10.23.2019

Why do so many countries around the world sell their passports?

You can be born with it. You can achieve it with your hard work and you can lose it. And now you can invest and make it your own.

They say 'this is very unfair' and explain that where we were born, it has nothing to do with our capabilities or our abilities, but it is 'just luck'. He says, 'What is the problem with regard to citizenship as a member of [an organization]? And what's wrong with adopting these talented people who can play their part? '

Many people support this argument, but for many it is unacceptable that a passport should be considered a purchase item.

Researching the citizenship business, we arrived in Vanuatu, a small island in the Pacific. Since this country introduced its citizenship scheme four years ago, there has been tremendous interest. Passports are now the biggest source of revenue for the country's government.

One of the biggest benefits for Vanuatu's passports is getting rid of visa restrictions across Europe.


Most foreigners and people wishing to obtain a passport from this country never step here. Instead, they apply for citizenship at overseas offices, such as the PRG Consultant Office in Hong Kong.

This advisor is licensed to receive citizenship requests from the government of Vanuatu.

Hong Kong is the largest citizenship market in the world. We met an agent MJ at a cafe in Hong Kong Airport. He is a private businessman who helps Chinese citizens obtain second and even third passports.

He says of his clients, "They don't feel safe [in China]. They want access to Europe to open a bank account, buy a property or start a business.

Competition in the international market of citizenship is fierce and in many small countries, especially in the Caribbean region, passports are valued at up to $ 1.5 million. Vanuatu's passport is said to be similar.
How much does it cost to buy a passport?

Antigua and Barbuda: M1 million
St. Kitts and Nevis: $ 1.5 million
Montenegro: 4 744,000
Portugal:, 300,000,000
Spain: 000, 500,000
Bulgaria: 60 560,000
Malta: From $ 1 million
USA: Investing $ 500,000 to $ 1 million in a business that generates 10 jobs
UK: over 2.5 million
MJ said that Vanuatu's passport is available "very soon" (in your hand in just 30 days) and that is why it is popular among people. But Calvin and others warn that Vanuatu's bad reputation is due to corruption, so Henley & Partners and other companies are not deprived of Vanuatu's citizenship.

But still, the Chinese people are interested in it. Until a few years ago, Hong Kong TV channels featured attractive ads about Vanuatu's citizenship, which were frequently targeted by visitors from China's central region.
So, how many Chinese citizens actually go to Vanuatu after obtaining citizenship? MJ estimates that maybe one in 10.

Port Vila is also the capital of Vanuatu and a city full of contradictions. The roads here are often submerged and filled with potholes. You won't see the traffic lights anywhere, and the rush of roads is increasing due to the increasing number of bright cars.

It is one of the easiest taxing countries and has recently been blacklisted by the European Union on issues of transparency and corruption.

When this country gained independence in 1980, the people of that country, called Niu Vanuatu, were officially recognized as citizens. It was formerly called New Hebrides and was a joint government of France and Britain. Its inhabitants live on more than 80 island strips.

Less than 40 years ago, these people were without citizenship. And former Prime Minister Barack Saab is well aware of this fact.

Sitting in a hotel and casino on the main street of Port Vila, he says, 'I didn't have a passport until 1980. I had to travel to a newspaper in the UK and France. It was very shocking. '

Mr Saab says that selling Vanuatu's own citizenship is 'fraudulent' and points to an unknown Chinese investment in the region. "China has more money for us," he says angrily.
Mr Soup and others like him criticize Chinese investment and according to him, Chinese companies keep all the money while only the Chinese are employed.

Vanuatu is one of three countries in the world where women are completely out of politics, and its fully male-led government was not ready to talk to us about its citizenship program. But we met Bill Bunny, a government-appointed citizenship agent and shared his thoughts on the program.

"We have to look at Vanuatu in an international context," he says. Other countries also sell passports to earn. We don't have a lot of natural resources. Vanuatu is making a lot of money from this scheme. '

But the population here is mostly rural, and to them the policy introduced in 2015 is very controversial.

Ann Pakwa, a local population leader, takes us from a common village to a house with a ton of terraces. It can be reached in just 10 minutes from the capital shops and restaurants, but it feels like a different world.

The locals did not even see the money generated from the sale of the passport, Ann said, although it was promised that the scheme would rebuild the infrastructure and houses destroyed by Hurricane Palm in 2015.

She says, 'Our elders gave their lives for our freedom. Now people are getting the same passport we have, for only half a million dollars? Where is all this money? I think it should be closed. '

Susan, another woman in the same village, shows us a dirty well. "I want the government to tap us so that the kids can take a bath and get clean water."
Given the growing demand for the Chinese market, Dan McGarry, a local newspaper owner, says it is difficult to change policy in the near future.

According to Dean, 30% of household income now comes from passport sales.

"It's a big deal for a country like ours. But we have to ask ourselves, did we fight for it? Is it okay to sell the autonomy gained by fighting the highest bidder? '

This is a question that has to be considered not only in Vanuatu but also many other countries in this era of globalization.

But as Mr. Cullen of Hanley & Partners says, 'Citizenship through investment and investment transfer programs is a reflection of a world in which everything is more resilient than ever.'

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