By Moustafa Daly
Vanuatu, a tiny island nation in the South Pacific, makes 30% of its annual revenue from its citizenship by investment program, giving investors visa-free travel to the Schengen Area. However, this is about to end.
Following a partial suspension effective since May 2022, the Council of the European Union has decided to fully suspend its visa-waiver program with the island, citing security risks to the EU due to the country’s lenient visa-by-investment program.
The partial suspension in effect since May targeted Vanuatu citizens whose passports have been issued after 2015, with the EU urging the nation to engage in a dialogue to address the bloc’s concerns – however, as per the EU Council, Vanuatu failed “to engage in any meaningful way and the circumstances that led to the temporary suspension still persist,” leading to the council’s decision to move forward with a full suspension.
EU suspends visa waiver with Vanuatu
The decision, which will be in effect upon publication in the EU Council’s Official Journal on Feb. 4, 2023, was taken based on Vanuatu’s low rejection rates of visa-by-investment applications, short processing periods, granting citizenship to applicants listed in Interpol databases, and granting citizenship to citizens whose original passport requires a visa to enter the Schengen Area, according to the council.
It’s worth noting that visa-free travel to Europe was only granted to Vanuatu citizens in 2015. Two years later, the European Commission launched an investigation into the country’s citizenship schemes due to perceived security threats.
The final straw came in April 2021 when Vanuatu’s government expanded its citizenship-by-investment schemes, falling short in its stated commitment to implement visa reforms to appease the EU, leading to the partial, and now-full, suspension of the visa-waiver agreement.
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