EU and Vanuatu’s visa waiver agreement fully suspended from 4 February 2023
The Council of the European Union has decided to suspend completely the EU’s visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu from 4 February 2023. The Commission proposed this suspension on 12 October 2022, and on 8 November 2022, the Council accepted the proposal.
This visa waiver agreement enabled visa-free travel between Vanuatu and the European Union for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. But Vanuatu’s investor citizenship schemes had been raising concerns since 2017, when the Commission started investigating them. At the time, Vanuatu committed to addressing the EU’s concerns related to its investor citizenship schemes, but in April 2021, it took further steps to set up a new citizenship program.
The Commission proposed the partial suspension of the visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu on 12 January 2022, coming into effect on 4 May 2022. In a press release published on its official website, the Council explains that “since then, the country has failed to engage in any meaningful way, and the circumstances that led to the temporary suspension still persist”.
The reservations of the EU are related to Vanuatu’s investor citizenship schemes, whose number of successful applicants has been increasing considerably in recent years. The low rejection rates and short processing periods made the EU unsure of the reliability of the due diligence screening and other security checks. Plus, the EU found that some successful applicants to Vanuatu investor citizenship schemes were listed on Interpol databases, or came from countries whose nationals need a visa to travel to the EU.
The Council claims that these are “serious deficiencies” in Vanuatu’s citizenship schemes “which could pose a risk to the EU”.