...access to a Comoros passport grants access to 58 countries visa-free or visa-on-arrival."
Where is Comoros?
Comoros, a tiny, fragrant, post-colonial island nation off the east coast of continental Africa is famous for being the world’s top producer of ylang-ylang and the world’s second-largest producer of vanilla (Madagascar is the world’s largest). Apart from being one of the world’s largest producers of cloves, vanilla and ylang-ylang, used in top perfumeries, Comoros is also known for the world’s most affordable citizenship-by-investment program.
Three of Comoros’ major islands gained independence from France, its former colonial ruler in 1975. Mayotte, the fourth major island continues as French territory. With ties to Islam dating back to the 7th century, Comoros is majority Sunni Muslim and its official languages are French, Comorian and Arabic. Comoros has an abundance of natural wonders and white beaches unspoilt by comparatively few tourists visiting each year.
Why would I want Comorian citizenship?
The Comoros citizenship-by-investment program is useful for foreigners needing convenient access to international banking and as a strategy against dire political and economic environments back home. At a price of USD 45,000 for an individual or about USD 85000 for an entire family, Comoros’ citizenship-by-investment program is the world's most affordable. It makes diversifying your economic and personal freedoms seem within reach. Better yet, there are no residency requirements when acquiring Comoros citizenship, nor are there any requirements to purchase or invest (unlike the economic citizenship programs of Dominica or St. Lucia).
That said, I would not recommend Comoros’ citizenship-by-investment program. Comoros granted citizenship to the stateless and disenfranchised Bidoon people in a deal brokered with the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. While that doesn’t make it bad per se, it’s the fact that the citizenship-by-investment program was scandalised and mired in corruption. Hundreds of millions of oil dollars paid to eliminate the Bidoon ‘problem’ were embezzled by successive Comoroni presidents instead of being invested in Comoros.
In January 2018, Comoros cancelled, without public notification of its reasons, passports purchased and issued to a handful of westerners and a sizeable number of Iranians subject to economic sanctions. Reuters reported that the U.S. government had implemented stringent checks on travellers using Comoros passports because it believed that Comoros hadn’t properly vetted purchasers of citizenship-by-investment. Can you trust a country with a record of poor governance, transparency and oversight over its citizenship-by-investment program?
Can I travel visa-free with a Comoros passport?
Overlooking the problems within the scheme, access to a Comoros passport grants access to 58 countries visa-free or visa-on-arrival. Those conducting international business might find this passport useful because of that access. Those countries according to the Henley Passport Index (in 2019) are:
Asia: Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Laos, the Philippines, Cambodia.
South America: Ecuador, Nicaragua, Panama
Carribean: St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Ranking at the lower end of the Henley Passport Index at 164th place, Comorians are required to apply for visas to all of Europe, and the majority of the Americas. Comorians need visas to access most of Africa. It is hoped however that Comoros' proximity to, and relationship with the African Union, will mean visa-free access to the African continent’s 55-member nations once the African Union Passport is rolled out (the timeline for this is 2020). It is hoped that the African Union Passport will facilitate the free movement of people within the continent, and encourage economic growth through intra-African commerce. (The Africa Visa Openness Index Report 2018 shows that Africans need visas to travel to 51% of other African countries (down from 54%).) Clearly, there’s a lot of work to do in Africa, let alone Comoros.
Comoros citizenship could bear fruit as an investment
Before writing off Comoros citizenship option altogether, investors should pay attention to Africa’s long-term investment prospects. On my Facebook page, I drew attention to a Financial Times article suggesting Africa, where two-thirds of the world's future growth will come from. There could be long term benefit from investments made, whether you are African or not.
How to apply for Comoros citizenship
For now, citizenship-by-investment sales are suspended. However if sales start again, using an agent will be the main gateway to the program. The program is a ‘donation’ to Comoros’ government agencies under the authority of the Ministry of Production, Environment, Energy, Industry and Crafts. Below is a list of general requirements.
Dual Nationality: There is no restriction on applicants.
Personal visit to Comoros is not required, and citizenship-by-investment paperwork can be finalised outside Comoros. Processing time generally takes four to eight weeks.