New Vanuatuan passports lose visa-free access to EU

March 8, 2022

New Vanuatuan passports lose visa-free access to EU

Vanuatuan passports have granted visa-free access to the EU since 2015. Now the European Council has decided to suspend that starting from May 2022 due to security concerns raised by how Vanuatu manages its citizenship by investment program. The new restriction affects Vanuatuan citizens whose passports were issued since May 2015.

Visa-free travel with Vanuatuan passport

The Republic of Vanuatu is an island country in the Pacific Ocean, east of Australia. In April 2015, it signed an agreement with the European Council that allowed Vanuatuan passport holders to travel to EU member states without a visa and stay there for 90 days in any 180 days without additional documents. This put Vanuatu in an excellent position to relaunch its citizenship by investment program in 2016, which really picked up in 2017.

The Vanuatu Citizenship Program offers citizenship to investors around the world in exchange for a major donation to their Development Support Programme. The size of the expected donation depends on the number of applicants, since not only the investor, but also their close family members can be included in the application (meaning spouse, underage or dependent children, and dependent parents). The processing time is just a few months, and once their Vanuatuan citizenship is granted, applicants may receive a Vanuatuan passport they can use to enjoy various benefits when travelling around the world.

Access to the EU limited starting from May 2022

Since a Vanuatuan passport grants visa-free entry to the European Union, the EU has been monitoring and assessing Vanuatu’s investment citizenship scheme. In the course of that, they have found some aspects of the program concerning, which led to a partial suspension of the 2015 agreement.

These concerning aspects include the following:

  • The extremely low rejection rate raises concerns regarding the reliability of the background check on applicants.
  • These concerns are increased by the seeming lack of information exchange between the authorities of Vanuatu and the applicants’ countries of origin or residence, the short processing time, and the absence of a requirement for physical presence or residence in Vanuatu.
  • Moreover, citizenship has been granted to individuals listed in Interpol databases.
  • Also, the original nationality of many successful applicants is a country the nationals of which would require a visa to enter the EU.

These factors together led to the decision accepted on 24 February 2022. In line with this, Vanuatuan citizens whose passports were issued after 24 May 2015 will no longer be granted entry to the European Union without a visa. The decision will come into force as of 4 May 2022.

ETIAS being introduced from the end of 2022

While travel to EU member states remains visa-free for other Vanuatuan passport holders, the European Travel Information and Authorization System, or ETIAS for short is currently under development and should be introduced late 2022. With its introduction, even visa-free passport holders will be required to register before they travel to the EU.

Hassle-free travel to the EU through investment

With the upcoming introduction of ETIAS, the best option for hassle-free travel in the EU is becoming an EU citizen or resident. Various EU member states offer citizenship and residency options for investors and their families, with different requirements. One of the most straightforward options is provided by Hungary, where you can become a resident in a few months based on real estate investment. While the application cannot include family members, they can also apply for residency through family unification once the main applicant has received their residency.

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