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What price for a Vanuatu passport?

It is an interesting question. There are differing answers.

Firstly, if you are born in Vanuatu or if you reside in Vanuatu for a designated period, the process and the purchase price are like anywhere in the world.

Alternatively, if you travel down the road of Vanuatu’s fast track investment migration scheme, the purchase price has been US$130,000.

It seems that in recent years, this road has become something of a freeway, with reports that this scheme provided up to one-third of the Vanuatu Government’s revenue last year. That is a lot. There are several issues that arise here, but I want to point out two obvious ones. Firstly, the Vanuatu Government can issue passports to whomever it likes, and under whatever schemes or circumstances it dictates is appropriate for it. That is not in dispute. We need to remember, Australia and certain parts of Europe have previously themselves had golden visa programs which are not dissimilar. Secondly, the Vanuatu Government needs to consider and weigh up the ultimate consequences that may flow from whatever scheme it adopts, before, during and after the passport issuing process has been undertaken. Simple and effective due diligence, with ongoing disclosure obligations and monitoring processes would eradicate most risk.

The recent reports out of Singapore involving the seizure of S$1billion plus in cash and assets is instructive. It seems from the early reports that at least one Vanuatu national and several other Vanuatu passport holders are involved in the alleged nefarious activities being conducted in Singapore, and that perhaps all of those involved emanate from one part of China. The immediate and short-term consequences of this are twofold. Firstly, there is the obvious reputational risk that Vanuatu will suffer – and is already suffering just days after the raids from the Singapore authorities. Secondly, there are the consequences for other Vanuatu passport holders – that is, the non-fast track citizens. So far the EU, had already in 2022, suspended Vanuatu’s visa waiver agreement because of this scheme. That was before these latest shenanigans; I would think it likely that other agreements will also be suspended, making international travel for all Vanuatu passport holders, once again, challenging and probably in some parts of the world potentially not possible.

So, its US$130,000 for some, for others its long term travel pain, and for a country, significant reputational damage. That is the current cost. Still counting though.


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