Business 10 October 2017

Jasmine Solana

Vanuatu starts accepting Bitcoin for citizenship, and it’ll only cost you 41 BTC

Looking for a new citizenship and have some BTC (Bitcoin) to spare? Vanuatu is now offering full citizenship in exchange for US$200,000, or a little over 41 Bitcoin at current market prices.

The Pacific island nation recently launched its Development Support Program (DSP), which allows foreigners to avail of the Vanuatuan citizenship through a one-time payment either in U.S. dollars or its cryptocurrency equivalent, Newsweek reported. This makes Vanuatu the first country to accept payments made in digital currencies—Bitcoin, in this case—in exchange for citizenship.

And with BTC currently trading at $4,800, the program would cause anyone interested slightly more than 41 Bitcoin.

According to the Vanuatu Information Centre (VIC), Bitcoin transactions for the citizenship program are required to go through an Australian cryptocurrency exchange that will comply with the financial regulations in Australia. VIC Chairman Geoffrey Bond said the citizenship program is part of the island nation’s bid to take the lead in the adoption of new technologies worldwide.

“While attempts have been made in the past to effect payments for citizenship by investment programs via Bitcoin, these efforts never had the political stamp of approval and were shut down as a consequence,” Bond said, according to the news outlet. “In this case, 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.

A Vanuatu citizenship will allow its holder visa-free travel to 113 other countries, including European Union states, Russia and the United Kingdom. This is because the Pacific island is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, which is an intergovernmental organization of 52 member states, including former British colonies. Aside from visa-free travel, Vanuatu is also dangling tax and investment incentives as part of the citizenship program.

Christian Nesheim, investment migration specialist and advisor to the VIC, expects to see “a surge in interest more or less immediately.”

“Many early investors in Bitcoin would like to realize some of their earnings without incurring large capital gains taxes. Ideally, then, they would convert their cryptocurrency into tangible assets in a low-tax jurisdiction,” Nesheim said in a statement.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.

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