The Republic of Vanuatu has lost a full visa waiver to the European Union as a result of its failure to the vetting of citizenship by investment applicants. The suspension comes into effect from 04 February 2023, the European Council announced on Tuesday.
Still, the government is not taking solid action to find ways to save the visa waiver agreement with the United Kingdom. It is believed that the UK will also take visa-free access granted to Vanuatu nationals. The people are anguished with the government’s carelessness towards its citizenship by investment programme, which was the ultimate bread and butter of the pacific republic, which is an archipelago of about eighty islands.
The decision comes after a partial suspension placed in March this year after the Vanuatu government failed to comply with the roadmap of guidelines by the European Council.
Many believe that Vanuatu lost visa-free access to Europe permanently due to the mistake and failure to give adequate attention to the citizenship by investment programme and its conducts.
The Vanuatu government was asked by the European Council to completely scrutinize the programme’s vetting process and run vigorous checks on all individuals granted citizenship in the last six years. However, due to a lack of any actual action, Vanuatu lost visa waivers to Europe.
“A partial suspension of the agreement had already been adopted on 3 March 2022. Following the partial suspension, the Commission started a dialogue with Vanuatu on 12 May to address the EU’s concerns. However, since then, the country has failed to engage in any meaningful way, and the circumstances that led to the temporary suspension still persist,” European Council added in its statement dated 08 November 2022.
European Council cited the following reasons for suspension:
- A low rejection rate, which increases suspicions as to the reliability of the security and due diligence screening
- Lack of physical presence or residence conditions, short timeline and no detailed information discussions with applicants’ countries of origin or residence
- The granting of citizenship to applicants listed in Interpol databases
- The nationalities of origin of successful recipients, which contain many countries whose citizens/nations require a visa to enter the EU
Vanuatu passport holders still have visa-free access to the United Kingdom, but it is also under the edge because of the careless conduct of the government.
Many people were granted Vanuatu citizenship despite being on top of the Interpol list, which is why the European Council warned the government to make amendments and create a strict due diligence procedure. But, the government failed to make any difference and has stood still since March 2022. After months of ultimatum, the council finally revoked visa-free access to all Vanuatu passport holders.
The visa waiver agreement allowed all citizens of Vanuatu to travel to the European Union without a visa for stays up to 90 days in any 180-period. But, due to security and due diligence failures, it has been revoked.
The agreement was earlier suspended for only nine months, starting from 4 May 2022 to 3 February 2023, which allowed for an improved exchange with Vanuatu to handle the situation. But due to lack of any actual action, on 12 October 2022, the European Commission presented the full suspension of the agreement from 4 February 2023.