The new Head of the Vanuatu Citizenship Committee has been asked to solve the paradox of having two almost identical citizenship-by-investment programs in the country. Experts are talking about their possible amalgamation. In addition to that, it may become possible to acquire citizenship of Vanuatu in exchange for investment into business that will create new jobs in the country.
A second passport and citizenship for money is considered the fastest way to build a ‘safety net’ for yourself and your family and to be better protected against such disasters as the COVID-19 pandemic, for example.
More than a dozen countries in the world offer their passports to foreigners who can ‘buy’ more freedom and security when obtaining second citizenship. What country should you choose? Well, each of them has its own advantages and disadvantages, and you have to compare the conditions on which you can acquire foreign citizenship.
If you have to act fast during the lockdown times, Vanuatu will probably be the best choice. It takes between six and nine weeks only to become a citizen of this South Pacific country.
Vanuatu is located quite far away from the center of things but you do not have to travel there in order to obtain Vanuatu citizenship. You can file the application remotely. You can make an electronic money transfer. And the passport will be delivered to you by a courier.
You must agree that this option looks much more attractive in comparison to acquiring citizenship by naturalization. This would require living in the foreign country permanently from three to fifteen years, depending on the country’s legislation.
Economic citizenship of Vanuatu can be acquired via two immigration programs designed for different groups of applicants but these programs can be merged soon
The Government of Vanuatu makes it possible to become a full citizen of the country by donating approximately US$ 150,000 to the state fund. It can be done via one of the following two immigration programs:
- Vanuatu Development Support Program (VDSP); and
- Vanuatu Contribution Program (VCP).
While the VDSP scheme is accessible to applicants of all nationalities, the VCP program is designed especially for citizens of mainland China. Both of these programs have been available for a few years now and they have brought hundreds of millions of dollars to the Vanuatu state budget. The largest portion of the money generated by the immigration programs is allocated to support programs that help Vanuatu people overcome the consequences of natural disasters. Part of the money is spent on other Government needs.
The income from ‘selling’ passports to foreign nationals was at its peak in 2019. That year, it exceeded US$ 100 million, which constituted 11.9% of the national GDP. The revenues generated by the two programs were greater than the revenues from the VAT, which allowed Vanuatu to have a budget surplus at the end of the year.
|Year||Cumulative revenues from the VDSP and VCP (million US dollars)|
By the end of 2019, Vanuatu had made around 230 million US dollars by issuing passports to foreigners in exchange for donations. More than four thousand foreign nationals obtained Vanuatu citizenship via the VDSP and VCP immigration programs.
Nevertheless, the fact that there are two immigration programs in the country makes international officials concerned. Some of them believe that this situation decreases the transparency of the immigration processes going on in the South Pacific jurisdiction.
Ronald Varshall, the former Minister of Justice, has been appointed Head of Vanuatu Citizenship Committee and he has been put in charge of solving this issue thus improving the international image of the country.
General elections took place in Vanuatu in March 2020 and the newly elected Prime Minister Bob Loughman promised to reform the economic citizenship legislation. Loughman asked the Head of Citizenship Committee to make a revision of the VDSP / VCP schemes and improve their transparency. The local newspaper Vanuatu Daily Post also reports that the possibility to grant citizenship to foreigners creating new jobs in the country is going to be seriously considered.
ABC Australia experts have commented on these initiatives. Referring to the insider information that they allegedly have, they claim that the two immigration programs that currently exist in Vanuatu are going to merge and a new program will appear that will also grant citizenship to foreigners who create jobs in the country. Indeed, this would be in keeping with the overall policy of the Government of Vanuatu.
By the way, the latter opportunity is also available in such countries as Turkey, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Lucia, and Jordan. Thus, the Vanuatu authorities can simply borrow the experience that their foreign colleagues have in this matter.
The newly appointed Head of Vanuatu Citizenship Committee is a political heavyweight as he was the deputy leader of the opposition before the general elections of 2020. Now, the Committee has to solve the following tasks under the leadership of Ronald Varshall:
- Increase the effectiveness of processing the applications for Vanuatu citizenship for money.
- Strengthen the security checks of the applicants.
- Improve the procedure of citizenship certificates issuance.
- Improve cooperation with other Government bodies.
- Protect the wholesomeness of Vanuatu citizenship.
It has to be noted that there is a wide consensus among the members of the Vanuatu Government as to the importance of the economic citizenship programs as a valuable source of extra income that can be used towards some urgent purposes. It is obvious that the VDSP and VCP programs (or their hybrid) are going to play a major role in the economic development of Vanuatu in the foreseeable future.
Have you been made an offer to purchase Vanuatu citizenship at a discounted price? Decline it!
The Vanuatu authorities introduced some changes to the VDSP / VCP due diligence procedures last month making them more stringent. Experts note that these changes have improved the due diligence standards and put the Vanuatu immigration programs in conformity with other similar national programs.
Earlier this month, the Vanuatu Citizenship Committee sent an official letter to the immigration agents that provide services to the applicants for Vanuatu citizenship via the VDSP / VCP programs. The letter asked the agents not to lower the recommended prices in order to keep the programs wholesome:
“The lowering of the recommended tariffs has a negative impact on the wholesomeness of the Vanuatu economic citizenship programs, brings unfair competitive advantages to some players, and leads to confusion of the market participants in relation to the cost of acquiring citizenship of Vanuatu”.
The letter also informs the agents that they will face losing their licenses if they reduce the service prices. The applicants who purchased Vanuatu citizenship at a discount before can be deprived of it or otherwise, they will be asked to compensate for the discount and pay the full price.
Currently, thirty-one immigration agents hold licenses that allow providing services to the applicants for Vanuatu citizenship. Thirty agents have the VDSP licenses and one agent has the VCP license.
Vanuatu citizenship by investment: a ‘life belt’ for the country going through two disasters at a time
Citizenship of Vanuatu for money has proved to be a vitally important instrument of promoting development of the country when it is suffering from the consequences of two disasters simultaneously: cyclone Harold and COVID-19 pandemic. Vanuatu remains one of very few countries that have been unaffected by the coronavirus but the global lockdown makes it extremely difficult to bring to the country materials and other supplies needed for the restoration work after the cyclone.
Vanuatu in the South Pacific is one of the states especially vulnerable to natural disasters. The country that consists of more than eighty islands in total is located in the so-called ‘fire belt’, a region characterized by a large number of earthquakes that occur there regularly. It is also in the center of the Pacific cyclone belt. According to the World Risks report from 2019, Vanuatu is at the very top of the list of the most risky countries in terms of natural catastrophes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Vanuatu was hit by Harold cyclone (Category 5) that was the most devastating cyclone since the occurrence of Pam cyclone in 2015.
However, the current catastrophe is the most severe one in the whole history of Vanuatu as the country is unable to receive foreign aid due to the lockdown. The situation is terrible indeed, as many local schools and hospitals have been damaged while some communities have been cut off from the outside world by floods and the fallen trees blocking the roads.
Efforts to provide international assistance to the people of Vanuatu run into the walls of closed borders. Australia, China, and other countries are trying to deliver the most necessary supplies to Vanuatu but they have few possibilities for that.
According to the recommendations offered by the experts of Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, the improvement of the level of resistance to natural disasters and climate change is one of Vanuatu’s tasks of the highest priority. The experts’ estimates show that Vanuatu loses 48 million US dollars per year on average because of the natural disasters. This is 6.6% of the country’s GDP.
For these reasons, the Government of Vanuatu has decided to restart the citizenship-by-investment program that was first launched in the 90s of the previous century and later suspended. The relaunch of the program occurred in the second decade of the 21st century.
In particular, Vanuatu Economic Rehabilitation Program (VERP) was implemented in 2015 after cyclone Pam wreaked havoc in the country: approximately 90% of the buildings were ruined or badly damaged and the total losses amounted to 63.2 billion vatu (US$ 600 million). In March 2017, the VERP was replaced by the VDSP and VCP schemes.
You can ‘buy’ the Vanuatu passport for Bitcoins in 2020
“Can I ‘buy’ Vanuatu citizenship for Bitcoins or other cryptocurrency?” This is one of the questions that crypto dealers often ask immigration agents.
The largest problem with cryptocurrencies is the volatility of their exchange rates. Another problem is the difficulty in determining if the sources of cryptocurrencies are legal. These are the main reasons why most countries that issue their passports to foreigners in exchange for investments are reluctant to accept crypto money.
It is hard to follow the cryptocurrency transactions that are made via confidential blockchains and crypto exchanges. Theoretically, crypto money can be earned with the help of a hack or a computer virus and it can be used for some money laundering purposes too. Thus at the current moment, no national government accepts Bitcoins nor other cryptocurrencies as the pay for citizenship.
At the same time, some immigration agents do accept crypto. As a rule, they will only accept the agent’s fee in a cryptocurrency while the donation or investment proper has to be made in a fiat currency.
The situation with Vanuatu is unique: you can transfer the entire required sum in a cryptocurrency to the immigration agency and it will convert it into US dollars and make the donation on your behalf. Therefore, de facto, you can ‘buy’ Vanuatu citizenship for Bitcoins or some other cryptocurrency.
What advantages does the Vanuatu passport have?
- The shortest time of application processing – three to eight weeks only.
- Vanuatu is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and its passport gives visa-free access to Great Britain, Ireland, Schengen zone countries, the Russian Federation, and many other national states.
- After the passport is issued, it can be delivered anywhere in the world by a courier.
- The application procedure is clear and simple while no personal visit to the islands is required.
- There is no personal income tax in Vanuatu for tax resident individuals; neither wealth tax nor inheritance tax exist in the country.
- Vanuatu citizenship will remain confidential (the names of new citizens are not made public).
Unfortunately, its geographical location makes Vanuatu susceptible to frequent natural disasters. The citizenship-by-investment Government program greatly contributes to the rehabilitation measures that have to be taken after each cyclone as well as preventive measures.
Vanuatu is currently having a difficult time fighting with the consequences of cyclone Harold. However, the Government has closed all the seaports, airports, and other venues of access to the country anyway, which has made Vanuatu free from the coronavirus, at least thus far.
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How much does Vanuatu citizenship cost?
A foreign national can obtain citizenship and the passport of Vanuatu by paying around US$ 150,000. Only a non-returnable donation to the state fund can make you a citizen of Vanuatu. Besides, you have to cover the costs of the immigration agent’s services. You can apply for Vanuatu citizenship only via an immigration agent, that is, you cannot file the application by yourself. The immigration agent will provide full support to you during the whole application process. The passport of Vanuatu can be delivered to the place where you are when it is issued in your name.
Is dual citizenship allowed in Vanuatu?
There are no restrictions in the Vanuatu legislation as to dual or multiple citizenship. Moreover, you do not have to live in the country nor even visit it in order to retain the passport. At the same time, some countries such as China and Ukraine, for example, disallow dual citizenship. Therefore, you had better clarify this issue with your home country’s authorities before applying for the citizenship of a foreign country.
Where is Vanuatu on the map of the world?
The Republic of Vanuatu is an insular state in the South Pacific. It is located to the northeast of New Caledonia, to the east of Australia, and to the west of Fiji. A Y-shaped chain of fourteen main islands is of a volcanic origin and Vanuatu is home for several active volcanoes.