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Vanuatu Citizenship: How Political Refugees Get Freedom to Travel around the World and Start Their Own Business

Living in Europe is great. But we are here on a wing and a prayer — we can be deported at any time. And I cannot even leave the country. I have still not yet received a residence permit, and if I try to leave Germany with my passport, I will immediately be deported.


Narong, 42 years old

Blogger, YouTube channel

Clients’ names and photos have been changed

Vanuatu citizenship by investment for or a stateless family

Vanuatu Citizenship: How Political Refugees Get Freedom to Travel around the World and Start Their Own Business

Our client Narong was forced to seek political asylum in Germany. He got a temporary residence permit, which did not give him the right to travel outside the country.

Elena Ruda

Elena Ruda,

Chief Development Officer in Immigrant Invest, lawyer

Immigrant Invest helped Narong obtain a second citizenship by investment, which resulted in a stable future for him and his family. They could live in Britain and relocate the business.

Why Narong needed a second passport

Narong was one of the leaders of the opposition movement in Thailand. He had to urgently leave the country in March 2018 to avoid being persecuted by the Thai authorities for his political views.

Some of Narong’s relatives live in Germany. In the past, he had visited them from time to time and learned German at the beginner level. Therefore, when the Thai authorities began to harass him, he asked the German authorities for political asylum. The German immigration service issued him and his family temporary residence permits.

Narong has been running his own YouTube channel since 2018. His audience has grown to three million people in the past two years, and he began making money from advertising.

Narong enjoyed living in Germany. However, the uncertainty of his refugee status was unsettling and restricted his freedom of movement: he lived under the threat of deportation, and he had no right to leave the country or start his own business.

Confidence in the future. Although Narong was still a Thai citizen, he could not use his passport, and he and his family did not even have a residency in Germany: the German immigration service considered his application to remain in Germany as a political refugee for more than two years. As a result, Narong could not leave Germany using his Thai passport as he would have been immediately deported to Thailand.

The family needed stability. Narong’s son celebrated his fifth birthday in 2019. He wanted to provide his child with a secure future: he wanted him to receive an excellent education to increase his chances of finding a worthwhile and exciting job. Without citizenship in their adopted country, the family did not know what tomorrow held for them and the difficulties that they would have to face.

Obtaining the freedom to travel around the world. Getting the right to travel freely was another important task that Narong wanted to solve. He could not leave Germany until the immigration services informed him of their decision. Otherwise, he would lose the possibility of getting a German residence permit.

Since arriving in Germany, the family had not seen their relatives who lived in Thailand. It was challenging to maintain relationships with friends as they were often difficult to visit Germany.

The difficulties of life without a passport that he could use could be solved in only one way: Narong and his family needed second citizenship.

Opening his own company. Developing a YouTube channel is a challenge for an investor. The investor needs to form a legal entity to hire employees and pay them. However, a legal entity can only be formed by a resident or citizen of Germany. A temporary residence permit holder is not allowed to create a legal entity.

Why Narong applied to Immigrant Invest

Narong decided to find a way out of this situation. He did not want to continue waiting for a residence permit and live without knowing what fate held in store for him.

Our article about the countries where citizenship by investment can be obtained led Narong to the idea of ​​seeking advice from Immigrant Invest, a licensed agent for citizenship by investment programs.

On April 7, 2020, Narong contacted Immigrant Invest lawyers to ask about his chances of obtaining a second passport.

How we have solved the problem of obtaining citizenship without a certificate of no criminal record

Immigrant Invest’s lawyers assessed the risk of rejection of Narong’s application for various citizenship by investment programs. Based on their assessment, our lawyers selected suitable programs.

Pavel Reshetnikov, Compliance department officer

  • conducted a preliminary Due Diligence check,

  • identified the risks due to which Narong’s application could be rejected.

Evgeniya Morozova, Head of the Legal Department

  • offered suitable programs,

  • prepared a list of documents for Narong’s application.

The preliminary check revealed a problem: Narong could not receive any criminal record certificate. It must be requested from Thailand’s Ministry of the Interior or the Thai Consulate in Germany.

A no criminal record certificate is required to participate in any investment program. However, the lawyers at Immigrant Invest knew that there were cases when refugees received citizenship by investment without a no criminal record certificate in practice.

Vladlena Baranova

Vladlena Baranova,

Lawyer, AML Compliance officer, certified CAMS specialist

We knew the client’s history and were prepared for the difficulties of obtaining a second citizenship. To pass the Due Diligence check, we prepared an affidavit, a legal opinion, in which we substantiated why it was impossible to obtain a no criminal record certificate from Thailand. We attached a no criminal record certificate from Germany to the affidavit, confirming that Narong is a law-abiding person.

Choosing an investment program

After the lawyers resolved the difficulties related to the documents required, a suitable citizenship program had to be selected. Our lawyers advised Narong to consider the programs of the five Caribbean countries and Vanuatu, a state in Melanesia.

When Narong was searching for a solution, the Vanuatu passport, as well as the Caribbean one, allowed the holders to travel freely around the following countries and spend significant amounts of time there without visas:

  • up to 90 days in any half-year period in the Schengen states;

  • 180 days in a year in Britain.

Since May 4, 2022, the Council of the European Union has suspended the agreement on visa-free travel to the EU countries for Vanuatu citizens who received passports after May 25, 2015.

Caribbean citizenship programs offer different investment options: a non-refundable contribution to the state fund, purchase of real estate, and investment in business and securities. The Vanuatu program has only one option: a contribution to the National Development Fund.

Narong chose to contribute: this is the straightforward and most inexpensive option. His plans did not include buying real estate in the Caribbean.

He chose the Vanuatu citizenship by investment program for several reasons.

Processing time. Narong was particularly concerned about the length of the process. He wanted to get a second passport as quickly as possible. A Vanuatu passport can be obtained within one month, while the procedure for a Caribbean passport can take up to six months.

Cost. We calculated the costs for the family, including the non-refundable fee, Due Diligence fee, and other fees and commissions.

Costs for the family of the Vanuatu program: $170,301

  • $165,000 — contribution to the National Development Fund

  • $5,000 — Due Diligence check

  • $258 — fee for issuing certificates of naturalization

  • $43 — application fee

Tax incentives. Vanuatu has no taxes on income, wealth, inheritance or capital gains. Value-added tax is levied at a rate of 12,5%. The state also provides incentives for investors who register a business on the island. International companies are exempt from taxes for 20 years if they pay taxes of $300 annually.

Remote registration and minimal bureaucracy. The Vanuatu passport visa-free travel program allows investors to complete all the procedures remotely. In addition, under its terms, Narong needed to provide considerably fewer documents than for participation in the Caribbean programs.

Only five documents were required in Narong’s application for Vanuatu citizenship by investment:

  1. Copies of passports.

  2. Affidavit from lawyers and no criminal record certificate from Germany.

  3. Bank statement with a balance of at least $250,000.

  4. Medical insurance.

  5. CV and government forms.

Narong signed an agreement with Immigrant Invest, and our lawyers began to prepare documents for the family’s application for the Vanuatu citizenship by investment program.

Vanuatu passport by investment — Port-Vila

Central bank Reserve Bank of Vanuatu is situated in the country’s capital Port-Vila. The other five licensed banks are under its control. Get to know how to open a bank account in Vanuatu

Due Diligence, payment of fees and taking the citizenship oath remotely

The Vanuatu Finance Department carries out the Due Diligence. The authenticity of the documents submitted and the legality of the sources of the investor’s income are checked.

Our lawyers attached the origins of the investor’s capital to the affidavit, prepared his CV and filled out the government forms. After Narong paid for the Due Diligence check, we submitted the documents to the Vanuatu Finance Department.

After 3 days, the Finance Department approved his application. Immigrant Invest’s lawyers then submitted Narong’s application to the department dealing with the citizenship by investment program, which also accepted the legal justification of Narong’s situation. The department approved Narong’s application based on the affidavit and Germany’s no criminal record certificate.

Investing. Narong transferred the contribution amount to the department’s account at the Reserve Bank.

The oath is the last step in the Vanuatu citizenship by investment program. Normally, the investor flies to the island or invites a commissioner and an employee of the migration service to another country when he takes the citizenship oath.

Narong could not travel to Vanuatu to take the oath in person because he had no right to leave Germany. At the same time, the commissioners and employees of the Vanuatu migration service were not travelling to other countries due to the Covid‑19 pandemic. We, therefore, arranged with the department in charge of the citizenship by investment program for Narong to take the oath by video link.

The online swearing-in ceremony took place on May 28, 2020, and two weeks later, Narong received the naturalisation certificates and passports for himself and his family by courier.

2 months was the processing time for obtaining Vanuatu citizenship for the Narong family

April 10, 2020

Narong signed an agreement with Immigrant Invest

+2 weeks

Immigrant Invest’s lawyers submitted the required documents to Vanuatu’s Financial Department

+3 days

Narong received approval from Vanuatu’s Financial Department and paid 25% of the fee

+6 days

Immigrant Invest’s lawyers submitted Narong’s application to the department dealing with the citizenship by investment program

+2 weeks

Narong received approval from the department and paid the remaining 75% of the fee

+1 week

Narong took the citizenship oath by video link

June 10, 2020

Narong received his certificate of naturalisation and a second passport

A new chapter in Narong’s life

Narong immediately registered a company in Vanuatu, entitling it to preferential tax treatment.

In July 2020, he received a response from the German Immigration Service confirming that he had been recognised as a political refugee and was issued a residence permit. He can freely enter and leave the country and live there at any time as long as the residence permit is valid.

In August, Narong travelled to the UK with his Vanuatu passport. He hired a team to work on his YouTube channel and met advertisers interested in his channel and his new team members. The family lived in Britain for four months using their Vanuatu passports.

From Britain, Narong returned to Germany. As a citizen of Vanuatu, he plans to apply for visas to the United States and Canada for 10 years to visit North America with his family.

The couple is also considering sending their son to study at a private school in the UK, as they now have such an opportunity. Moreover, as a Vanuatu citizen, the child will be able to obtain a student residence permit in Britain quickly.

However, the main advantage of the second citizenship for Narong and his family is the confidence in the future that it has given them. They no longer have to worry about being deported and can choose the country where they want to live. With Vanuatu passports, they can lead a cosmopolitan lifestyle and quickly move to another country in case of force majeure.

Information about all the opportunities that a Vanuatu passport offers, including Vanuatu visa-free countries, you can find in our article "Vanuatu citizenship: everything an investor needs to know".

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for government programs in the European Union and the Caribbean.

This case was provided by our expert

Lyle Julien

Investment programs expert

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