UPDATE: Since the publication of this article Vanuatu’s citizenship office has denied that it accepts bitcoin for its citizenship program, as reported in the Vila Times.
The South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has become host to the world’s first government to accept bitcoin in exchange for citizenship. Vanuatu’s citizenship program costs $200,000 USD, meaning that at current prices the residency program costs less than 41.5 bitcoins.
Vanuatu Has Become the First Nation to Accept Bitcoin as Payment for Its Citizenship Program
As Vanuatu is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the citizenship program grants visa-free travel to over 100 countries, including much of Europe.
The chairman of the Vanuatu Information Centre (VIC), Geoffrey Bond, has stated that “the Government of Vanuatu has explicitly expressed a desire to be at the forefront of adopting new technologies, officially encouraging the VIC to receive payments in bitcoin. Bond states that “in addition to the normal due diligence probity checks that are required to obtain Vanuatu Citizenship, all bitcoin transactions will be run through our partner’s Australian Exchange and meet with the normal compliance requirements imposed by the Australian Financial Regulator.”
Christian Nesheim, an investment migration specialist who advised the Vanuatu government, has described the decision as giving Vanuatu “a considerable competitive advantage in the citizenship market”.
Nesheim describes a growing demographic of early bitcoin investors who “would like to realize some of their earnings without incurring large capital gains taxes.” Nesheim suggests that many of these investors would seek to “convert their cryptocurrency into tangible assets in a low-tax jurisdiction”, however, states that “the asset classes available to this type of investor have been limited… As Vanuatu will now be the only country to offer citizenship for bitcoins, I think the program will see a surge in interest more or less immediately.”
The managing director of the VIC, James Harris, has addressed “suspicions surrounding the use of cryptocurrency in financial transactions” including “fears that it can be related to undesirable activities.” Harris dismisses said concerns, stating the “the opposite is true, as crypto-currency exists in a fully traceable ledger where the entire history of its creation and trading is visible.” Harris described Vanuatu’s acceptance of the cryptocurrency as comprising a “further strengthening of [Anti-Money Laundering] processes” pertaining to bitcoin.
Vanuatu’s Move Comes at a Time of Increasing Growth Within the Global Immigration by Investment Sector
The international immigration by investment industry is currently estimated to be worth more than $2 billion USD annually. Earlier this year, the government of Thailand started offering “elite” residency programs to foreign citizens through the Thailand Privilege Card Company Limited – a subsidiary entirely owned by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Thailand is reported to currently offer seven different citizenship packages, including the “Elite Ultimate Privilege” program that grants 20 years of residency in exchange for $60,000 USD and a $600 USD annual membership fee. Business Insider claims to have learned from an anonymous source that the citizenship “program of Cyprus, which requires a €2 million investment in the country in return for citizenship and access to the other 27 European Union countries, earns as much as €4 billion a year, or around 25% of its GDP.”
Dominic Volek, head of the citizenship consultancy firm Southeast Asia for Henley & Partners, states that “there has been a sharp increase worldwide in the number of individuals wanting to acquire a beneficial second or third residence or citizenship to globalize their family’s opportunities and expand their business interests in a changing and uncertain world”, concluding that “more and more governments are seeing these programs as an innovative way of driving economic growth.”
Do you think that more nations will follow the lead of Vanuatu and accept bitcoin as payment for immigration by investment? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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