Cryptocurrency's value continues to rise, and as the 'virtual money' expands in popularity, more people around the globe accept it in place of cash. However, the global leaders in accepting Bitcoin for currency might not be who one would expect. A tiny island nation in the South Pacific will let you live out your international expat dreams for the price of 44 bitcoin.
Vanuatu, a 'neighbor' to Fiji (despite being over 700 miles / 1,126 km away), will grant full citizenship to anyone willing to pay the price. The cost is technically listed at $200,000; however, it's the first country in the world to accept cryptocurrency as payment for citizenship. As of this writing, Bitcoin's value sits at a little over $4,500. With quick math, citizenship to one of the most stunning islands in the world is just short of 44 bitcoin.
"This is a significant step forward in our efforts, working with the Government of Vanuatu to propel the Vanuatu DSP to the forefront of CIPs globally," said James Harris, Managing Director of the Vanuatu Information Centre Network.
The island hopes to dispel fears associated with the currencies
Island officials acknowledged that cryptocurrencies have yet to break into the public sphere. Currencies like Bitcoin have often been associated with anonymity and illegal activities like drug trade. Financial leaders -- especially chairmen of large banks -- have dissuaded investors from considering cryptocurrencies. South Korea and China recently instated their own strict Bitcoin exchange policies.
Harris noted that the island hopes to dispel fears associated with the currencies. He added, “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. Therefore, our pioneering of the use of Bitcoin payment is a further strengthening of AML processes, and at the same time provides enormous flexibility in a world where international financial transactions have become ever more difficult."
Like many other tourist destinations, Vanuatu has struggled financially over the years. However, its most recent threat came from an active volcano in the area. Over 11,000 residents from the Ambae Island region were evacuated in late September. The area is heavily studied by both seismologists and volcanologists, and officials and travel agencies alike assure people that it's one of the most beautiful spots in the world.
Immigration specialists also hope that the move will turn tourists into citizens.
"I’m convinced Vanuatu’s bold move will give them a considerable competitive advantage in the citizenship market," said Christian Nesheim, an investment migration specialist who advised the VIC and the Vanuatu Government on Bitcoin adoption. "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.
"So far, the asset classes available to this type of investor have been limited, but we are now seeing an increasing number of crypto-to-real-assets type investments on offer. 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."