Vanuatu Citizenship By Investment: The Ultimate GuideBecome a citizen of Vanuatu in the South Pacific and get a passport offering visa-free travel to 100+ countries.
Update November 2022: Vanuatu’s visa-free agreement with the EU is suspended. The change will apply as of February 4, 2023.
Invest a minimum of $130,000
Get your passport in just two months
Visa-free travel to 100+ countries
Have you always wanted to hide away at a beachfront villa? Or perhaps a private island is more your thing. It’s all possible in this country full of deserted beaches and breathtaking landscapes. A tropical archipelago in the South Pacific, Vanuatu is many people’s idea of paradise.
It’s ideal for those who want the utmost privacy in a place as far removed from the rest of the world as possible. Apart from its remoteness, one other thing that sets Vanuatu apart is its citizenship by investment program – the only one in the Pacific region. However, even though Vanuatu is used to being an offshore tax haven, it certainly has found running the passport scheme challenging at times.
Getting up-to-date information about how to obtain Vanuatu citizenship by investment (CBI) program is extremely hard, to say the least. With lots of similar attempts, failed programs, and different variations of CBI, the information available about Vanuatu’s program is the most confusing of them all. And, it’s a huge shame because Vanuatu CBI has a lot of potential as a tax-free jurisdiction with visa-free access to 105 countries, including Russia, the UK, and many others.
It has also experienced a huge surge in demand as its popularity has grown over the last two years. So, let’s take a look at exactly what the program entails, untangle some of its labyrinthine rules and regulations, and look into how you can buy a Vanuatu passport.
Citizenship by Investment: The Basics
Countries all around the world have set up citizenship by investment (CBI) programs that allow people to obtain a second passport. CBI is typically making an investment into government bonds, real estate, or specific industries in order to fast track citizenship. You can learn more about what citizenship by investment is and how it works here.
So, what’s special about Vanuatu and why would you want its passport? It’s the only CBI in the Pacific region, but its main selling point is its remoteness. We’re pretty sure that if you looked up ‘middle of nowhere,’ Vanuatu would show up. Although it’s a relatively short flight away from Brisbane, Sydney, and Auckland, it’s extremely far from the rest of the world.
Vanuatu has taken its location and made it its greatest asset. The country is consistently rated as the “Happiest Country on Earth” – probably having to do with two things: its off-the-radar location that lets you escape all the world’s troubles, as well as its pristine nature. Vanuatu’s population of approximately 300,000 citizens live in a country with extremely clean air, water, and food – those will be some of the hottest commodities of the future.
Vanuatu has a very young workforce, with the median age being just 21.5 – there’s tons of potential there. It’s also part of the Commonwealth, which means Vanuatu’s citizens get extra rights in the UK due to historical ties. Its official language is English, French, and Bislama, but the really interesting fact is that Vanuatu has the highest density of languages per capita in the world with over 100 native languages and dialects spoken across Vanuatu’s islands.
Vanuatu’s climate is tropical and, for three-quarters of the year, the weather is hot and humid. The paradisaical setting also means tropical storms are frequent, and its volcanic origin means the archipelago also suffers from earthquakes. However, the islands are well-prepared for these acts of nature.
Although Vanuatu has been independent since 1980, its story has yet to be written. Just like any other island nation, Vanuatu suffers from its over-reliance on just a handful of industries. The four main pillars of Vanuatu’s economy are agriculture, tourism, offshore financial services, and beef export. Cue CBI.
In 2018, over 30% of Vanuatu government revenue ($88 million) was raised from the multiple citizenship programs geared at foreigners. It actually became the government’s biggest source of income, overtaking VAT receipts for the first time. That figure grew to 37% in 2019, and it’s expected to continue on its upward trajectory.
Rest assured that the carpet won’t be pulled from under investors’ feet. The government fully recognizes just how important the Vanuatu citizenship program is to its economy, and how instrumental it will be for its further growth. However, one thing about Vanuatu CBI is clear: it won’t grow indefinitely. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in 2019 that Vanuatu should treat this money as a “windfall, and not a new normal.”
So, the country continues looking for new revenue streams and ways to diversify its economy. Luckily, its other important industries are also growing. Back in 2000, there were only 57,000 visitors who came to Vanuatu. Now, over 100,000 people visit the islands every year, many of whom come for the premier scuba diving opportunities.
Of course, financial services continue to play a major part in Vanuatu’s economy. It has been a long-standing tax haven – the Bahamas of the Pacific, so to speak. Until 2008, Vanuatu didn’t share any information with governments or law enforcement agencies abroad. However, as the country is affected by external political forces, it has started to come around and implement more transparent practices.
Vanuatu has managed to get removed from the OECD’s blacklist for money laundering, but it still remains blacklisted by the European Union for failing to comply with its financial information-sharing requirements. All in all, Vanuatu still has a long way to go in terms of tax framework implementation and tax collection itself, but thanks to its CBI program, the economy is definitely not in bad shape.
The Main Pros of Having a Vanuatu Passport
Vanuatu offers the fastest timeline to obtaining citizenship.
Though it’s not the lowest, Vanuatu’s donation is still low at $130,000.
Zero Tax Country
Vanuatu has no income tax and no inheritance or capital gains tax.
Pay When Approved
Only make the investment once your application is approved.
Get away from the world and off the radar in this Pacific island paradise.
Pass It On
Vanuatu citizenship is hereditary so you can pass it on to your children.
Obtaining Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment
Remember how we said that the Vanuatu citizenship by investment program is one of the hardest ones out there to get accurate information about? This is where that comes into play. What we do know is that the Vanuatu Citizenship Office has issued more than 4,000 passports to foreign investors, which is a huge number. It sure is a successful CBI.
A Tale of Two Citizenship by Investment Programs
Believe it or not, Vanuatu has launched and ran, or is running, five citizenship programs. The actual number differs depending on which source you choose to believe. However, the two most prominent ones that run simultaneously, and are geared towards different locales, are these:
- The Vanuatu Contribution Program (VCP) – this program probably won’t be for you because it’s run by a single agent in Hong Kong and is geared towards clients in mainland China. In the past, this program was often discounted to attract more applicants.
- The Vanuatu Development Support Program (VDSP) – run by many government-approved agents around the world, this is the program you want to be looking for. It was launched in January of 2017, and its sole purpose is to grow Vanuatu’s economy to support its infrastructure, development, and changes.
Why would one country need two or even more citizenship by investment programs? Nobody really knows. Up until recently, the programs had different fee structures, different processes, and different citizenship features.
The government recognized just how confusing this was and that it made investors doubt the quality of the Vanuatu CBI program, so they have worked to harmonize all of the their CBIs. They have also appointed a new chairman of the Vanuatu Citizenship Commission who has been given the task to resolve this paradox. While they are still called different things, the features, fees, and processes should all be the same now.
If you’re an avid cryptocurrency investor, you’ll be glad to know that it’s possible to pay for the citizenship program with Bitcoin, ensuring top security of your personal and financial information. The government itself won’t take Bitcoin from you, but multiple authorized agents will. The money then has to be remitted to the government in US dollars.
How to Obtain a Passport From VAnuatu
Make a Donation
Donate $130,000 to Vanuatu’s local government fund.
Prove Net Assets
Prove you have net assets of at least $500,000.
Pay Government Fees
Pay the $5,000 application and due diligence fee.
How to Get Citizenship in Vanuatu
Even though Vanuatu has such a confusing history and multiple CBI programs running concurrently, actually obtaining its CBI is extremely simple. If you can look past the history of all the programs and just focus on the Vanuatu Development Support Program (VDSP), things aren’t that bad. Your only route to Vanuatu CBI is by donation. Vanuatu’s citizenship cost is a mere non-refundable, one-time donation to the local government fund:
- A single applicant will have to pay $130,000.
- A married couple will have to shell out $150,000.
- A family of four will pay at least $180,000.
Additional dependents can be added for an extra fee of $25,000 each. Don’t forget the application fee, which is $5,000 and covers the due diligence and government fees for everyone under the same main applicant. There is also an additional $400 fee that covers the passport application, citizenship commission, and citizenship certificate fees.
Whatever agent you choose to work with, make sure they are offering these same prices because the agent’s commission comes directly from the donation you make to the government. If an agency wants to charge more than $135,400 for a single applicant, you should find another agent. Another thing you’ll need to prove is that you have funds no less than $250,000 available in banking assets, and at least $500,000 in net assets. There is some flexibility on this.
Mostly, Vanuatu wants to know that you’re good for the money, seeing as it doesn’t require you to make the investment prior to lodging your application, or even partial payment of it. As we already mentioned, the process is extremely speedy – probably the fastest in the entire CBI industry. It will take you just eight weeks to obtain a passport, provided all the processes are running smoothly.
How Does Vanuatu CBI Compare?
Other than getting to say that you have a Vanuatu citizenship – which are very cool bragging rights indeed – you should compare the Vanuatu CBI program with others before you take the plunge. It’s not the cheapest program. For instance, many of the Caribbean citizenship by investment programs start at just $100,000 (in the case of Antigua and Barbuda, for a family of four).
However, apart from its unique location and remoteness, Vanuatu’s main selling point is that it’s the fastest way to obtain a second passport. The streamlined process takes only two months. You could be a proud owner of a brand new passport in just eight weeks’ time. No other CBI program can beat that.
It’s also the only jurisdiction that doesn’t require the total investment sum (or a big part of it) up-front. All you have to pay is the $5,000 fee to get the application process going and get approval from the government. Only after that’s completed will you be required to pay the rest of the investment sum. At this stage, there is pretty much no chance that your citizenship wouldn’t get approved.
The Vanuatu CBI program is extremely speedy and ideal for the investor less tolerant of risk. Meanwhile, the passport of Vanuatu offers visa-free travel to 105 countries and is pretty standard among CBI countries.
The Step-by-Step Application Process
Interested in obtaining your passport from Vanuatu? Before we get to that, you should check if you can apply. So, who’s eligible for a passport from Vanuatu? Although the Vanuatu CBI program is pretty liberal, there are some requirements to ensure that you are an applicant of good character and solid financial standing:
- You must provide proof of personal net assets no less than $500,000, of which, at least $250,000 should be banking assets.
- You must have a spotless criminal record.
- You must be of high standing in your community, society, or country.
- You must not have lived in Iran, Iraq, Syria, North Korea, or Yemen for the past five years.
- You cannot be on any sanctions lists worldwide.
If you fulfill all of these requirements, you can apply for a Vanuatu citizenship. Here’s how in three simple steps.
1. Get Pre-Approved
The first part of the application process is the due diligence process. This means submitting some of your main documents, a police check, and paying the $5,000 non-refundable fee for government processing and due diligence.
Then, you’ll have to wait around a week to get it processed. The Financial Department of Vanuatu (FIU) carries out the due diligence process on the main applicant and his family members.
If approved, there is a 99% chance you will get your passport.
2. Apply for Citizenship and Wait
Next, you’ll have to gather up all your documents (the list is pretty standard) and submit the full payment.
If all of your paperwork is in order, it will take anywhere between 30-60 days for the government to make a decision on your application.
The committee meets twice a month, so it also depends on your timing as to how long you’ll have to wait for your citizenship approval.
3. Take an Oath, Obtain a Passport
Different from other jurisdictions, Vanuatu requires that all of its new citizens attend an oath ceremony that usually takes no longer than 30 minutes. That’s the only way a passport can be obtained, so you can’t avoid it. You have two options for swearing an oath:
- Go to Vanuatu and do it in front of the Commissioner there. Or,
- You can fly two government officials to a location nearer to your home and do it there instead.
For example, you could meet the officials in a place like London or Dubai. This option obviously involves extra fees, as you must pay for the travel and accommodation of the Vanuatu officials at your nearest Consulate.
The second option might delay your passport issuance, as travel arrangements will need to be made.
Aside from travel arrangements (yours or the government officials, you decide), you will need to pay the additional $400 fee at this point, which includes $250 for the passport application, $50 for the citizenship commission fee, and $100 for certificate fees.
After the ceremony, you will be issued a Naturalization certificate, which will allow you to apply for and obtain a passport from Vanuatu.
Enjoy Citizenship in Vanuatu Like These Nomad Capitalists
“Having visa-free transit through Australia and New Zealand with my Vanuatu passport has been a game changer for me living and doing business in Southeast Asia.”
“Applying for my Vanuatu passport was extremely fast, much faster than anywhere else. I’d recommend the passport and Andrew’s exceptional team any time.”
“Vanuatu gives me and my family the Plan B that we have wanted for the longest time. It’s location was also a deciding factor for us, it’s incredibly remote and offers full anonymity.”
Permanent Residence: A Good Alternative
Is getting a passport too much hassle? Would you prefer to invest in real estate rather than donate money to a government? It’s possible to do just that and get a chance to enjoy a tax-free life in Vanuatu. To qualify for permanent residence in Vanuatu, you must purchase real estate worth at least $100,000 and have a monthly income of at least $2,500.
This will allow you to enjoy all the benefits that Vanuatu residency brings, including zero percent tax, top international schools, clean air and water, pristine beaches, and a remote location. If you spend at least 10 years living in Vanuatu as a permanent resident, you can eventually become a naturalized citizen of the island. However, if your goal is citizenship and you would rather not wait a decade, you can always hand over the $130,000 and get it in a matter of weeks.
The Pros of Vanuatu CBI
So, what are the advantages of Vanuatu CBI and what can its citizenship do for you?
Your passport in 2 months. The biggest pro of Vanuatu CBI is the speed. The streamlined process takes only 8 weeks – from the lodging of your application to hold your new passport. You can’t beat that.
Only pay when you get pre-approved. Unlike other jurisdictions, you’ll only have to pay the full investment price after you get pre-approved for a passport from Vanuatu, making it a less risky proposition.
Go off the radar. Vanuatu is one of the most remote countries, far removed from the world’s troubles and worries. It’s also a politically neutral country that promises complete anonymity, so you can fly off the radar.
Access to 105 countries visa-free. Increase your global mobility and access to countries like the UK, Russia, and Hong Kong with the Vanuatu passports visa-free travel countries. Vanuatu is also a Commonwealth country, offering easier access to countries like Canada and Australia.
Optimize your tax. Become a tax resident of Vanuatu and take advantage of its favorable tax regime; no income tax, no inheritance or capital gains tax, and more. Vanuatu is also internationally business-friendly.
Your family can come along. The main applicant can add a spouse, all of their dependent children, and even their parents to the application for Vanuatu CBI.
Great lifestyle opportunities. Visiting or living in Vanuatu? It’s been rated as the Happiest Place in the World for over a decade now, offering a great lifestyle.
Pass it on. Vanuatu’s citizenship is hereditary, so all of your children will be born into it, giving them more options for a brighter future.
There is no language or Vanuatu residency by investment requirement. You won’t have to attend any in-person interviews or brush up on Vanuatu’s history. The people of Vanuatu also speak decent English.
Further investment opportunities. Vanuatu is an island paradise; purchase an island of your own or a beachfront villa to enjoy some of the most pristine natural environments on the planet.
The Cons of Vanuatu CBI
While the Vanuatu citizenship has many good things going for it, there are also various cons that you should consider before applying to the Vanuatu CBI program.
Economy overly reliant on Vanuatu economic citizenship. Although Vanuatu’s economy is not in terrible shape, it’s also extremely reliant on its CBI program. If that were to fall through, Vanuatu wouldn’t have much of a leg to stand on.
Confusing legislation. With multiple historical programs and other programs currently running simultaneously, even the government’s website can’t keep up with all the changes. Vanuatu CBI program is hard to navigate and it’s hard to understand.
Lack of transparency. Vanuatu ranks 64th in the world in the Corruption Perception ranking compiled by Transparency International. The entire region has made little progress when it comes to the eradication of corruption.
Remoteness. While for some it’s the biggest pro, others will be turned off by Vanuatu’s remote location. That’s unless you happen to be a resident of Australia or New Zealand.
In-person oath ceremony. To obtain a Vanuatu citizenship, the final step is to take an oath. Unfortunately, this must be done in-person, so you must either visit Vanuatu yourself or pay for two government officials to come to you, wherever you are in the world.
Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment FAQs
Do I need to travel to Vanuatu for any part of the citizenship acquisition process?
No, you don’t need to go to Vanuatu to apply for or receive a passport. You will need to take an oath, but that can be done anywhere in the world for an extra fee.
Will I have to pay taxes in Vanuatu if I’m a citizen?
No. There are no taxes in Vanuatu, only VAT, and import duty. That means no income tax, no corporate tax, and no inheritance tax.
Is dual citizenship allowed in Vanuatu?
Yes, Vanuatu recognizes dual citizenship and you will be able to have two, three, or more passports.
Does Vanuatu have more than one citizenship by investment program?
Yes. Its CBI past is long and complex, and there were and still are multiple programs running concurrently. However, all that you – an investor seeking a second passport – need to know is that the minimum investment is $130,000 plus fees, and you can become an owner of a Vanuatu passport.
How good is the Vanuatu passport?
When we talk about passport rankings or passport strength, the Vanuatu passport is pretty strong. It offers visa-free access to over 132 countries, including all the usual suspects. However, one thing worth noting about Vanuatu is that it offers easier and quicker access to Commonwealth countries, such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
Can my spouse, kids, and parents come too?
Yes. Direct family members, including your parents and step-children, can be granted citizenship on your Vanuatu passport application. A Vanuatu citizenship by investment can also be inherited by your future children. Siblings and “in-laws” are not eligible.
Is it possible to get Vanuatu citizenship by buying real estate?
At the moment, it’s not possible to purchase real estate and obtain Vanuatu passports, although the government has reportedly been working on a scheme to allow that. You can, however, purchase real estate and become a permanent resident in Vanuatu.
What documents are needed for the Vanuatu citizenship application?
A birth certificate, passport, police certification, resume, proof of address, marriage certificate (if applicable), medical certificate, proof of assets, and a few other bits of paperwork are required. Your agent should be able to help you with all of those. All of the required documents must be in English or be officially translated and certified copies.
Who is eligible to apply for a Vanuatu passport?
Pretty much anyone of good social and economic standing can apply to become a citizen of Vanuatu. You cannot have a criminal background and you must have at least $250,000 in liquid assets to your name.
Can the entire process be handled online?
For the most part, yes. You will, however, have to send in paper versions of your paperwork and then attend an oath-taking ceremony to receive your citizenship.
How long does the process take?
It will take anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks to obtain your Vanuatu citizenship, making it the fastest second passport procedure in the world.
Your Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment and Passport
Vanuatu might be a gorgeous archipelago in the South Pacific, with a regionally strategic location to boot, but most people know it as an offshore tax haven. Although tourism has picked up in recent years and its agriculture is doing well, the government attracts most people and capital by running its citizenship by investment program. While you would think that such a program would be accountable to its stakeholders – from investors to the agents selling it – the lack of transparency and the shroud of mystery that surrounds it has definitely put a dent in the program’s reliability.
We think that Vanuatu citizenship by investment program has tremendous potential if it does away with the multiple programs, convoluted regulations, and inconsistent processes and pricing. The program that is run by a single agent in Hong Kong, especially, needs to be cleared up or decommissioned altogether to allow for more transparency. An experienced hand needs to steer the main CBI program of Vanuatu towards clarity and stability. We hope that the moves to harmonize the various programs back in 2019 are just the beginning.
Despite the troubles and the uncertainty, the program remains an attractive option for those seeking a second passport as its revenue also continues to rise. The government is even toying around with a real estate investment option and other direct investment routes other than the donation route that is currently available.
Only time will tell what comes out of those talks, but if you’re ready to jump in and acquire a Vanuatu citizenship by investment right now, you need an advisor you can trust. The Nomad Capitalist team is here to help. Feel free to reach out.