EU Commission Proposes Permanent Schengen Visa for Vanuatu

EU Commission Proposes Permanent Schengen Visa for Vanuatu

The European Commission has proposed bringing back permanent visa requirements for citizens of Vanuatu who want to enter the Schengen Area.

This comes after a temporary suspension in May 2022 because of security concerns related to Vanuatu’s investor citizenship programs.

Commission proposes to withdraw visa-free travel

On May 31st, the Commission announced plans to make the visa requirement for Vanuatu nationals permanent after the current temporary suspension ends on August 3rd, 2024.

This proposal aims to address issues of irregular migration and security risks associated with visa-free travel, especially from citizenship by investment (CBI) programs like those in Vanuatu.

Since May 2022, the Commission has worked closely with Vanuatu authorities, assessing that the country’s investor citizenship schemes pose security risks to the European Union (EU) and its member states.

These risks include the potential of organized crime, money laundering, tax evasion, and corruption.

Legislative changes deemed insufficient

Although Vanuatu has made some legislative changes to address EU concerns, the Commission decided these changes were not enough to reduce the security risks from Vanuatu’s CBI programs.

Therefore, the Commission is now proposing to make the visa requirement permanent for people with Vanuatu passports.

Currently, under the temporary suspension, Vanuatu citizens need a visa for short stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period in the Schengen Area.

The new proposal would make this requirement permanent.

EU closely monitors visa-free agreements

The EU currently has visa waiver agreements with 64 countries, allowing their citizens to enter the Schengen zone without a visa for short visits.

However, the EU has faced problems with irregular migration and security issues from visa-free travel, including those related to investor citizenship schemes.

Margaritis Schinas, European Commission Vice-President, stated that while visa-free travel has many benefits, abusing these privileges can lead to their suspension to protect the EU from security threats.

Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson mentioned that the EU regularly checks visa-free agreements and acts against countries that misuse them.

In October 2023, the Commission proposed changing the Visa Suspension Mechanism to better address abuses, such as those related to CBI programs in visa-exempt countries.

Parliament and Council to decide

The final decision on whether to permanently require visas for Vanuatu citizens now depends on the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

They will review the Commission’s proposal in the coming months.

Since these institutions supported the initial temporary suspension, it seems likely they will also support making the change permanent.

In March, EU member state ambassadors agreed that running CBI programs is a valid reason to suspend visa-free agreements.

Vanuatu’s controversial CBI history

Concerns about Vanuatu’s CBI schemes have been around for a while.

In January 2022, the Commission first suggested partially suspending visa-free travel because of security risks from these programs.

This followed Vanuatu’s announcement in late 2021 about launching a third CBI option called the “Real Estate Option program” with a single master agent.

The EU put the partial suspension in place in March 2022. In February 2023, Vanuatu was given 18 more months to reform its CBI programs before possibly facing a full suspension of its visa waiver agreement with the Schengen Area.

Navigating Europe’s evolving travel landscape

The EU’s proposal to require visas for Vanuatu citizens might make travelers from other visa-exempt countries wonder about their own travel rules.

Although this change only affects Vanuatu passport holders, it shows the EU’s focus on security and possible changes to travel requirements.

Travelers from countries that currently do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Area should stay updated about upcoming changes, like the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) starting in mid-2025.

ETIAS will be a mandatory screening for travelers from visa-exempt nations to improve security in the Schengen zone.

It is important to know that ETIAS is not a visa but an electronic travel authorization. However, it will be required for many non-EU visitors to enter the Schengen Area.

Balancing openness and security

The proposal to require visas for Vanuatu citizens is part of the EU’s effort to address migration and security issues related to visa-free travel, especially concerns about investor citizenship programs.

While the EU wants to support global travel and attract talented people, it also needs to protect its borders and keep its member states safe.

The proposed changes to the Visa Suspension Mechanism will make it easier to suspend visa-free agreements if they are misused.

As the EU updates its immigration policies, it is important to see how these changes affect different travelers and immigrants, like students, digital nomads, investors, and families.

For example, the new ETIAS system will make travel smoother for some but add extra steps for others.

The EU aims to stay open and welcoming while ensuring security for its citizens and visitors.

Achieving this balance will need ongoing adjustments and cooperation between the EU, its member states, and international partners.

Vanuatu’s visa future uncertain

The EU’s proposal to permanently require visas for Vanuatu citizens shows its commitment to dealing with security threats from investor citizenship programs.

As this proposal moves forward, it will be important to see how Vanuatu responds and whether it will make more changes to its CBI programs.