Vanuatu’s Citizenship by Investment Program – the Development Support Program (DSP) has enjoyed growing year-on-year success since its launch in January 2017.
Reasons for people seeking to take citizenship in Vanuatu are varied, but one of the principal attractions has always been Vanuatu’s Commonwealth member status and the wide visa-free/e-visa/on arrival offering an opportunity for an extraordinary freedom of global travel.
In spite of a temporary restriction on Vanuatu’s visa-free entry to the Schengen area in Europe whilst some aspects of the Citizenship program are overhauled, Vanuatu continues to benefit from a wide number of visa privileges which includes most of South-East Asia, the UK, Ireland and Russia. (Check the current visa-free countries list here)
What is also becoming clear is that as we enter the “post-Covid” era, Vanuatu has the opportunity to forge new diplomatic relationships, take advantage of its geopolitical prominence in the South Pacific, and seek additional agreements and concessions to enhance its “passport power”.
So where are we likely to see new or bolstered relationships translating into visa-benefits in 2023?
Taking the Middle East for example, Vanuatu recently signed diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, opened a Consulate in the UAE in Dubai, and is in dialogue with Bahrain about the establishment of diplomatic relations with Manama. All of these moves open the door to the establishment of permanent embassy-level diplomatic missions, and enable discussions on visa privileges to become a cementing tool of bilateral foreign policy.
It is a similar story for Turkey – with whom Vanuatu already enjoys diplomatic relations, and is already very close to offering a visa concession.
Closer to home, with a renewed appetite in Australia/New Zealand for forging closer links with its neighbours in the South Pacific, the current visa requirements for entry of Vanuatu passport holders is something that is known to be under review. Currently a three-year multiple entry visa to Australia is possible once an initial visitor visa has been successfully obtained. There are a number of enhancements to this which could be considered to make visits to Australia and transits through to Vanuatu more convenient.
At the same time, Vanuatu’s warm relationship with China has given rise to repeated discussion regarding a visa-waiver for Vanuatu Citizens, and there is no reason to believe that this will not at some point become a reality.
Often cited as a “game changer”, a visa privilege offered by the USA would propel Vanuatu to new levels of attractiveness and, although there is nothing to suggest that this is imminent, with the recent US expressions of intent to bolster its diplomatic presence in the Pacific, persuading Washington that a visa concession would greatly enhance the bi-lateral relationship is a good card in Vanuatu’s hand.
Vanuatu’s opportunities for development of its “passport power” would seem to be many and varied. With Vanuatu also pinning itself in peoples’ consciousness following a successful participation at Dubai Expo 2020, the benefits of this increased awareness and a more active “post-covid” foreign policy engagement are there to be reaped – both for the country, and for those who have taken Citizenship in this emerging dynamic South Pacific nation.