Vanuatu’s Development Support Programme (DSP) is one of two CBI programmes that coexist in Vanuatu. Established in 2017, the DSP originally conferred only ‘honorary’ citizenship, which afforded successful applicants far fewer rights than those held by native and naturalised citizens. However, the DSP was overhauled in 2018 and now confers ‘full’ citizenship (albeit without the right to engage in political life in Vanuatu).
Applicants under the DSP have only one investment option available to them, namely a direct contribution to the Government. This contrasts with, for example, the St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Programmes, which offer applicants the choice to either (1) make a direct contribution to the Government or (2) invest in real estate.
Also unique to Vanuatu is the fact that a ‘minimum selling price’ is mandated, consisting of the Government contribution and an agent’s minimum professional fee. The minimum selling price for a single applicant under the DSP is US$130,000, of which US$80,000 is due to the Government.
In Vanuatu, 25% of the Government contribution is due prior to the approval of the application. This deposit is non-refundable should the application be subsequently declined. In St Kitts and Nevis, payment of the investment is due only after an approval in principle, meaning that applicants do not risk losing any of the investment amount if they fail to pass due diligence.
The table below illustrates the differences in investment options between Vanuatu and St Kitts and Nevis:
||Mandated Minimum Amount
||(1) Direct contribution
|St Kitts and Nevis
||(1) Direct contribution
(2) Real estate
(2) $400,000 (if independent) or $200,000 (if joint)
In Vanuatu, as is the case in St Kitts and Nevis, main applicants are required to show they are over the age of 18 and of good character. In Vanuatu, it is also a specific prerequisite of the DSP that main applicants have a respect for the culture and the ways of life of Vanuatu and have a reasonable knowledge and understanding of the rights, privileges, responsibilities, and duties of citizens.
To prove ‘good character,’ Vanuatu conducts due diligence on applicants. Thanks to a March 2020 amendment, the due diligence process in Vanuatu now involves external checks by a specialist firm – putting Vanuatu more in line with St Kitts and Nevis.
Like applicants in St Kitts and Nevis, DSP applicants need not be subject to a mandatory interview, take a culture or history test, or demonstrate minimum business experience. St Kitts and Nevis has a Citizenship by Investment Unit, and, similarly, Vanuatu has a dedicated processing body known as the Citizenship Office and Commission.
In Vanuatu, the application process is complicated by the fact that applicants are usually required to travel to Vanuatu to take the Oath of Allegiance (however, the Citizenship Office and Commission has accepted oaths taken remotely by video link due to Covid-19).
In St Kitts and Nevis, applicants are not required to travel to either country at any point before, during, or after the application process.
Another way in which Vanuatu’s DSP can be contrasted against the St Kitts and Nevis Citizenship by Investment Programme is in its approach to family inclusivity. Vanuatu only allows a small number of family members to be included in an application for citizenship when compared to St Kitts and Nevis.
||St Kitts and Nevis
||Yes (to swear an Oath)
||Citizenship by Investment Unit
||Vanuatu Citizenship Office and Commission
|Parents and siblings included?
Confusing CBI Offer
Vanuatu Citizenship Office and Commission has issued more than 4,000 passports to foreign investors so far, which shows popularity of its CBI programme. The question is which one? It’s hard to believe, but Vanuatu has launched and ran five citizenship programmes and actual number differs on which source we choose to believe. However, the two most prominent ones that run simultaneously but target different locales, are these:
• The Vanuatu Contribution Program (VCP) – it’s run by a single agent in Hong Kong and is made for clients in mainland China.
• The Vanuatu Development Support Program (VDSP) – compared above with St Kitts and Nevis offer became Vanuatu’s main CBI Programme and it’s managed by many government-approved agents around the world.
The government was aware how confusing it looked, making investors doubt the quality of the Vanuatu CBI programme, so they harmonized all their CBIs, so the features, fees and processes should all be the same now and the main steps in getting Vanuatu citizenship are:
• Making a Donation – donate $130,000 to Vanuatu’s local government fund.
• Prove Net Assets – prove you have net assets of at least $500,000.
• Pay Government Fees – pay the $5,000 application and due diligence fee.