WHY VANUATU WAS REMOVED FROM THE EU VISA-EXEMPT LIST
Vanuatu launched two Citizenship by Investment programmes in 2016, the Vanuatu Development Support Programme (VDSP) and the Vanuatu Contribution Programme (VCP) (VCP).
These ‘golden passport’ programmes let international nationals to get Vanuatu citizenship for a minimum expenditure of $130,000 USD. In consequence, the Vanuatu passport grants visa-free entry to the EU.
The scheme was initially scrutinised by the EU in 2019 for failing to implement mandatory due diligence requirements to guarantee that participants were not engaging in fraudulent or illegal activities.
Because Vanuatu’s government failed to make the necessary reforms to the citizenship investment programmes, the EU Commission suggested suspending visa-free entrance.
On January 12, 2022, the EU Commission issued a press statement announcing its proposal to discontinue the visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu.
The EU Council deliberated on the idea before making the ultimate decision to terminate the visa waiver accords with Vanuatu.
Vanuatu shall be given two months’ notice from the moment the resolution is published in the Official Journal.
EU SECURITY RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH VANUATU’S CITIZENSHIP PROGRAMME
The EU commission has stated the grounds for the suspension of visa-free travel for Vanuatu nationals.
- Vanuatu citizenship has been granted to individuals on the Interpol database
- Average processing times are too short to allow for sufficient screening
- Very low application rejection rates, only one rejection up to 2020
- Successful applications include those from countries that require a visa for Europe
Because of these security flaws, anyone who would ordinarily require a visa for Europe might circumvent Schengen visa processing by travelling using a Vanuatu passport. The EU faced a security risk as a result of this.
Furthermore, the EU claims that visa-free travel to Europe was touted as one of the perks of Vanuatu citizenship and was used to recruit foreign investors to the golden passport programme.
WHO DOES THE EU VISA WAIVER AGREEMENT SUSPENSION FOR VANUATU APPLY TO?
Visa-free travel from Vanuatu to the EU has been suspended for regular passports issued after May 25, 2015. Vanuatu began granting a substantial number of passports to foreign investors about this period.
To travel EU member states, anybody having a Vanuatu passport issued on or after this date must apply for a visa.
HOW LONG WILL THE EU VISA WAIVER AGREEMENT WITH VANUATU BE SUSPENDED?
The suspension will stay in effect until the security concerns are addressed.
The EU will keep an eye on the situation and, if required, will remove the suspension. If changes are not achieved, Vanuatu may be permanently added to the list of visa-required nations for Europe.