Feb 10, 2020

The effects of Wuhan coronavirus on Vanuatu citizenship acquisition

Vanuatu is located not too far away from China and the country’s authorities watch the situation with Wuhan coronavirus very closely. They have decided to take additional safety measures and these will affect the people who want to acquire Vanuatu citizenship for money in 2020.

Currently, tens of thousands of people have caught Wuhan coronavirus in China and in many other countries of the world. The epidemic continues spreading, which arouses anti-Chinese xenophobia in the officials of quite a number of national states. Many of them deny entry to the citizens of the Celestial Empire at the moment.

Coronavirus transmission continues

According to the Chinese health agency officials, the number of people who have died of the coronavirus has reached three hundred. The largest number of deaths have occurred in Hubei, the province where the virus was initially detected.

CNN reports that in addition to China, residents of the following countries are known to have been infected as of the beginning of February 2020: India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the UAE, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Australia, Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Finland, Canada, and the USA.

The increase in the number of infected people and the number of deaths shows that the spreading of the virus is not slowing down thus far. The fact that the province of Hubei was put in quarantine for some time seems to have had little impact.

As the oriental New Year holidays are over and people are going back to work, the problem is expected to aggravate. The first question is how far the coronavirus is going to spread. The second one is how effective the travel restrictions are going to be. The third one is how much the Chinese and the world economies are going to suffer.

The disease has already spread from Asia to other parts of the world such as Europe and America. Washington has declared denial of entry to all visitors from China regardless of their nationalities.

The USA citizens arriving from the province of Hubei whose capital is Wuhan where the virus came from will be quarantined for fourteen days. It is worth noting that the USA have issued the first mandatory quarantine regulation in the last fifty years.

The Chinese authorities have criticized this measure. The Foreign Office has stressed that it contradicts the position of World Health Organization (WHO). The organization experts did not recommend introducing any travel restrictions.

“A friend in need is a friend indeed. Many countries support China in its attempts to combat the coronavirus while some USA officials make claims that are neither supported by facts nor have an appropriate character”, said the Chinese Government representative.

However, the United States actually followed suit. Singapore was the first country to prohibit entry to the visitors from mainland China. The authorities have ruled that anyone who has visited China over the last fourteen days shall be denied access to Singapore. Taiwan has also put on hold the issuance of visas to citizens of mainland China and has denied entry to all visitors from the province of Hubei.

Vanuatu authorities take their own measures to combat Wuhan coronavirus

The authorities of the island state of Vanuatu that grants citizenship to foreigners in exchange for a donation have put their own restrictions in place hoping to contribute to the global fight against the virus. It is important to realize that a large portion of Vanuatu passports issued to foreigners is issued to Chinese applicants in particular. There is even a separate Government program – Vanuatu Citizenship Program (VCP) – that has been developed especially for the Chinese. All other foreign nationals wishing to obtain Vanuatu citizenship must apply for the Development Support Program (DSP) even though the amount of the required donation is the same for both of these citizenship programs.

Thus, the Vanuatu Government has decided to call a halt to the practice of delivering the passports to the regions where the coronavirus is rife and rampant. This is an unprecedented step indeed but currently, the new citizens’ passports are not sent to Southeast nor North Asia. This restriction will be lifted only when the epidemic spread is stopped.

This decision will have some serious practical consequences. The matter is that unlike analogous passport purchase programs in other parts of the world, the Vanuatu program requires that the new citizens make oaths of allegiance to their new home country. This is an official procedure that requires the presence of an authorized Vanuatu Government representative.

According to the regulations, the oath does not necessarily have to be made in Vanuatu. Any embassy or consulate of Vanuatu can be used for this purpose. As to delivering passports to citizens of China, Vanuatu officials used to habitually travel to Hong Kong to meet the Chinese applicants halfway.

Now access to Hong Kong from mainland China is severely restricted and relocating the place of passport issuance to some other Asian state where the travel restrictions are not so tough would be irresponsible on the part of Vanuatu authorities.

International experts in ‘citizenship-by-investment’ programs note that the directive of the Vanuatu authorities is somewhat unexpected but understandable at the same time. Vanuatu is potentially vulnerable to the coronavirus spreading in China and other world countries.

Every cloud has a silver lining though. This unfavorable situation has made the Vanuatu authorities introduce a policy change that will simplify the process of citizenship acquisition for future applicants if this change remains effective when the virus problem is over. Now the oath of allegiance can be made via a videoconferencing application. This new rule is applicable both to main applicants and to their dependents.

The Vanuatu DSP / VCP passport programs remain very attractive notwithstanding the competition on the part of such Caribbean states as Grenada and St Kitts that offer their passports at the same price.

The current minimum donation amount is US$ 145,000 for a single applicant. It is US$ 155,000 for an applicant with a spouse. A family of four has to donate US$ 175,000 in order to become citizens of Vanuatu. US$ 10,000 is due for every extra applicant.

Citizenship of Vanuatu can be acquired only via a licensed immigration agent. At the moment, there are thirty-one authorized agents working with the Development Support Program schemes and one working with the Vanuatu Citizenship Program schemes.

Vanuatu’s competitors also introduce restrictions

Almost immediately after the Vanuatu news came out, the Caribbean jurisdiction of Antigua and Barbuda that also issues passports for money announced border closure for Chinese visitors.

This is very unpleasant news for the Chinese participants of Antigua and Barbuda economic citizenship program. The program requires that the new citizen of the country spend at least five days a year on its territory over the first five years of holding the passport. Otherwise, the passport will be annulled. Given the fact that nearly one third of all Antigua and Barbuda new citizens originate from China, a large number of people may be affected. Hopefully, the country’s authorities will realize that the situation is extraordinary and ease the requirements.

The Antigua and Barbuda Government Decree on border closure for the visitors from the People’s Republic of China is already in effect. The Caribbean officials have justified the necessity of the measure by referring to the WHO warning that the coronavirus is spreading rapidly all over the planet. Some describe the situation as a global medical emergency.

Prime Minister of Vanuatu Gaston Brown commented on this decision of the Antigua and Barbuda authorities. He said, “Given the situation of a global medical emergency, such a small island country as Antigua and Barbuda has the right to minimize the threats to the health of its citizens and residents”.

At the same time, the Antiguan Prime Minister paid tribute to the political will of the Chinese Government and expressed appreciation of the “complex and multi-vectored measures taken to stop the transmission of the coronavirus”.

The politician also said, “My Government will keep track on how things progress as far as the coronavirus is concerned. We are prepared to react promptly to any new challenges that might arise. We would also like to assure the students from Antigua and Barbuda who are currently in China that we will keep in touch with them and support them in any way we can”.

Two more Caribbean countries are eager to keep the coronavirus off their territories. Both St Lucia and Dominica refused to dock AIDAperla cruise ship in their marine terminals. Allegedly, there might have been sick passengers on the ship, as the authorities claimed.

A representative of St Lucia health department said that the decision not to let AIDAperla moor in the port on February 1 was made to protect the health of the country residents. The press release of the Dominican Healthcare Ministry states that the refusal to accept the ship on February 2 was motivated by the large number of infected people onboard, which potentially threatened the wellbeing of the local society.

It is believed that AIDAperla passengers suffer from an upper respiratory tracts infection. There are three thousand passengers onboard the ship. There is a medical center there with doctors and nurses who are qualified to help the sick. AIDAperla cruise ship left Barbados on January 30 and its final destination is Guadeloupe.

The effects of Wuhan coronavirus on Vanuatu citizenship acquisition: some concluding remarks

What conclusions can be drawn from what is currently going on around the coronavirus situation? The recent events show that the ‘citizen-by-investment’ program rules can change overnight and so can the government policies. Needless to say, when the rules and the policies change, they rarely change for the better.

Actually, any ‘citizen-by-investment’ program and thus the possibility to acquire a second passport can disappear in a heartbeat. The reasons for that can be different – from epidemics and natural disasters to the results of the national elections.

Therefore, if you are thinking of acquiring a second citizenship in Vanuatu or Antigua and Barbuda or in any other country that offers such an opportunity, you had better think fast. Things change quickly in the modern world and if an opportunity is available today, it does not mean that it will remain available tomorrow. Strike while the iron is hot.

If you are interested in becoming a citizen of Vanuatu and obtaining all the benefits that come with this status, please contact us via e-mail [email protected]. We will gladly answer all your questions concerning the matter and give you a number of useful tips and hints on how to make the Vanuatu passport acquisition process most rapid and most efficient.