Questions and Answers - Partial suspension of the visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Wednesday, January 12 2022.

What is the purpose of the EU-Vanuatu visa waiver agreement?

A visa waiver agreement between the EU and Vanuatu applies since 2015 and allows citizens of Vanuatu to travel to the EU without a visa for stays of up to 90 days in any 180-period.

Why is the Commission proposing the partial suspension of the visa waiver agreement?

The Commission is proposing today a partial suspension of the visa waiver agreement, in order to mitigate the security risks raised by Vanuatu's investor citizenship (“golden passports”) schemes. These risks include infiltration of organised crime, money laundering, tax evasion and corruption associated with such schemes. In addition, investor citizenship schemes that Vanuatu has operated since 2015 are commercially promoted with the expressed purpose of granting visa-free access to the EU.

What are the Commission's concerns regarding investor citizenship schemes in non-EU countries with visa-free travel to the EU?

The Commission is concerned about the risks that investor citizenship schemes operated by non-EU countries may pose to the security of the EU and of its Member States. In January 2019, the Commission published a report on investor citizenship and residence schemes, which highlighted the inherent risks of such schemes, in particular as regards security, money laundering, and tax evasion. While the European Union respects the right of sovereign countries to decide on their own naturalisation procedures, such schemes can have an impact on the EU visa-free regime, as they can be used to bypass the EU short-stay visa procedure and the in-depth assessment of individual irregular migratory and security risks it entails.

How long would the partial suspension remain in force?

If adopted by the Council, the partial suspension of the visa waiver agreement will remain in force until the risks for the EU and its Member States are eliminated or substantially mitigated. Once the EU considers that the reasons for suspension cease to exist, the partial suspension should be lifted. If the reasons for the suspension persist, the possibility exists under EU law for a permanent transfer to the EU's list of visa-required countries (Annex I of the Visa Regulation).

Is the Commission planning to take action in relation to other non-EU countries with visa-free travel to the EU operating investor citizenship schemes?

All EU visa waiver agreements can be suspended on grounds of security or public policy concerns. Investor citizenship schemes in countries with visa-free access to the EU may have an impact on the visa-free regime, as they raise security risks. The Commission continues to follow the issue closely in order to assess any possible security risks related to such schemes.

For More Information

Press release: Commission proposes partial suspension of visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu to address risks linked to golden passport schemes

Proposal for a Council Decision on the partial suspension of the application of the Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Vanuatu on the short-stay visa waiver

Visa waiver agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Vanuatu