Compared to most visa by investment programs, Vanuatu offers one of the most accessible.
For only EUR 130,000, a Vanuatu Citizenship applicant gains a passport that offers multiple privileges – including Schengen area access.
However, this privilege might be lost soon. A recent announcement by the EU Commission plans to “partially suspend” Schengen access for Vanuatu.
The lost privileges will possibly include the ability to stay with no visa for over 90 days (through any 180-day timeframe).
Possible Reasons for the Announcement
As explained on the European Commission’s website, Vanuatu’s golden passport schemes are a threat to the “security of the EU and its Member States.”
Extensive exchanges between the EU and Vanuatu have been underway before the announcement – with the EU reminding Vanuatu that the loss of privileges might be a possibility.
This will serve as a strong blow to Vanuatu’s passport quality. The passport’s main selling point is its easy EU access, and without that, the island may be hard-pressed to find investors.
The Passport as a Selling Point
One of the main issues brought up by the European Commission is Vanuatu’s advertising strategy for its golden passports.
The passport has always been branded as an easy ticket to the EU for those with underprivileged passports.
The European Commission has stressed that since 2015, Vanuatu’s marketing strategy does not align with the visa-waiver’s goals. It seems that using the EU as a selling point is a violation of EU security.
Also, according to the Commission, the result of that marketing is that it allows applicants to “bypass the regular Schengen visa procedure” in a manner that threatens EU security.
The Commission has repeatedly commented on Vanuatu’s poor CBI screening procedures.
A lack of “careful monitoring” has been repeatedly observed with large security failures and serious deficiencies. This included granting citizenship to applicants who were listed in Interpol’s databases.
Also, the Commission has outlined the short processing time and high approval rates as causes of concern. It sees the minor information exchange with applicant home countries as worrisome.
Another issue is country restrictions. Vanuatu has repeatedly granted passports to nationalities now allowed to access the EU (through its other CBI programs).
Partial – But Not Full Suspension
The suspension only applies to passports post 25th May 2015. It’ll also apply to ordinary passports only.
This marks the date when Vanuatu began issuing large passport amounts for investments. Holders of those passports will be prevented from accessing the EU before acquiring a visa.
However, they still retain the right to apply for one on an EU visit.
Currently, the decision to partially suspend passport privileges hasn’t been finalized. In case that occurs, Vanuatu’s government will be informed 2 months prior.
During the suspension’s timespan, the European Commission plans to establish a prolonged dialogue with Vanuatu, with the goal of reviewing its screening process.
Should Vanuatu choose to improve screening to mitigate or eliminate security risks, then the suspension might be lifted.
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