The Republic of Vanuatu is an archipelago of around 80 islands sitting remotely on the South Pacific Ocean. Vanuatu has a population of approximately 280,000, with the largest demographic group being the native Melanesians. Around 74,000 individuals live in rural areas. The official language of Vanuatu is Bislama – a fusion of English and local languages – although French, English, and other dialects are also widely spoken.
Vanuatu is divided into six provinces, each of which have elected parliaments responsible for the formulation and administration of local laws. Vanuatu also has a central, democratically elected government, but community authorities such as village chiefs continue to play an important part in politics.
The capital of Vanuatu is Port Vila, the largest city within the Vanuatu islands. With over 80 percent of exports leaving Vanuatu from Port Vila, the capital is an economic lifeline for the country.
Traditional practices such as farming and fishing bring much economic revenue to the islands. In 2014, agriculture and forestry accounted for 74 percent of Vanuatu’s total exports and agriculture alone added a value of 28.2 percent to the national GDP.
With tourism on the increase, Vanuatu is becoming better known to the outside world. In the second quarter of 2016, it is estimated that 71,639 visitors arrived in Vanuatu, a 50 percent increase from 2015. Vanuatu has also increased its reputation in the financial services, with many stakeholders attracted to the benefits of the nation’s low tax regime.
Introduced by Honorary Citizenship (Vanuatu Economic Rehabilitation Program[me]) Regulation Order No. 34 of 2015, the Vanuatu Economic Rehabilitation Programme (VERP) was launched as a means of reinvigorating the South Pacific island nation’s economy following the passage of Cyclone Pam on 15 March 2015, which resulted in severe infrastructural damage.
There is a single route available under the VERP: a contribution to the Vanuatu Government VERP Account in the amount of US$130,000, which includes a family of four with a main applicant, a spouse, and two children under the age of 18. To this sum, applicants must add citizenship, passport, Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority (VIPA), and due diligence fees.
Offering one of the quickest processing times, at only one month following receipt of all documentation, the VERP has no language, residence, or minimum education requirements. To take the citizenship oath and obtain finalised citizenship papers, the applicant may choose between travelling to Vanuatu, waiting until the relevant Commissioner for Oaths visits the nearest Diplomatic Mission, or paying a fee to cover the cost of the Commissioner traveling to the applicant’s place of residence.
Applications are received by the Citizenship Commission and due diligence checks are performed by the Financial Intelligence Unit working closely with Interpol. The final grant of citizenship rests in the hands of the President, who acts upon the advice of the Prime Minister.
Although Vanuatu recognises dual citizenship as of 2013, citizens who are dual nationals may not vote, hold or serve in any public office, or be politically involved in Vanuatu – such as by affiliating with a political party or funding activity that may cause political instability. Any citizen of Vanuatu may however benefit from visa-free travel rights to around 110 territories, including, as of 28 May 2015, the Schengen Area.