The EU announced that it would suspend visa-free access for citizens of Vanuatu due to the Pacific island’s “golden passports,” citing risk to internal security. The suspension will start in February 2023.

The “golden passports’ ‘offer nationality to foreign investors. More than half of its applicants are Chinese.

After getting citizenship through the “golden passport” program, one can move freely in and out of EU member states under an EU visa-free status. In a broad sense, the EU wants to end this “pay-to-be-a-citizen” program of EU and non-EU states.

Vanuatu and the EU signed a visa exemption agreement in 2015. As a result, citizens of the Pacific Islands can stay in the EU for 90 days without a visa.

Europe imposed a partial suspension in March, but the failure of negotiations led to this full suspension. 

In a press release on Tuesday, November 8, the EU said they carefully observed and evaluated Vanuatu’s investment citizenship mechanism. As a result, they concluded that the scheme is seriously flawed and may pose a risk to the EU, mainly because “very few” applicants are refused. 

They question why applicants don’t have to live in Vanuatu. Some applicants are on the watch list of The International Criminal Police Organization or Interpol.

The reliability of security and filtering standards is also low.

Last year, The Guardian reported on investment immigration loopholes in different countries. In terms of Vanuatu, it said that the island would give out 2,200 golden passports in 2020. 

Of those, 1,200 would be given to Chinese citizens, with the rest going to citizens from Nigeria, Russia, Lebanon, Iran, and other countries. 
The Vanuatu golden passport lets one enter 130 countries without a visa, including the EU and the UK, for $130,000, with only 1–2 months of waiting. People don’t even need to set foot in the country to apply.

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