EU halts Vanuatu visa waiver over ‘golden passports’

The EU announced Tuesday it will fully suspend visa-free access for citizens of Vanuatu because of the Pacific island nation’s “golden passports” scheme, which offers nationality to investors.

The suspension will come into effect from February 2023, said the European Council, which represents the EU’s 27 member states.

It broadens a partial suspension for Europe in place since March this year after negotiations failed to resolve the issue.

“The country has failed to engage in any meaningful way and the circumstances that led to the temporary suspension still persist,” the statement said.

Brussels is seeking to crack down on so-called “golden passport” programmes, both among EU member states and against non-EU countries whose citizens are allowed to enter the bloc for temporary stays without visas.

It sees the initiatives as a risk to internal security in the European Union. Once a traveller enters the union, there are almost no passport controls between EU member countries.

In September, the European Commission decided to take a case against EU member Malta to the EU’s highest court for pursuing its own citizenship-through-investment scheme.

In terms of Vanuatu, the European Council highlighted the “extremely low rejection rate” for applicants to its scheme, who included those from countries whose nationals need EU visas.

It also noted that applicants for Vanuatu’s “golden passports” did not need to be resident in that country, and some of those received Vanuatuan passports despite being on Interpol watch lists.

Online ads for Vanuatu’s scheme boasted that applicants can get their passport within one or two months, at a cost of $130,000.

Some of those websites noted the EU visa change, and added a “cheaper offer” — a passport from the Caribbean nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis for $110,000 — which still gives visa-free entry into the union.

Agence France-Presse