The introduction of a new route for the acquisition of Maltese citizenship through an investment scheme was instigated by the recognition of a significant international interest in investment migration. The Individual Investor Programme, currently capped at 1,800 successful applications, allows for foreign individuals and their families who are willing to contribute to the economic and social development of Malta to acquire citizenship by naturalisation. While this will undoubtedly continue to enhance the growth and transformation of Malta’s economy, the Prime Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat speaking in New York held that the scope of the Individual Investor Programme is talent and not money. Indeed, increasing Malta’s talent pool and global network would augment Malta’s competitiveness.
Who may apply
This scheme is available to foreigners over eighteen years of age and their family. Therefore the applicant may extend the application to his/her dependents. The main applicant’s spouse or an equivalent to such in a relationship having the same or a similar status to marriage, together with the child of the main applicant or his/her spouse who is below eighteen years of age may be included in the main applicant’s application. The law also considers the unmarried child of the main applicant or his/her spouse between the age of eighteen and twenty-six years of age and a parent or grandparent of the main applicant or his/her spouse above the age of fifty-five years as dependents, as long as they are wholly dependent on the main applicant. These may therefore also form part of the main applicant’s application.
Above all, it is pertinent that the Individual Investor Programme applicant is of reputable character and that inter alia he/she is not a threat to national security, public policy or public health. Unlike most of the countries that have adopted a similar programme, there is no language requirement or citizenship test in place. Additionally, the individual will not be asked to give up his or her citizenship of origin. In fact, multiple citizenship is allowed under the Maltese Citizenship Act.
Furthermore, the applicant must have resided in Malta for at least one year, albeit his family members are not subject to the same requirement. When compared to similar programmes in various jurisdictions, Malta has one of the shortest residency requirements. It is also noteworthy to mention that the law doesn’t stipulate the number of days one has to be physically present in Malta. However it is mandatory that one forges genuine links to the island.
Since this programme is investment based, applicants are required to make contributions which are used to build the National Development and Social Fund. A monetary contribution of €650,000 must be made by the main applicant. Additionally the spouse and every child aged under eighteen years must make a contribution of €25,000 each, while every unmarried financially dependent child aged between eighteen and twenty-six and every dependent adult aged over fifty-five are required to make a contribution of €50,000 each.
In addition, the applicant must also rent or acquire immovable property in Malta for at least five years at an annual rate of €16,000 or a value of €350,000 respectively. Liquid investments at a minimum of €150,000 in qualifying classes of bonds and/or stocks are also required. These must also be held for a minimum period of five years.
Applications for citizenship are to be submitted and processed exclusively by a government entity called Identity Malta. Applicants must be represented by a limited number of duly authorised accredited persons. These are professionals who are licensed by Identity Malta to handle the application of the individual.
Identity Malta will review applications on a case-by-case basis. The vetting and due diligence process is a rigorous one. Very broadly the types of checks carried out include public information tests, background verification reports and global government agency checks.
The application process is professional, non-discriminatory and a fast track procedure wherein residence will be granted immediately and the passports for the main applicant and his family are issued within one year of taking up residence in Malta.
Benefits of the IIP
Acquisition of Maltese citizenship grants the naturalised citizens-by-investment all the rights pertaining to Maltese citizens. Thereby the applicant and his family will be afforded full legal status as a Maltese National, a passport within one year and in the interim Schengen residence status, the right to freely live and work in Malta and visa-free travel to one hundred sixty-three countries amongst which are the European Member States, the USA, Switzerland and South Africa. Furthermore, acquisition of Maltese citizenship confers on the individual acquiring such citizenship, international mobility, employment mobility and residential mobility.
What sets the Maltese Individual Investment Programme scheme apart from others of its kind is the short legislative distance between investors and policy makers. This ensures that those who take decisions are accessible and makes the system a flexible one where the concerns of the investors can be dealt with individually.
What does Malta have to offer?
Malta’s strategic location in the center of the Mediterranean together with its competitive tax system and flight connections has turned Malta into an ever-growing international business hub.
Malta’s wonderful climate and beautiful seas render Malta an ideal place for high net worth individuals who wish to form a relationship with a country which boasts a stable political climate, low crime rate and a safe living environment. Its industry, tourism and financial sectors are highly developed, while its educational system and health services are outstanding. Furthermore, its highly qualified English speaking workforce guarantees an added value to any investment.
In 2014 Malta registered the highest economic growth in the European Union according to Eurostat statistics. According to the European Commission’s Spring 2015 economic forecast, Malta’s economic growth is projected to remain robust. It was also forecast that job creation and the unemployment rate are projected to outperform euro-area peers.
Since, Malta has been a member of the European Union since 2004 and part of the Euro Zone since 2008, this would give the applicants the opportunity to also become a European Union citizen together with the chance to avail of the second largest reserve currency in the world.
In conclusion, besides being the first citizenship programme in the European Union to be recognised by the European Commission, the Maltese Individual Investor programme has been very well received. From the commencement of this scheme in 2014 to date, a total of 573 people have applied to acquire Maltese citizenship, 65% of whom hailed from Russia and other countries which were part of the Soviet Union, 19% of whom hailed from Middle Eastern countries and nearly 13% of whom hailed from Asian countries, while applications have also been submitted by Africans, North and South Americans and Europeans.