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Switzerland Suspends Visa-Free Travel for Vanuatu Citizens Until February 2023

Switzerland has decided to no longer permit to enter the country visa-free Vanuatu citizens whose passports were issued on or after May 25, 2015.

The decision has been taken on June 10, 2022, during a meeting of the Federal Council, according to a prior decision of the European Union’s Council to partially call off the visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu taken in early March upon an evaluation of the EU that Vanuatu’s investor citizenship programs, also known as Golden passports, bring risk to the EU countries.

In a press release issued by the Federal Department of Justice and Police, which functions within the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), those with passports issued before May 25, 2015, are not affected by the decision.

The EU has decided to temporarily suspend the visa exemption for nationals of Vanuatu. The reason is that the number of passports issued as part of the “Citizenship-by-Investment” program in Vanuatu has increased significantly since 2015,” the press release points out.

It further explains that the visa-free travel arrangement between the EU and Vanuatu has been effective since May 28, 2015. Since then, the number of Vanuatuan passports granted to citizens of third countries that still do not have a visa-free travel agreement in place, who make a minimal investment in the country, has sharply increased.

According to EU and Swiss authorities, Vanuatu has been granting passports to foreigners without proper security clearance, and the same persons may represent a risk to public order and internal security in the Schengen area, given that as new citizens of Vanuatu, they have also been permitted to enter the Schengen Area visa-free, up until now.
The temporary suspension is expected to last until February 3, 2023,” the press release reads.

In March, when the EU Council published its decision to suspend the visa-free travel agreement with Vanuatu, it highlighted that in many cases, authorities in Vanuatu had granted citizenship to applicants who were listed in Interpol databases.

The Council also claims that applications were quickly processed without security checks, and those who obtained Vanuatu golden passports were not obliged to be physically present on the South Pacific Ocean Island.

The proposal for the partial suspension of the visa waiver agreement with Vanuatu was first presented by the EU Commission in January this year.

The EU authorities had previously warned Vanuatu that the way it managed citizenship-by-investment schemes would put in jeopardy its visa-free agreement with the Schengen countries. While at first, the Vanuatu authorities took the warning seriously and pledged to work on it, they later introduced a new citizenship scheme in April 2021.

The EU has also urged its Member States operating Golden passports to put them to an end, calling the schemes “objectionable ethically, legally and economically.” In February 2022, Rapporteur Sophia in ‘t Veld had even called the schemes “a cynical business” that was putting EU security at risk.

Source: Schengen Visa News


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