Malta Changes its Migration Legislation
Though the incredibly popular Malta Individual Investor Program is no longer available, the Maltese government offers foreign investors other routes to gaining the island’s passport. At the end of 2020, new regulations came into force, making it possible to obtain citizenship after one or three years of residence in Malta through the newly established citizenship by naturalisation for exceptional services. The residence by investment program (MRVP), however, has also undergone major changes ― government bond purchase was excluded and the amount of contribution increased.
The government of Malta amended the current legislation having introduced a new program of granting the country’s citizenship by investment ― in exchange for exceptional services by direct investment. The corresponding law, entitled the Granting of Citizenship for Exceptional Services Regulations, 2020, was published on the official government website and came into effect on 20 November 2020.
To be eligible for Maltese citizenship, applicants are required to have held a residence permit of Malta for a certain period and make a range of investments to support the country’s economy. Among them are a non-refundable contribution to the Government Fund, real estate purchase or leasing, and charitable donation in the amount of €10,000.
The minimum contribution threshold depends on how soon it is planned to apply for citizenship ― in one or three years after the residence permit has been granted. If an applicant qualifies for citizenship after a year of residence in Malta, he / she has to make a contribution of at least €750,000. In case an applicant plans to gain citizenship after three years of residence, the minimum amount of investment is lowered to €600,000.
In order to qualify for citizenship, applicants are also obliged to purchase real estate valued no less than €700,000. An alternative for purchasing property is property leasing for a minimum period of 5 years, with the annual cost starting from €16,000.
Besides being a Maltese resident and making the necessary investments, applicants will have to meet another requirement ― going through the newly established eligibility assessment (similar to the previous due diligence check). This implies reporting on the source of income and providing the confirmation of their legitimacy. The procedure has become even stricter than before, as Malta aims to eliminate risks of money-laundering, terrorism funding and other potential risks. This procedure is a four-step process regulated by the Maltese government. It consists of a compound due diligence assessment and an internal assessment using a newly developed Risk Matrix, which has been designed to ensure that applications are properly examined and assessed with transparency and consistency. It comprises seven categories evaluating identification and verification; business and corporate affiliations; politically exposed persons; source of funds and wealth; reputation; legal and regulatory matters; and relative impact on the main applicant’s immediate network. The fees paid under eligibility assessment are €15,000 for the main applicant and €10,000 for each dependant.
As for dependants who may qualify for Maltese citizenship, the following family members can be included in the application:
- Spouse of the main applicant;
- Children of the main applicant or his / her spouse below 29 years old (if children are of legal age, they must be unmarried and financially dependent on the main applicant);
- Parents and grandparents of the main applicant or his / her spouse above 55 years old, financially dependent on the main applicant.
It is also worth mentioning that, within the new legislation, the number of applications to be approved is limited to total 1,500, with no more than 400 successful applications per year.
The launch of citizenship for exceptional services program is not the only initiative introduced by the Maltese authorities. The beginning of 2021 was marked by major changes in the Malta Residency Visa Program (MRVP), is new name is the Malta Permanent Residence Programme (MPRP). On 18 January new investment terms were announced. MPRP is expected to replace MRVP over the coming weeks, subject to the Maltese Parliament approval.
Previously, the program included three necessary investment directions: government bond acquisition, real estate purchase or leasing, and a non-refundable contribution into the government fund. Now such an option as purchase of government bonds has been removed while a new requirement has appeared. Applicants have to contribute €2,000 to “local, registered philanthropic, cultural, sport, scientific, animal welfare or artistic NGO registered with the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations”.
The minimum fees for property investment have been raised ― from €270,000 to €300,000 for the real estate purchased in the south of Malta and Gozo, and from €320,000 to €350,000 in central and northern parts of Malta. The non-refundable contribution amount has also been changed, becoming €28,000 for those who choose to purchase property and €58,000 for those who prefer leasing.
There is a range of other alterations concerning restructuring of citizenship and immigration service bodies and agent activities. The Malta Individual Investor Agency, which ran the previous citizenship program of Malta (IIP) until the end of last September, has been closed, and a new agency, named the Community Malta Agency, has been established instead. The new entity will handle all citizenship-related matters.
* Licence Number: AKM-AGEN-21