vanuatu citizenship

Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment [Guide By Experts 2024]

Tucked away in the South Pacific, Vanuatu is about as far from the rest of the world as you can get. This tropical archipelago nation consists of approximately 80 pristine islands surrounded by clear blue waters and sandy beaches. With its remote location and laid-back island lifestyle, it’s no wonder Vanuatu has been voted the “Happiest Place on Earth” for years.

But there’s another big perk to living in Vanuatu, especially for investors and entrepreneurs seeking greater freedom – its citizenship by investment program. Vanuatu’s economic citizenship program offers investors an easy and fast route to a second passport in exchange for an investment in the country, and is the only program of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about obtaining Vanuatu citizenship by investment, from costs and timelines to benefits and application requirements.

Overview of Vanuatu CBI

Vanuatu launched its official citizenship by investment program, known as the Vanuatu Development Support Program (VDSP), in 2017. The program requires investors to make a one-time, non-refundable donation to a government fund established to support infrastructure projects and economic development in Vanuatu.

Investors and their families can receive full Vanuatu citizenship within a few months in exchange for the donation. There is no requirement to visit or reside in Vanuatu before or after obtaining citizenship.

The minimum investment required is:

  • $130,000 for a single applicant
  • $150,000 for a married couple
  • $180,000 for a family of four
  • Additional dependents can be added at $15,000 each.

In addition to the donation amount, there are various government, due diligence, and processing fees. The total cost for a single applicant is approximately $135,400.

The Vanuatu Development Fund has reportedly raised over $88 million for the government through the CBI program, making it an important source of revenue. The program has a cap of 2,000 applications per year.

Benefits of Vanuatu Citizenship

The main benefits of obtaining Vanuatu citizenship through investment include:

  • Fast processing time – Vanuatu has one of the fastest processing times, taking only 1-2 months in total.
  • Visa Free Access – The Vanuatu passport provides visa free access to over 100 countries including the United Kingdom, Russia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
  • Tax advantages – Vanuatu has no personal income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax or gift tax, provided you don’t reside there.
  • Ideal Location – Vanuatu is extremely remote for those who want to live off the grid in paradise.
  • Plan B Citizenship – Provides an alternative option and greater security in case of emergency.
  • Hereditary Citizenship – Passport can be passed on to future generations.
  • No residency required – You don’t have to visit or live in Vanuatu at any time.
  • Dual Citizenship Allowed – No need to renounce your existing citizenship.
  • Lifestyle – Opportunity to enjoy an idyllic island lifestyle and natural environment.
  • Visa-free access to Russia and China – A rarity among CBI programs.

For entrepreneurs and investors seeking greater freedom of movement or a safe haven, Vanuatu ticks many boxes. Its remote location, speed of processing and lack of taxes make it particularly attractive.

Overview of Vanuatu Before diving deeper into the citizenship program, let’s take a look at Vanuatu itself. This nation of approximately 300,000 people is located in the South Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,750 km east of northern Australia. It consists of about 80 islands stretching over about 1300 km.

The largest island is Espiritu Santo, followed by Malakula and Efate, where the capital Port Vila is located. Vanuatu has a tropical climate throughout the year, with average temperatures of 22-32°C. The rainy season lasts from November to April.

English and French are the official languages, along with Bislama. The majority of Ni-Vanuatu, as the citizens are called, speak English to varying degrees. Christianity is the dominant religion.

Politically, Vanuatu is a parliamentary republic with a non-executive president as head of state. The Prime Minister heads the executive branch of government. The economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, fishing, offshore financial services, and tourism. However, revenues from the CBI program now account for the majority of Vanuatu’s national income.

The population is overwhelmingly Melanesian. Vanuatu has a very youthful demographic, with a median age of just 21.5 years according to the latest census data. Life expectancy is approximately 72 years.

Culturally, Vanuatu is known for its traditional practices and kastom systems that govern society. There are also over 100 native languages spoken throughout the archipelago. The people of Vanuatu are considered to be some of the happiest in the world.

For investors, Vanuatu’s political stability, lack of corruption and friendly tax policies make it an attractive destination. The CBI program also allows foreigners to participate in the relaxed, tropical lifestyle.

Vanuatu Citizenship Program Options

Vanuatu has a complex history when it comes to economic citizenship programs. At various times, there have been several different programs running concurrently under different names and rules.

The two main programs are:

1. Vanuatu Contribution Program (VCP) – This was originally created to cater to Chinese investors. It is limited to a Hong Kong based agent and offers discounted prices.

2. Vanuatu Development Support Program (VDSP) – The official CBI program open to applicants worldwide through authorized agents. Launched in 2017.

Previously, these programs had different investment requirements, processing times, and benefits. However, in recent years, the Government of Vanuatu has moved to standardize and harmonize the programs.

While technically different programs may still exist on paper, any authorized agent today should be selling access to the same Vanuatu citizenship program with identical requirements and benefits.

The VDSP program is the standard program that globally recognized agents will provide access to. The VCP program is not recommended due to lack of transparency. Be sure that any agent you do business with is a distributor of the official VDSP program.

Requirements for Vanuatu Citizenship

The requirements to qualify for Vanuatu citizenship through the VDSP program include:

  • Minimum investment: $130,000 for single applicant, $150,000 for couple, $180,000 for family of four.
  • Additional due diligence and processing fees of approximately $5,400 per application.
  • Police clearance certificates showing no criminal record.
  • Proof of at least $250,000 in available bank funds and $500,000 in total net worth.
  • Clean background with no visa denials or international sanctions.
  • Cannot have lived in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen or North Korea in the last 5 years.

    In addition, the principal applicant must be at least 18 years old and able to support all dependents included in the application. Dependents eligible for citizenship include:

    • Spouse.
    • Children under the age of 18.
    • Disabled children of any age.
    • Elderly dependent parents over the age of 65.

    There are no language, interview, residency, education or management experience requirements. Vanuatu is one of the more lenient CBI programs when it comes to eligibility.

    Investment Requirements

    An investment in the form of a non-refundable donation to the government’s National Development Support Fund is the only way to obtain Vanuatu citizenship. This fund channels money towards infrastructure, public services, administration and social initiatives throughout Vanuatu.

    The amount payable is based on the size of your family:

    • Single applicant – $130,000
    • Married couple – $150,000
    • Family of 4 – $180,000
    • Additional dependants – $15,000 per person

    In addition, you will be required to pay the following fees:

    • $5,000 for due diligence and government processing.
    • Approximately $400 for passport, certificate and commission fees.

    In total, a single applicant for Vanuatu citizenship can expect to pay around $135,400. Costs for additional family members are additional.

    The amount must be paid after the initial approval is granted, not up front. Only the due diligence fee of $5,000 is required to begin the application process. This helps to minimize risk.

    While the required donation is not the cheapest, it provides peace of mind and is still competitive among citizenship programs worldwide. There are also no obligations to make recurring investments or visit Vanuatu.

    Application Process

    The process of obtaining Vanuatu citizenship from start to finish usually takes about 8 weeks. Here are the typical steps:

    1. Find an authorized agent. Do your research to find a reputable agent who can guide you through the process and submit the application on your behalf.
    2. Complete the application. Work with your agent to assemble all of the necessary paperwork, forms, and supporting documents.
    3. Pay the due diligence fee. Pay the $5,000 due diligence fee so that background checks can be conducted.
    4. Receive pre-approval. Within approximately 1 week, you should receive a pre-approval in principle from the citizenship office.
    5. Make the donation. Pay the full donation amount according to your family size to the government fund.
    6. Biometrics and Oath. Provide fingerprints and sign an oath of allegiance in front of an official.
    7. Obtain passport. Within 1 month of the oath, your Vanuatu passport will be issued.

    At each stage, your agent will handle the submissions and liaise with the government on your behalf. It takes approximately 30-45 days from submission to approval. The oath can be taken in Vanuatu or at a Vanuatu embassy. The whole process is designed to be smooth and efficient.

    Advantages of a Vanuatu Passport

    As a citizen of Vanuatu, you will hold a Vanuatu passport and be able to enjoy extensive visa free travel along with other benefits:

    • Visa-free access to over 100 countries – including UK, Russia, HK, Singapore, EU (until Feb 2023)
    • Tax Benefits – No personal income, capital gains, wealth or inheritance tax in Vanuatu.
    • Dual Citizenship Allowed – No need to renounce current citizenship.
    • Hereditary Citizenship – Passport can be passed on to future generations.
    • No residency required – You don’t have to live in or visit Vanuatu.
    • Remote location – Opportunity to hide away in an island paradise.
    • Neutral foreign policy – Vanuatu has few political enemies.
    • No language test or interview – Simple and straightforward process.
    • Protection – Provides greater security and a backup Plan B option.
    • Business Friendly – Opportunity to invest or do business in Vanuatu.

    The increased freedom to travel, tax benefits and hereditary nature of Vanuatu citizenship offer appeal to investors seeking global mobility or diversification.

    The EU previously granted visa-free access to Vanuatu citizens, but suspended this in 2022 due to concerns about the structure of the CBI program. Talks are underway to resolve this and lift the suspension, but for now separate visas are required for the EU.

    Vanuatu passport holders can still travel visa-free to over 100 countries worldwide.

    Why become a Vanuatu citizen?

    There are several reasons why someone might consider obtaining Vanuatu citizenship through investment:

    • Increased Travel Freedom – The Vanuatu passport provides visa-free entry to a wide range of countries, making international travel much easier. It also expedites the process of obtaining visas to other countries.
    • Tax Optimization – As a tax haven, Vanuatu offers a 0% tax rate on worldwide income for non-residents. This allows investors and location independent entrepreneurs to significantly reduce their tax liabilities.
    • Lifestyle – Vanuatu’s tropical climate, unspoiled nature and friendly, welcoming culture make it an attractive place to live or own property.
    • Global Mobility – Vanuatu citizenship provides an additional passport that facilitates immigration, business activities and greater freedom of movement around the world.
    • Backup Plan – A second citizenship provides more options and reduces risk in the event of border closures or instability during times of crisis such as the pandemic.
    • Protection – Investors with assets overseas can benefit from the greater confidentiality and asset protection afforded by Vanuatu law.
    • Anonymity – Vanuatu’s discreet nature and low tax reporting requirements offer greater privacy for those who wish to stay off the radar.
    • Generational – Passing Vanuatu citizenship to children and grandchildren provides them with greater life opportunities through visa-free travel and residency rights.

    For high net worth individuals and families, Vanuatu can be an important part of a comprehensive global citizenship strategy designed to maximize freedom. The quick processing time, relatively low cost, tax benefits and visa-free travel access make it attractive.

    Working with a professional agent

    The Vanuatu citizenship application process can seem complex, given the variety of programs and changing laws. Many applicants find it beneficial to work with a licensed professional agent.

    Reputable agents act as a guide through the entire process, from initial consultation to application preparation to final approval. They can streamline the paperwork, ensure seamless processing, and help avoid rejection. Their expertise and relationships within Vanuatu are invaluable.

    Make sure that any agency you work with is licensed by the Citizenship Department and sells the official VDSP program. Many also offer ancillary services such as real estate advice, tax planning and global bank account opening.

    Look for companies with a strong track record, a 360-degree service approach, and globally recognized industry memberships. Transparency and confidentiality are also important when seeking global citizenship.

    An experienced agent will become your advocate, handling everything from start to finish, allowing you to obtain Vanuatu citizenship with greater ease, speed, and confidence.

    Advantages and disadvantages of Vanuatu CBI

    As with any citizenship by investment program, there are both pros and potential cons to consider with Vanuatu:

    Pros
    • Fast processing time (30-60 days).
    • Remote tropical location off the radar.
    • Hereditary citizenship for family.
    • Visa free access to over 100 countries.
    • No tax on foreign income if non-resident.
    • Dual citizenship allowed.
    • No residency, language, or interview requirements.
    Cons
    • High government dependence on CBI funds.
    • Opaque regulatory system.
    • Past problems with multiple concurrent programs.
    • In-person oath required for passport.
    • Distance a deterrent for some.
    • Relatively weak passport authority overall.
    • Suspension of visa-free access to the EU.

    While recent efforts have been made to improve transparency and consolidate Vanuatu’s programs, ongoing reforms in governance and structure are still needed. However, for those who value speed and simplicity, Vanuatu remains an attractive route to a second passport.

    Conclusion

    For investors and entrepreneurs looking for a quick and easy way to add another passport, Vanuatu’s citizenship by investment program is worth considering. While the system has its imperfections, the speed of processing and straightforward requirements make it attractive.

    In as little as two months and for approximately $135,000, an individual can obtain full citizenship rights and a Vanuatu passport that allows for visa-free travel to over 100 global destinations. This can greatly expand the freedom to travel and serve as a valuable back-up Plan B.

    However, navigating Vanuatu’s complex CBI regulations and meeting all requirements requires working with an experienced agent. They will expertly guide you through the entire application process from start to finish, ensuring no hiccups or rejections.

    With new reforms underway to strengthen governance and transparency, the value proposition of Vanuatu citizenship through investment should only improve in the coming years. For those able to look past the current shortcomings, it remains a fast track to greater global mobility.

    What is the total cost of Vanuatu citizenship?

    The total cost for a single applicant is approximately $135,400 which includes the $130,000 donation, $5,000 due diligence fee and $400 processing fee. For a family of 4, the cost would be approximately $185,400. Additional dependents cost $15,000 each.

    How long does it take to become a citizen of Vanuatu?

    Whole procedure takes about 8 weeks. After submitting an application, it takes 1-2 months to be approved, after which you make the payment, attend an oath ceremony and receive your passport.

    Does Vanuatu allow dual citizenship?

    Yes, Vanuatu allows dual citizenship. You do not have to give up your current nationality.

    Do I have to visit Vanuatu to become a citizen?

    No, the entire application process can be done remotely through your agent. The only time you will need to be present is for the citizenship oath ceremony, which can be done at a Vanuatu embassy.

    What taxes will I have to pay in Vanuatu?

    As a non-resident you pay no tax on foreign income in Vanuatu. There is no personal income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax or wealth tax. If you are a resident, only income earned in Vanuatu will be taxed.

    How do I qualify for Vanuatu citizenship?

    You must be over 18 years old, pass a due diligence check, have a net worth of $500,000 and assets of $250,000 and make a donation of $130,000 single or $180,000 family. Dependents may also apply.

    What are the Vanuatu passport benefits?

    The Vanuatu passport provides visa-free access to over 100 countries worldwide, including key business and lifestyle destinations. However, it is not one of the most powerful passports overall.

    Can I obtain citizenship by buying property in Vanuatu?

    ently the only way is by making a donation to the government fund. However, you can buy property as a separate investment if you wish.

    Is the Vanuatu Passport Scheme legitimate?

    Yes, the VDSP program is the official Vanuatu CBI program approved by the government. However, it’s important to only work with approved agents.

    What are the main advantages and disadvantages of Vanuatu CBI?

    Pros include fast processing, tax benefits, visa-free travel. Cons include lack of transparency, high cost and suspension of EU visa waiver.

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