Vanuatu, one of the leading offshore financial centers in the Pacific, is offering its citizenship in exchange for investment and opens up great opportunities for business management.
The importance of a second citizenship for people with less powerful passports is indisputable. It always pays to have a contingency plan in case of unforeseen political or economic circumstances, or to have guarantees for asset safety. The quickest way to get all of these in one package is to invest to the government-set fund of Vanuatu.
Twelve countries around the globe have citizenship by investment programs (CIP). Such Caribbean countries as Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Lucia are constantly competing for the foreign investors’ attention, using the foreign funds to survive economic crises and to develop. Thus, the countries with CIPs would often update the conditions of the programs in a bid to gain more applicants, hereby making them more beneficial and appealing.
Vanuatu’s trump card is record processing time, compared to neighbouring Caribbean countries. Its previous citizenship by investment program, Vanuatu Economic Rehabilitation Program, was replaced by the Development Support Program at the beginning of 2017.
According to this new program, any foreign individual with the means to invest at least $130,000 may apply for the citizenship – almost two times lower than the previous program. The investor may also list their spouse and two children in the application. In Saint Lucia, for instance, the minimum investment amount stands at $100,000 for a sole applicant, but in case two or more people apply, the price rises to $190,000.
Moreover, authorities of Vanuatu provide a response within 1 month, that is, at least twice as fast as any other country. And, by the way, authorities of Vanuatu have signed a visa-waiver agreement with Russia, effectively allowing Vanuatu passport holders to travel to Russia visa free, a clear benefit for those with business ties in Russia.
There are some more advantages of becoming a citizen of Vanuatu. Its passport permits visa-free movement around the world, including over 110 countries, such as the UK (6 months per year), Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Schengen countries (90 days out of 180) etc.
Vanuatu’s 2016 GDP reached $774 million. The country is an important offshore financial center of the Pacific Region. And, though the conditions of interaction with global financial havens have become slightly more complicated, Vanuatu still retains the advantages. Its citizens are not taxed on income tax, estate, capital gains or inheritance. A prudent approach will allow a holder of Vanuatu passport to diversify their portfolio.
The process of obtaining the second citizenship of Vanuatu is strictly confidential, and no third parties are informed of the deal. With Vanuatu’s recognition of dual and multiple citizenship, it means that there is no need to renounce the primary or any other citizenships. There are also no residence requirements, so applicant may opt not to stay in the country – prior, during, or after applying for/receiving the passport.
Yet another uncommon feature of Vanuatu’s citizenship by investment program is that even those who were denied a passport by other Caribbean countries may still have a chance with Vanuatu. Caribbean nations often exchange information on the candidates whose applications were turned down. The authorities of Vanuatu, however, base their decision on own conclusions, not on someone else’s data. This country’s citizenship may turn out to be the last resort for the foreign investors with previously rejected applications.
The Development Support Program of Vanuatu, as mentioned above, requires for a non-refundable donation of $130,000 both for a single applicant and for a family of 4: the main applicant, the spouse and two children.
There are several stages of obtaining the second citizenship of Vanuatu.
First, all the applicants submit the copies of all the necessary documents, and undergo a free preliminary check. Next, notarized original documents are submitted, and document package is prepared, which takes 1 or 2 weeks, and the first batch of payments is made: due diligence fee, and 25% of the non-refundable donation. After the documents are submitted to the Screening Committee, the Committee will perform the due diligence check via the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU). Once the FIU confirms the applicants have a clean criminal record, and their funds are legal, the applications are passed on to the Citizenship Commission, which, in its turn, submits a list of approved candidates to Vanuatu’s prime minister.
After reviewing and signing the list, the PM submits it for the president to sign. Only after all the screening and signing procedures are complete does the candidate pay the outstanding 75% of the non-refundable citizenship cost.
The candidates also have to submit biometrics by way of going to Hong Kong for this purpose, or even in one’s country in a specialized institution that will then directly send the data to Vanuatu. An applicant is also expected to take an Oath of Allegiance, which may be done via Skype.
Certificates of naturalization are issued next, and, finally, within the next 2 weeks, the foreign investor and their family members receive their Vanuatu passports.
The principal documents are:
Important! The investor is also expected to provide confirmation of source of funds. This includes employment verification (certificate of employment, employment contract), or proof of business ownership (a licence, registration documents, financial reports, etc.). The principal applicant – the investor – must provide proof of ownership of a minimum US$450,000 of assets.
Only authorized agents may handle the paperwork and submit the documents to the Citizenship Commission. An authorized agent is a citizen of Vanuatu and has a registered office in the capital of the country.
The principal expenses of obtaining Vanuatu’s citizenship are as follows:
Other expenditure items are due diligence ($2,000 per person), processing ($50,000 for a sole applicant, $70,000 for a family of 4 or less, $90,000 for a family of 6).
The total average maximum of Vanuatu’s citizenship for the whole family is $280,000 with all the fees and extra payments. A good alternative for European economic citizenship programs! In Cyprus, for example, the minimum budget for a passport is €2 million, and in Malta, €650,000.
Once all requirements are met, and citizenship acquisition stages complete, the second passport of Vanuatu is all yours. It is valid for 5 years, and is subsequently renewed for the same period of time, but the citizenship is issued for an indefinite amount of time, and is inherited by the future generations.
In October 2017, news broke that Vanuatu would start accepting Bitcoin from foreign investors as citizenship payment. A few days after the initial reports, however, the authorities of the country said the statement on Bitcoin use had no legal basis, and that all transactions are made using US dollars. Still, as it is now clear that Bitcoin has come to stay, many Caribbean countries have expressed interest in integrating the cryptocurrency into their payment systems. It is very possible that Vanuatu will work to improve their processes in the nearest future, and make the one-of-a-kind features of its citizenship by investment program available for purchase with Bitcoin.