Vanuatu's Temporary Suspension from Visa-Free Access to Europe
Starting in the latter part of 2022, the European Union is set to introduce the European
Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). ETIAS is a travel document that allows
non-European citizens access to the European Union member states - all 27 of them.
ETIAS will only be a requirement for non-Europeans
holders of the
European passport can freely enter and exit any of the European Union's member states.
ETIAS-free travel is more straightforward than processing ETIAS and, in theory, should
be available to only European citizens. However, having met specific requirements and
conditions, some countries can access Europe without an ETIAS or European visa. Citizens
from these countries need not provide an ETIAS before traveling. An excellent example of
such countries is Vanuatu.
Vanuatu is a small South Pacific Ocean country and was previously numbered as a part of
the countries whose citizens can gain entry to Europe without an ETIAS visa. The visa-free
access into Europe enjoyed by Vanuatu's citizens was temporarily suspended and took
effect from January 2020. The suspension, although temporary, was based on several
broken rules and breaches by the Vanuatu authorities. The European Union has released
a statement saying that the ban could become permanent if the violations are not addressed
The cause of Vanuatu's temporary suspension
The cause of Vanuatu's temporary suspension can be traced back to late 2017, just a few
years after the European Union signed a visa-waiver agreement with them in 2015. Vanuatu
appeared on a list of countries without non-corporate tax and was suspected of assisting
money laundering by turning a blind eye and promoting tax evasion. It was also thought to
be financing terrorism, and all of these happened in 2017.
Vanuatu's authorities introducing the
golden visa scheme
also played a part in the
temporary suspension. In 2016, the government of Vanuatu introduced two citizenships by
investment schemes - the VCP (Vanuatu Contribution Programme) and the VDSP (Vanuatu
Development Support Programme). These schemes offered citizenship to individuals who
invested a minimum of £100,000, or $130,000 in Vanuatu, and were tagged "Golden citizenship."
This golden citizenship would give you Vanuatu's passport, which can, in turn, be used to
enter the European Union freely.
Concerns, however, rose in 2019 over the golden citizenship scheme as a mode of Vanuatu's
citizenship. The European Union realized that Vanuatu's authorities might not have put due
diligence into carrying out background checks on individuals being offered golden citizenship.
The European Union required Vanuatu's government to make changes to the golden citizenship
scheme by putting due diligence into background checks on benefactors of the scheme. After
a while, when the authorities did not review the screening process for Vanuatu's golden
citizenship scheme, the European Union moved forward with a temporary suspension on the
The suspension was made known to the general public through a press release dated the
12th of January, 2022. Vanuatu was given two months of notice from the day of the release
for resolution. However, Vanuatu's government has the right to appeal the decision of
the European Union in the future.
The Implication of Vanuatu's Golden Citizenship in The European Union
The European Union took action to temporarily suspend the travel of Vanuatu's citizens
into Europe due to the security implications of the golden citizenship scheme on the
member states of the European Union. Concerns were raised that the golden citizenship
scheme was a masked model to allow questionable people into Europe without checks. The
European Union introduced the ETIAS system for non-European citizens to prevent terrorists
and criminals from gaining access to the EU. Here are some of the concerns the EU had
about the golden citizenship scheme:
- Some wanted individuals on Interpol's list were given Vanuatu's golden citizenship.
- The rate of rejection of these applications was marginal. Prior to the scrutiny by
the European Union in 2020, only one visa refusal was recorded.
- Vanuatu's government did not give enough time to ensure proper screening of the
applicants. The application time was shorter than you would expect.
- Many of the successful applicants of the scheme came from countries that require
a visa to enter Europe.
This poses a security risk to the European Union because individuals who would
be required to provide a Schengen Visa to enter Europe could enter Europe without
a visa if they went the route of owning a Vanuatu visa. It was also pointed out that
the government of Vanuatu used visa-free access to the European Union as a marketing
point to attract individuals to invest in their golden citizenship scheme.
These made it attractive for questionable individuals to invest in the golden
citizenship scheme. Individuals wanted on the Interpol list also gained access to
Europe through Vanuatu, hence the decision of the European Union to temporarily
suspend Vanuatu's citizens.
What Does This Mean for Vanuatu Citizens?
Vanuatu's citizens and passport holders whose passports are dated later than the 25th
of May 2015, either via the golden citizenship scheme or by birth, will not be able
to travel to Europe visa-free anymore. The citizens will be required to provide a
, as they will not
be eligible for the ETIAS visa waiver when it comes into action later in 2022.
Unlike the ETIAS application
the Schengen visa has to be carried out in person. You
will be required to present relevant documents pertaining to the European trip and go
for an interview at the relevant embassy. The Schengen visa will be the only mode of
permitting Vanuatu's citizens into Europe until the golden citizenship scheme concerns
have been eliminated or addressed appropriately.
These steps will ensure that the risk associated with Vanuatu's unchecked golden
citizens is placed under check, and the security of the European Union is guaranteed.
The EU will monitor the situation pertaining to Vanuatu and lift the ban if it is no
longer necessary; however, Vanuatu may risk a permanent removal from the European
visa-free list if improvements are not made.
In conclusion, the decision of Vanuatu's citizens to enjoy a visa-free entry into any
of the European Union's member states is dependent on their government to resolve the
standing issues regarding its golden citizenship scheme. Although the suspension is
temporary, it could lead to a permanent exclusion if nothing is done in the nearest