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  VANUATU CITIZENSHIP PROGRAM

Vanuatu Citizenship Act (Cap 112) Section 20

LATE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF VANUATU

HON. BALDWIN LONSDALE

PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF VANUATU

HON. CHARLOT SALWAI TABIMASMAS

Introduction

Prime Minster Charlot Salwai created the new regulation under Citizenship Act [CAP 112 S 20] to establish the Development Support Program (DSP). The DSP replaced the Vanuatu Economic Rehabilitation Program (VERP) that offered Honorary Citizenship to help investment in the country.

Salwai made the regulation under Order No. 215 of 2016. The order provides that the establishment of the DSP including designated agents for the program, procedures for applications for citizenship under the program and prescribed fees. Privileges for “Honorary Citizenship Act [CAP 112] were set out in another regulation made by the Head Of State, Father Baldwin Lonsdale under Order No. 216 of 2016.

The DSP is established for the purposes of section 20 of the Citizenship Act where applicants will have to apply through a “Designated Agent” who will be appointed by the Commission. The Agent must be a citizen of Vanuatu, have a main registered office in Port Vila and procedures for application for the Program will first require the agent to received and provide all applications to the Citizenship Office for processing. The Citizenship Commission will then screen applicants before applications may be considered. Part of the Screening will involve diligent checks on each applicant by the Financial Intelligent Unit (FIU). Upon the confirmation by the FIU that the applicant has no criminal record, the Screening Committee will submit the application to the Commission who will decide whether or not to approve the Citizenship.

Before, the PM advised the President of the names of the persons to be conferred with honorary citizenship under the DSP however this has been replaced with new regulations allowing either the Chairman of the Commission or the Prime Minister himself to sign the required documents cancelling out the "honorary" terminology as both passports are the same. Applications of persons with criminal records will not be considered. The Regulation comes into effect 15 December 2016 and commences January 1st 2017. Pursuant to the Regulation, the Head Of State ordered that a person and his spouse being conferred with honorary citizenship under the DSP are entitled to the following privileges of a Vanuatu passport holder and a child and any dependent of that person are also entitled to a Vanuatu passport. However, there are some limitations such as citizens under this form of citizenship do not have voting rights or eligibility to contest in general elections of the State. DSP was established after the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam in 2015 to help rebuild the economy and stimulate investment.

 

Pursuant to the said regulations, candidates may apply for Vanuatu Honorary Citizenship by contribution, as specified, to the Government. The Citizenship acquired under the DSP program is fully recognized by the Government of Vanuatu and the nationality as Ni-Vanuatu or a citizen of Vanuatu. Those applying for and receiving Vanuatu Citizenship under the Development Support Program have the full right to reside in Vanuatu at all times and their passport is renewable upon expiry. In addition to the contribution, there are some additional charges and fees including citizenship cost, background check, VIPA fees, processing fees, passport fees, agent handling fees and other fees required to be paid.

Being a relatively new product in the international immigration market, the Prime Minister endorsed new Regulations to assist its framework operation. On 24th April 2019, the Citizenship (Development Support Program) Regulations Order NO.33 of 2019 came into effect and apart from its extended definition section and detailed procedures entailed, a new threshold of selling prices was also endorsed which needed to be respected by all Agents which warranted strict compliance in order to avoid penalty, even revocation. Today more agents have been signed onto the DSP to maximize revenue. In line with the Program's initial objectives, the latest news report has shown that over VT 1.3 billion in passport-related revenues were received in January alone, according to the government’s latest financial report.The number of passports sold each month have more than doubled from September to October last year, and have remained at nearly that level ever since. Due to the transitional success of the DSP as a growing form of revenue for Vanuatu, designated agency contracts have now being extended by eight (8) years showing the promising nature of the Program. As Vanuatu competes with its international counter parts offering different types of citizenship packages overseas, it has come up as a popular choice for second passport citizenship in the world today.