To start a business in Vanuatu as a foreigner, there is a very specific process to follow. We were introduced to the process by George Vasaris, a lawyer in Port Vila on our second trip to Vanuatu in May 2015. He handed us a Fact Sheet titled Business Start-up Regulatory Requirements for foreign Investors:
Step 1 Foreign Investment Approval – Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority (VIPA)
Step 2 Residence Permits – Immigration Department
Step 3 Work Permits – Department of Labor
Step 4 Company Incorporation – Vanuatu Financial Services Commission (VFSC)
Step 5 Business License – Department of Customs & Inland Revenue &/or Provincial Councils
Step 6 VAT registration – Department of Customs & Inland Revenue
Step 7 Employer registration – Vanuatu National Provident Fund
Back in Australia on the Gold Coast an internet search from this document led us to the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority website – http://www.investvanuatu.org/
This website was helpful to gain an understanding of what we were required to do.
Step 1 through 4 must be completed one at a time in the order indicated. Steps 5, 6 & 7 can be done concurrently.
Before our February 2016 visit we prepared the documentation to complete the:
Application for a VIPA Certificate of Approval by an Investor for a New Investment
In the first few days of our February 2016 visit, we met Gelpen Silas (Manager Certification) at the VIPA office in Port Vila. We reviewed with Gelpen the information we prepared for our application and made sure we had what was required. More importantly though, we wanted to check with Gelpen that we had selected the correct “Intended investment categories and business activities” (Section 3 of the application). This was important, certain business activities have been defined as “reserved” under the VIPA Act. These activities are reserved solely for Vanuatu citizens, and as a foreign investor we are not permitted to involve ourselves in any of these activities.
The VIPA application contained certain key requirements:
- Statutory declaration confirming the contents of the application are true and correct
- Copy of business name reservation with VFSC
- Copy of passport ID pages for each investor
- Copy of police clearance for each investor intending to reside in Vanuatu
- Business Summary including:
- Plan for training Ni-Van (local) workers
- Three year profitability projection
- 3 year cash flow projection
By Thursday 11 February 2015 we had all the information required to submit the VIPA application for approval. The application fee was VT120,000 (AUD$1,500). Once paid we received our receipt, and recorded the moment with a photo.
We were excited to have this step completed in our transition from life in Australia to starting a new business and life in Vanuatu – in a third world country!
It can take up to 15 days for the application to be reviewed, discussed by the VIPA committee and approved.
Now we wait … in anticipation of VIPA’s verdict. Will VIPA accept our project at Mangaliliu on the island of EFATE in Vanuatu, and will VIPA understand how our project will raise the welfare of the people of Vanuatu!