Do you feel uneasy about having a stamp in your second passport showing that your citizenship has been acquired for money? There are a number of other national states that run citizenship-by-investment programs and here we would like to draw your attention to the Caribbean countries. Antigua, Grenada, Dominica, St Lucia, and Nevis offer similar opportunities to foreign investors.
If you take a superficial glance at the prices for citizenship of Vanuatu and those for the citizenship of the Caribbean countries, you may think that the former charges 1.5 more for its passport in comparison to the latter ones (see the table below). You have to realize, however, that considerable additional payments are involved in acquiring citizenship in the Caribbean. In particular, you will have to hire a licensed immigration agent who will file the application to the country’s authorities on your behalf. In Vanuatu, the immigration agent’s fee is already included in the overall price.
When applying for citizenship of Vanuatu, you do not have to pay a personal visit to the country. All the application forms are downloadable for free and now even the oath of allegiance can be made via a videoconferencing application.
The same is true for almost all Caribbean states mentioned above: you can acquire their citizenship 100% remotely. There is one exception, however. Antigua and Barbuda require that the economic citizen spend at least five days in the country during the first five years of holding the passport of the country.
It may look as a burdensome requirement at the first sight with the view of the fact that other Caribbean states – Antigua’s competitors – do not impose such requirements. But it is a wise move on the part of the Antiguan authorities, as a matter of fact. They want the foreign investor to visit the country, fall in love with it, buy a house, and relocate there for good! (We must note that the requirement to necessarily visit Antigua and Barbuda has been suspended until the coronavirus pandemic is over.)
An important difference between the Vanuatu and the Caribbean economic citizenship programs is the speed of application processing. As we have noted above, citizenship of Vanuatu can be acquired in a fast way. The immigration authorities of the Caribbean states, in their turn, take several months to process the applications for citizenship.
|Vanuatu citizenship by investment||Caribbean citizenship by investment|
|Geographical location||South Pacific||Caribbean basin|
|Non-returnable donation required||US$ 145,000||From US$ 100,000|
|Immigration agent’s fee||Included in the price||Payable. The amount will depend on the country and the number of applicants included in the family application and their ages|
|Returnable investments into real estate/ business/ securities||Unavailable (the possibility to grant citizenship of Vanuatu in exchange for investment into real estate in the country is actively discussed)||US$ 200,000 and more|
|Application processing time||1.5-2 months||From 3 to 6 months (with the exception of Nevis where accelerated application processing is possible for an additional fee)|
|Ease of citizenship acquisition||Easy||Medium hard|
|Visa-free entry to Schengen zone/ Great Britain||Yes||Yes|
|Entry to the USA and Canada||Visa required||Visa required|
|Passport validity term||10 years||5-10 years depending on the country|
|Opportunity to acquire an E-2 visa to the USA||Absent||Present in case of Grenada only|
|Membership in the Commonwealth of Nations||Yes||Yes|
|Right to vote||Not granted||Granted|
|Passport strength (number of visa-free destinations)||129 countries||140+ countries|
|Personal visit to the country||Not required||Not required|
|Oath of allegiance||Required||Required|
Expert support in acquiring citizenship of Vanuatu or a Caribbean country
As you can see, there are several opportunities to acquire foreign citizenship by investment and each option has its own advantages and disadvantages. Would you like to have a deeper understanding of the components of the immigration programs described above? If so, please apply for our professional consultations!
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Is the Vanuatu passport good for travelling?
Yes, the passport of Vanuatu is a powerful travel document. It gives visa-free access to nearly 130 countries including the Schengen zone, Great Britain, and Russia. Negotiations with China about visa-free travel are underway.
Does Vanuatu legislation allow dual citizenship?
Yes, it does. You will not have to renounce your current citizenship when acquiring the passport of Vanuatu.
Can I become a citizen of Vanuatu without making an investment?
Yes, you can become a citizen of Vanuatu by naturalization. To achieve this goal, however, you will have to reside in the country on legal grounds for ten years, spending the best part of each year on its territory. After that, you will become eligible to apply for citizenship of Vanuatu by naturalization.