Schengen Visa News

EU Council Approves Partial Suspension of Visa Waiver Agreement With Vanuatu

The Council of the European Union has approved a proposal to partially cancel the visa-waiver agreement with Vanuatu, based on an assessment that golden passport schemes, officially known as investor citizenship programmes, bring risks to EU countries.

The decision was announced on March 3, Thursday, after a proposal was made by the European Union Commission on the issue on January 12.

“The comment relates only to Vanuatu nationals who hold ordinary passports issued since May 25, 2015, when the Vanuatu investment citizenship schemes came into effect. At the end of this process, holders of these passports will need a visa to travel to the European Union,” the Council notes in a press release issued in the same day.

Listed the main reasons behind the decision, the Board noted that after a detailed evaluation of the citizenship plans of investors in Vanuatu, it was concluded that in many cases, Vanuatu granted citizenship to applicants who were listed in INTERPOL’s databases.

At the same time, the board claims that Vanuatu Golden Passport applicants are not required to be physically present on the South Pacific island, and their applications were processed quickly, without even contacting the applicants’ country or residence.

The board also notes the extremely low refusal rate among applications, noting that the low rate raises doubts about the reliability of security screening and due diligence.

The decision will now be published in the Official Gazette and will enter into force two months after its publication. Under the Visa Waiver Agreement, the other party must be notified of the suspension decision no later than two months before its entry into force,” the Council notes.

The Visa Waiver Agreement, reached between the bloc and the island nation in 2015, allows Vanuatu nationals to travel to the 26 Schengen area countries without a visa for stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

After Vanuatu introduced several new investor citizenship schemes, which also increased the number of beneficiaries, the EU Commission began looking into these schemes and thus casting doubt on its security failures.

While initially, the Vanuatu authorities took seriously the EU’s warning that the visa waiver agreement would be suspended, they later submitted a new citizenship scheme in April 2021. The EU Commission in January submitted a proposal for the partial suspension of the visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu.

EU authorities are also working to push and end member states that run programs that give foreigners citizenship in exchange for investment.

Only in the past months have EU parliament members urged member states to end the schemes while describing them as “morally, legally and economically unacceptable”.

Currently, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta are the only EU countries operating such schemes. EU data shows that between 2011 and 2019, at least 130,000 citizens of third world countries have benefited from such schemes, from which EU countries operating such schemes have generated revenues of more than €21.8 billion.

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