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, where he was issued a temporary residence permit instead of a residence permit, which did not give him the right to travel outside the country.

Our client: opponent of Thai government
Narong, 42 years old
Blogger with a YouTube channel
Client's name and photograph changed
Vanuatu Citizenship: How Political Refugees Get Freedom to Travel around the World and Start Their Own Business

Immigrant Invest helped Narong start a new life. We helped him obtain a second citizenship by investment, which resulted in a stable future for him and his family. They were able to live in Britain and he started his own business.

Why Narong needed a second passport

Narong is 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 basic level. Therefore, when the Thai authorities began to harass him, he asked for political asylum from the German authorities. The German migration service issued him and his family a temporary residence permit.

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

Narong enjoyed living in Germany. However, the uncertainty of his migratory status was unsettling and restricted his freedom of movement: he lived under the constant 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 residence permit in Germany: the German migration service had been considering 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 had celebrated his fifth birthday in 2019, and he wanted to provide his child a secure future: he wanted his son to receive a good education to increase his chances of finding a worthwhile and interesting 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.

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.

Our client: opponent of Thai government
Narong’s primary goal is to ensure a stable future for his family

Obtaining the freedom to travel around the world. Obtaining 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.

The family had not seen their relatives who lived in Thailand since arriving in Germany. It was difficult to maintain relationships with friends as it was often difficult for them to visit Germany.

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

Opening his own company. Developing a YouTube channel is a challenge for an investor. The investor needs to form a legal entity in order 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 to wait 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’s lawyers to inquire about his chances of obtaining a second passport.

How we 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 in various citizenship by investment programs. Based on their assessment, our lawyers selected suitable programs.

Pavel Reshetnikov
Compliance department officer
Immigrant Invest Expert
Yulia Ostapenko
Lawyer specialising in international and economic rights

The preliminary check revealed a problem: Narong could not receive a no 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 in practice there were cases when refugees received citizenship by investment without a no criminal record certificate.

We knew the client’s history and were prepared for the difficulties of obtaining a second citizenship. In order for the investor 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, which confirms that Narong is a law-abiding person, to the affidavit.

Immigrant Invest Expert
Yulia Ostapenko
Head of the legal department of the Moscow office of Immigrant Invest

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. Their passports allow the holders to travel freely around the world, including 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.

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

Narong chose the option of making a contribution: this is the simplest and most inexpensive option. His plans did not include buying real estate in the Caribbean.

He chose the Vanuatu citizenship by investment program for four 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.

1 month
the minimum time to get a Vanuatu passport by investment

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

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

Contribution to the National Development Fund
Due Diligence check
Fee for issuing certificates of naturalization
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.

VAT rate in Vanuatu

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.

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

The preliminary Due Diligence is primarily carried out by the Vanuatu Finance Department. The authenticity of the documents submitted and the legality of the sources of the investor's income are checked.

Our lawyers attached the sources 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 the no criminal record certificate from Germany.

3 days
took Due Diligence carried out by Vanuatu’s Financial Department

Investing. Narong transferred the amount of the contribution 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 naturalization certificates and passports for himself and his family by courier.

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 naturalization and a second passport

A new chapter in Narong's life

Vanuatu citizenship for a visa-free entry in the UK

In Britain, Narong and his son rode the London Eye. From the top, they had panoramic views of the city covering up to 40 kilometers

Vanuatu citizenship for a visa-free travel to Europe

Narong and his family returned to live in Munich. He is no longer worried about the fact that their residence permit in Germany may not be extended, as the family can always move to another country of their choice using their Vanuatu passports

Vanuatu citizenship to obtain visa to Canada for 10 years

Narong wants to get a Canadian visa to visit Banff National Park in the province of Alberta

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 recognized 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 traveled to the UK with his Vanuatu passport. He hired a team to work on his YouTube channel, and also 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 are also considering sending their son to study at a private school in the UK, as they now they have such an opportunity. Moreover, as a Vanuatu citizen, the child will be able to quickly obtain a student residence permit in Britain.

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 in case of force majeure, quickly move to another country.

Information about all the opportunities that a Vanuatu passport offers, including Vanuatu visa free countries, can be found 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.

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Zlata Erlach

Caribbean Investment Program Expert

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Zlata Erlach

Caribbean Investment Program Expert

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