An island-nation in the Pacific Ocean, Vanuatu was jointly ruled by the United Kingdom and France under a 1906 system known as the British-French Condominium. Named the New Hebrides by Captain Cook in the 18th century, the nation was re-named Vanuatu, meaning ‘Our Land Forever,’ upon achieving independence. Vanuatu’s economy is dominated by small-scale farming and fishing, with primary exports including kava, coconut, and cocoa. Tourism, primarily from Australia and New Zealand, faltered after the passage of Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015, but is recovering, and continues to account for a large part of Vanuatu’s GDP. China is establishing a growing presence in Vanuatu, particularly through investment and loan schemes.
The Vanuatu Contribution Programme (VCP) is one of two active citizenship by investment schemes in the Pacific island of Vanuatu. Codified in 2016, it became operational in 2017 following the closure of the Vanuatu Economic Rehabilitation Programme (VERP). The VCP coexists with the Development Support Programme (DSP), but while the former offers full citizenship, the DSP offers honorary citizenship only, meaning that DSP citizens cannot vote or participate in political life.
A single applicant under the VCP, and up to a family of four, must make a minimum contribution of US$130,000. To that, they must add US$25,000 in other processing and due diligence fees due to the Government. 25 percent of the total is due prior to submission. Additionally, the applicant must show a minimum net worth of no less than US$250,000.
Applications under the VCP are processed by the Citizenship Commission, which normally takes between six and eight weeks to return an application, although it may legally take up to a period of three months. Applicants need not learn any of Vanuatu’s three official languages (English, French, and Bislama), sit an interview, or study the culture or history of the island. They must, however, travel either to Vanuatu or to Hong Kong to take the required oath of allegiance. Receipt of the citizenship certificate and passport is normally scheduled for the same day.
Despite its youth, the VCP has already been the subject of some criticism. At home, it has been denounced by some locals for being controlled and marketed by a single agent and its affiliated exclusive marketing agent, based in Hong Kong. Internationally, Vanuatu made headlines in late 2017, when it was suggested that the country would accept bitcoin payments in exchange for economic citizenship – a development that was later denied by the Government.
Vanuatu allows its VCP citizens to hold dual citizenship, and is the only provider of citizenship by investment in Oceania. Its citizens may travel without a visa to the Schengen Area and Hong Kong, although a visa is required for mainland China.