Vanuatu Visa Free Countries in 2022
It came as a surprise to many Vanuatu Citizens who had obtained their Citizenship under Vanuatu’s Development Support Program (DSP) to learn that the EU had on 4th May 2022 placed a temporary suspension on visa-free access for Vanuatu Citizens holding Passports issued after 2015 to the 26 countries that make up the “Schengen Europe” area.
The suspension was imposed following a vote by the Council of the European Union (often referred to as the European Council) – the Presidency of which was held by France between 1st January to 30 June 2022.
The EU has a well-documented discomfort with all forms of “Citizenship by Investment” (CBI) Programs and it seems that Vanuatu was unfortunately unable to provide adequate reassurances to the EU that Vanuatu’s due diligence of its applicants was sufficiently robust.
In fairness to Vanuatu, the incumbent government voted into power in March 2020 inherited the DSP and has for two years been in complete isolation due to the Covid 19 pandemic. This has made for difficult circumstances to both to maintain sufficient dialogue with the EU and in particular, to work on a proper plan for addressing any perceived deficiencies.
What is Vanuatu doing about the situation?
Given the importance of the Citizenship Program to the country’s GDP, it is clear that urgent remedial work is required to ensure that the EU’s concerns are addressed as fully, and as fast as possible so that the visa-free privilege previously enjoyed by Vanuatu Citizens to the EU can be reinstated.
A task force, headed by Vanuatu’s Minister of Finance Hon. Johnny Koanapo Rasou MP has since May been in dialogue with the EU, and in the first week of August 2022 dispatched a team to Brussels to engage in dialogue with the aim of reaching an agreement on Citizenship Program reform, and a commitment from the EU to reinstate Schengen visa-free access at the next point of review by the European Council – due in early 2022.
It is likely that greater oversight be the EU of Vanuatu’s Program will be part of any agreement reached, coupled with enhanced due diligence on applicants, and a more controlled distribution of the Program.
One aspect that the EU is known to be unhappy with is the explicit marketing of “visa-free access” to Schengen Europe by agents who represent the Citizenship Program. In the “post-covid” era, Vanuatu will be attempting to generate awareness of the wider benefits of holding Vanuatu Citizenship – particularly encouraging active participation by Citizens via the DSP in Vanuatu’s economy and to consider Vanuatu for its attractions as a home in an ecologically pristine, crime-free, tax-free south pacific pearl.