Development Support Fund
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Vanuatu has been seeking to boost its economy through immigration investment for several years, even amending its constitution in 2012 to permit dual citizenship. Experts say the South Pacific island’s location could make it an attractive option for Asian investors.
Vanuatu’s current CBI initiative, introduced in 2017, is the Development Support Program, which confers “honorary citizenship” on investors who cut a check to the government for $220,000 (for an individual investor) or $280,000 (for a family of four). Successful applicants can look forward to getting a new passport within a matter of weeks, and to enjoying citizenship of a lush tropical nation with no residency requirement and a remarkably favorable tax code.
Vanuatu offers residency permits for investors looking to fund specific projects, with the period of residency usually linked to the period of investment. Investors must first obtain a Foreign Investment Approval Certificate, including a three-year cash-flow projection for their planned business and details of how the business will train and employ local workers. Once the FIAC is approved, investors can seek renewable residency permits for themselves and their dependents.
It is also possible for investors to obtain renewable residency permits by showing that they are independently wealthy (based on an income of 250,000 Vatu, or about $2,300, per month); a landowner in the archipelago; or an employee of a Vanuatuan business.
Speed of processing is a big selling-point for Vanuatu: applicants can expect their paperwork to be handled in a matter of weeks. The applicant first submits basic documentation — such as a police report, birth certificate, and notarized copy of the applicant’s passport — along with their due diligence fee. Once the due diligence is completed, the applicant submits their full DSP payment to the Citizenship Commission, which convenes on a monthly basis. After approval by the Citizenship Commission, the applicant must take an oath in Vanuatu or at a consulate in order to officially become a citizen.
The Vanuatuan CBI offerings have not yet been promoted especially effectively, and widely varying information has been published online. Even official government websites are frequently badly out of date, so potential investors should be cautious about trusting information they find online.
In principle, investors can seek advice and assistance from one of a number of “master agents” appointed by the Vanuatuan government, most of whom are based in Vanuatu. Caution should be exercised in dealing with people representing themselves as agents; at a minimum, legitimate agents should be able to show a letter from the Vanuatu Citizenship Commission authorizing them to promote the Development Support Program.
The government advises applicants to obtain application forms directly from the Vanuatuan Citizenship Office. Contrary to reports in late 2017, Vanuatu is not currently accepting payments in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.
The Vanuatuan passport is a respected, mid-ranked travel document permitting visa-free travel to 116 countries, including Russia and the Schengen Area.
Long known as a tax haven, Vanuatu has been taking steps since 2008 to increase transparency; still, financial services remain an important part of the economy, and new citizens can enjoy a friendly tax regime with no income, withholding, capital gains, or inheritance tax. The South Pacific archipelago, made up of over 80 islands strewn across a distance of more than 800 miles, is known for its tropical climate, golden beaches, extraordinary scuba diving, and rumbling volcanoes. The islands’ remoteness is their major selling-point: despite its natural beauty, Vanuatu remains largely untouched by the global tourism trade.
The Development Support Program, which replaced Vanuatu’s previous CBI programs in 2017, offers “honorary citizenship” in exchange for a donation to the government. The donation required for the Development Support Program is currently pegged at $220,000 for an individual applicant, or $280,000 for a family of four. There is also a one-time due diligence fee of $6,500, which covers all applicants.
Much like the Caribbean CBI programs, Vanuatu pitches itself as a passport-for-sale program, and there is no expectation that investors will relocate to the country, and no minimum residency requirement in order to maintain citizenship.
Honorary citizenship is for almost all intents and purposes the same as regular Vanuatuan citizenship, and allows recipients to obtain the same passport received by natural-born citizens. Honorary citizens are, however, barred from voting, holding public office, or holding a post in the country’s government.
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