An international migration firm is being investigated for allegedly promoting access to the Vanuatu’s passports without the government’s authority, in the latest controversy to hit the country’s “citizenship-for-sale” program.
Vanuatu’s citizenship commissioner, Ronald Warsal, has placed Global-Migrate under investigation after access to the scheme was promoted by its Dubai office on the company’s website, and videos and pictures appeared on its Facebook page, showing apparently happy customers holding passports and even national ID cards.
Vanuatu runs citizenship-by-investment programs that allow foreign nationals to buy citizenship for US$130,000 for a single applicant, $80,000 of which goes directly to the government.
The programs have grown rapidly to become one of the Vanuatu government’s chief earners, as its budget bottom-line has been hurt by pandemic shutdowns. In the first six months of 2020, passport sales represented nearly half of Vanuatu’s total income.
But the programs have also attracted controversy, with reports of links to alleged cryptocurrency Ponzi schemes and citizenships being sold to people on Interpol wanted lists.
Income from the programs exceeded $115m in 2020, with more than 840 new citizenship applications granted. An average of 70 new applications were granted each month.
In a statement announcing the investigation in January, Warsal said the online advertisements by Global-Migrate of the government’s “development support programme” were “not unlawful in themselves”, but claimed they were a “distasteful representation of the program”. He said the company was not registered with the Vanuatu National Citizenship Commission or authorised to promote its citizenship program internationally.
“It is of vital importance that we retain our citizenship program for the benefit of Vanuatu … [the] commission has made it its priority to ensure that the program operational standards are raised, with better management and control.”
At the time of publication, Global-Migrate’s website was still promoting access to Vanuatu’s citizenship scheme online, saying “currently Vanuatu passport is the best option in the market due to its easy process, less documents requirement and quick processing time (60-90 days)”.
“The applicant does not need to travel to Vanuatu and there is no language test requirement. We guarantee the passport as long as you do not have any serious criminal convictions.”