It’s easy to become a citizen of Vanuatu without leaving your house and unlock visa-free travel all over the world. Before the pandemic it was necessary to give the Oath of Allegiance to Vanuatu in front of the Commissioner of Oaths either in Vanuatu or abroad, nowadays it is possible to become a citizen of this Pacific country and give the oath via Zoom.

Mostly, investors participate in citizenship programs in Caribbean and Pacific countries for visa-free travel and investment returns. Even though countries like Vanuatu can offer a luxury paradise-like lifestyle, their remoteness is often treated as a disadvantage. Not a lot of wealthy individuals are ready to live that far away from the Western countries. But some of them are, including one of Astons’ clients, Robert J.

Robert is 42. He is married and has three young kids, ages 1 to 4. He was born in one of the ex-USSR countries and bears a ‘weak’ passport — the one with a limited number of visa-free countries, and the one that usually leads to prolonged security checks on the border.

He had been thinking about another citizenship for a while and was leaning towards the UK’s Tier 1 Investor Visa. But it seemed like an impossible task as he couldn’t find an immigration company he could trust: most of them seemed too shady and promised too much, but backed off after hearing about Robert’s Uzbekistan citizenship even though there’s not a single rule or law that prohibits Uzbeks from participating in Tier 1 Investor visa program.

“It felt like these companies wanted easy money and easy clients. And I wanted personal approach and attention to details as I didn’t want to mark my reputation with a visa refusal”, says Robert.

Then the pandemic came.

Last spring Robert got stuck in Russia while his wife and kids were on holiday on the Canary Islands. He couldn’t leave the country due to coronavirus restrictions and was looking jealously at his friends with second citizenship.

One of his friends suggested Robert look into the citizenship programs at Astons, where he got his St. Kitts & Nevis citizenship.

‘I don’t know what I need, but here’s what I want’

Robert was frustrated by COVID-19, pandemic restrictions, the failure to contain the disease and a sudden realisation that he could be cut from his dearest ones in a moment just because of the ‘wrong’ passport. He wasn’t sure if he needed to move to Britain right now, or any time in future, as he had to pay more attention to his business in the age of pandemic and restructure his investment portfolio.

‘I don’t know what I need, but here’s what I want. I want to invest money and get a second citizenship with visa-free access to Europe and the UK. My investment should be profitable, so it’s better to buy real estate. If it’s an exotic country, I don’t mind, and I’m even happy to travel there’, said Robert during his first consultation with Astons.

Many various options may fulfil these requirements, including the citizenship program of Malta (the priciest option), but Robert wasn’t sure if he wanted to invest up to 1.4 million euros in Malta’s citizenship program, and he heard something negative about it from the press, so it was off the table.

Instead, Robert was presented with a vast portfolio of investment projects in the Caribbean and Vanuatu. At first, he was leaning towards the usual choices for investors, apartments in five-star hotels in St. Kitts & Nevis. Mostly, these apartments are bought only for citizenship by investment programs – investors rent them out for profit.

One of the properties in the portfolio was nothing like that.

It was a fully furnished villa for a big family just next to the beach in Vanuatu. A paradise-like picture of the villa caught Robert’s eye, and he realised that it was exactly what he wanted: a nice place somewhere far away from the busy world to recharge, raise kids until they were ready for school and concentrate on family life while maintaining his investments.

But Robert wasn’t ready to go for it yet. He said that he would think about these options and dive deeper into his business affairs. After all, it was still Spring 2020, and nobody wanted to believe that the pandemic would last more than a couple of months.

‘I’m ready. Get me away from here’

Robert called Astons again in October 2020. It was a different world then.

He was with his family, border closures became an annoying reality, and quarantines and constant PCR tests too. Robert’s business was in the stage of restructuring, all the deals were on pause until better times. He finally got some time to spend time with the kids.

He and his wife talked more and more about spending a couple years by the sea, focusing on their family and living an easy life without fuss, and, what’s more important, without dealing with ever-changing coronavirus issues daily.

The villa in Vanuatu seemed like a perfect solution, but Robert was afraid that it was long gone. Still, he decided to ask if Astons had anything similar. He got lucky: this particular villa was still on the market waiting for him. The whole deal took a couple of months to finalize and one more month to prepare the property for new owners.

Astons took care of everything, Robert just had to provide copies of a few documents via e-mail. As soon as his application for Vanuatu citizenship for the whole family was approved, Robert, his wife and kids packed their bags and moved to Vanuatu for their new life.

Robert doesn’t plan to spend his whole life in Vanuatu, it’s simply not practical for the kids. They won’t be able to get a world-class education here. But there are not many places in the world better than Vanuatu for a break from busy modern life that may take a year, or two, or just a few months. In the end, it’s always possible to get the investment back and sell the villa while retaining the citizenship.