LONDON — The South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu will accept payments in Bitcoin for its $US200,000 citizenship program, becoming the first country to accept the cryptocurrency in return for citizen status.
Bitcoin is trading at $US4,581 at current market rates, meaning Vanuatu’s citizenship by investment program would cost around 43.64 bitcoin.
Vanuatu is a member of the Commonwealth and citizenship provides visa-free travel to 113 countries including the UK, Russia and European Union states.
Vanuatu also advertises its low taxes for citizenship buyers, offering a second passport in a country that levies no capital gains or income taxes.
James Harris, managing director of the Vanuatu Information Centre Network said: “There remains some suspicion surrounding the use of crypto-currency in financial transactions, and some fears that it can be related to undesirable activities.
“In fact, the opposite is true, as crypto-currency exists in a fully traceable ledger where the entire history of its creation and trading is visible,” he said.
The multi-billion dollar investment migration industry, which sees governments offering visas and citizenship to people in return for investments in local businesses and property, has boomed amid increased global uncertainty over borders and immigration.
Earlier this year, the Thai government started offering “elite” residency visas for wealthy foreign citizens, allowing them to live in the country for around $US3,000 (£2,403) a year.
There are seven different packages, with the most expensive being the “Elite Ultimate Privilege” scheme. It costs $US60,000 for 20 years residency, along with a $US600 a year membership fee.
Included in the price is a state-sponsored concierge programme, entitling members to VIP access to government agencies dealing with immigration, driving licences, and work permits.
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