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Vanuatu prepares to make long-awaited changes to its CBI program

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5 minutes read

A program, meant to support the development of the Republic of Vanuatu, began back in 2017, but only now the country's officials are ready to suggest their vision of Real Estate Investment (REO). The Vanuatu government is drafting a new bill that will deal with the legal innovations needed to foster REO. Parliamentary debate on the amended documentation is scheduled for the end of April 2021.

Ronald Warsal's statement

If the bill passes its parliamentary hearing successfully, it will pave the way for long-awaited changes through a series of updated regulations under Chapter 112 of the Vanuatu Citizenship Act. In early April 2021, Ronald Warsal, who heads the Vanuatu National Citizenship Commission, made an important announcement. Here is the full statement:

“The Republic of Vanuatu Citizenship by Investment program and the Development Support Program (DSP) are still the main sources of our financial stability at a time when the world is fighting COVID-19. Since entry into our territory is now closed, the profits from the supporting program ensure that Vanuatu's monetary obligations are met at all levels.” At this point, the program is still being clarified and reviewed to ensure that its content not only meets international standards, but also does not diverge from the course of our country's development in the coming years. The most important areas in the transformation of the Program are: benefiting the national economy, creating new jobs, and raising the living standards of all segments of our society. Having carefully analyzed various options for increasing capital investment under the DSP, we have found the most favorable option for fund-raising, that is, foreign capital investment in the country's real estate assets. Launching this additional channel of financial revenues requires not only a lot of technical work, but also serious changes in the existing legislation. The Commission on Citizenship, in close cooperation with the State Law Office and other organizations of the same profile, developed the future structure of the REO and formalized it in the form of a draft law, which will be considered at the parliamentary session in April 2021. If the draft law is passed without much debate, it will immediately begin to issue orders regulating the citizenship program in an amended form. Thus, there will be a legal basis for obtaining citizenship by investing in real estate, which will include a due diligence of the investor and the sources of his income. We are confident that the possibility of obtaining Vanuatu citizenship through the purchase of real estate will be greeted with great enthusiasm by domestic and foreign investors, given the benefits it will bring them.

Legal nuances of the REO program

The Vanuatu citizenship program and the income from it are directly linked with the two major projects, that is, Vanuatu Contribution Program and Vanuatu Development Support Program (VCP and VDSP). There has been growing interest in the Vanuatu passport since 2017. However, international experts have repeatedly raised the question of the legitimacy of too rapid acceptance and processing of citizenship applications from foreign investors by the local authorities. In addition, the procedure for granting citizenship of Vanuatu has also been questioned by the experts.

James Elcock-Harris, who works for the Vanuatu Investment and Immigration Bureau, commented on the impending innovations:

"The adoption of REO, despite the long wait, can only be a really successful legal act if there is a radical review of the entire investment program, which, by the way, is mentioned by Ronald Warsal".

Indeed, the Commission for Citizenship has not yet clarified the details of the REO scheme. The following important questions are still to be answered:

  • Is the real estate investment provision applicable to the VCP and VDSP programs;
  • How long will it take before the REO is operational in case of parliamentary approval of the bill;
  • Which levels of investments being considered;
  • Whether the Vanuatu Government has decided on the criteria by which real estate projects will be defined.

Some of those questions will be answered in the short term. The public interested in Vanuatu citizenship is awaiting the announcement of Warsal, which will coincide with a webinar organized by Latitude and the RIF Trust.

Source: IMIdaily

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