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Malta Citizenship by Investment: Guide By Experts [2024]

Malta has become one of the most popular destinations in Europe for foreign investors and high net worth individuals seeking European citizenship. Located in the Mediterranean Sea south of Italy, Malta is a small but vibrant country that offers a high quality of life, business-friendly policies, and access to the European Union.

In recent years, Malta has introduced investment migration programs that provide a pathway for foreign nationals to obtain residency or citizenship in exchange for a substantial contribution and commitment to the country.

The Malta Individual Investor Program (MIIP), launched in 2014, allowed investors to directly acquire Maltese citizenship by making a significant contribution to the country’s National Development Fund. However, the MIIP was permanently closed in 2020 after reaching its cap of 1,800 applicants.

In November 2020, Malta introduced the new Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment program, also known as MEIN. This program replaced the previous direct citizenship route. However, it still offers a path to citizenship based on a rigorous naturalization process.

To qualify for Maltese citizenship under the new scheme, investors must first obtain Maltese residency through qualifying investments. After maintaining residency for a minimum of 12 or 36 months, applicants can then apply for citizenship through a process known as naturalization by exceptional investment.

While not technically citizenship by investment, the MEIN program provides a structured route for high net worth individuals to make a significant contribution to Malta and eventually acquire full citizenship rights after meeting the program’s requirements.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about the current Malta Citizenship by Investment Program, including:

  • Overview of Maltese citizenship by investment
  • Benefits of Maltese citizenship
  • Eligibility Criteria
  • Investment Requirements
  • Application Process
  • Due Diligence and Background Checks
  • Taxation Policy
  • Dual Citizenship Rules
  • Citizenship Timeline
  • Program Statistics and Outlook
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s start by looking at the basics of Malta’s investment migration program.

Malta Citizenship by Investment Overview

The Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment program, also referred to by its acronym MEIN, is the current active investment route to eventual Maltese citizenship.

It was launched in November 2020, after the previous direct citizenship program reached its application cap. The MEIN program is limited to a maximum of 400 successful applicants per year, with an overall cap of 1,500 total applicants.

The program is overseen by Identity Malta, the government agency responsible for immigration matters. All applications undergo a rigorous vetting process. This includes thorough background checks on the applicant’s source of funds and criminal/terrorism records.

While Malta does not offer direct citizenship in exchange for investment, the MEIN program provides a pathway to citizenship through a temporary residency permit leading to naturalization.

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The key steps are:

  1. Make a real estate investment to obtain a Maltese residence permit valid for 36 months.
  2. Reside in Malta for a minimum of 12 or 36 months.
  3. After fulfilling the residency requirements, apply for citizenship by making an exceptional direct investment (minimum €600,000-€750,000), making a charitable donation, and buying or leasing real estate.
  4. Pass due diligence and receive approval for citizenship through naturalization.
  5. Make the full investment, take the oath of allegiance and receive the naturalization certificate/Maltese passport.

The MEIN scheme is currently the only active route to eventual Maltese citizenship for foreign investors. The process involves a significant commitment through temporary residence leading to naturalization.

Now let’s look at the wide range of benefits that come with acquiring Maltese citizenship.

Benefits of Maltese Citizenship

Maltese citizenship offers a wide range of benefits beyond just visa-free travel or living in Malta. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Visa-free access to the European Union – As a full member state of the EU, Malta offers complete freedom of movement and right of residence throughout the European Union. Maltese passport holders can study, work, start a business or retire anywhere in the EU without immigration restrictions.
  • Visa-free travel to over 180 countries – The Maltese passport currently offers visa-free / visa-on-arrival access to over 180 countries and territories worldwide, including the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. It is ranked as the 8th most powerful passport worldwide in terms of freedom to travel.
  • Dual Citizenship – Malta allows dual citizenship, so investors can keep their current passport while also gaining EU citizenship rights through Malta’s investment program.
  • Generational Citizenship – Children and descendants born after an investor obtains Maltese citizenship are also eligible for citizenship by descent. Maltese citizenship can be passed on indefinitely to future generations.
  • High standard of living – Malta is an extremely safe, developed country offering a very high quality of life. The country ranks highly in the world for education, healthcare, infrastructure and governance.
  • Low Tax Rates – Although not a tax haven, Malta offers competitive tax rates for companies and high net worth individuals. Relocating tax residents also have access to favorable tax programs.
  • Residence in the Schengen Area – Malta’s membership in the Schengen Area allows extensive travel rights in Europe with no border or passport controls when moving between Schengen member states.
  • Access to Excellent Education – As EU citizens, Maltese nationals can study at top universities throughout Europe. Malta also has a world-class International School offering a globally recognized education.
  • Security and Political Stability – Malta has a very stable political climate and is an extremely safe country with very low crime rates, providing peace of mind for investors and their families.

Acquiring Maltese citizenship through investment provides investors with the incredibly valuable benefits of an EU passport, allowing for extensive privileges. Now let’s look at the application requirements.

Eligibility Criteria

The Maltese Citizenship Program has a strict set of eligibility requirements that must be met in order to qualify for citizenship through the investment process. These include:

  • Age – The principal applicant must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Criminal Record – The principal applicant and dependents must have a clean criminal record with no pending charges or convictions.
  • Health – Applicants must provide health screening results to show they are free of contagious diseases and in good health.
  • Residence – Principal applicant must hold a valid Maltese residence permit for at least 12 or 36 months prior to applying for citizenship.
  • Due Diligence – Thorough due diligence checks are carried out on all applicants. Any red flags may result in rejection.
  • Documents – All documents must be officially translated into English and apostilled/notarized.
  • Dependents – Spouses, children under 18, and dependent parents/grandparents over 55 may be included in an application.
  • Interview – Personal interviews may be required as part of the due diligence process.
  • Oath of Allegiance – The principal applicant and adult dependents must swear an oath of allegiance to Malta.

The Maltese authorities conduct extensive due diligence through background checks, source of funds checks, and public records searches to ensure that only applicants of the highest moral character are approved.

Let’s take a look at the investment requirements for the MEIN program.

Investment Requirements

The Maltese Citizenship by Investment Program has clearly defined investment criteria that must be met in order to be eligible for citizenship through the naturalization process. These are:

  • Real Estate Investment – Applicants must invest a minimum of €700,000 in the purchase of real estate or €16,000 annually in the lease of real estate. The property must be held for a minimum of 5 years.
  • Exceptional Direct Investment – The principal applicant must make a non-refundable direct investment of €600,000 (36-month residency) or €750,000 (12-month residency).
  • Philanthropic Donation – Applicants must donate a minimum of €10,000 to a registered Maltese charity or NGO.
  • Government Fees – Allow approximately €60,000-€80,000 for legal and due diligence fees required for processing through an agent.
  • Dependents – €50,000 additional direct investment required for each dependent applying for citizenship.
  • Residence Permit – Investors must first obtain a residence permit through the purchase of a property over €350,000 or the rental of a property over €12,000.

The total investment under the MEIN program starts at around €690,000 for the main applicant applying after 36 months of residence.

The real estate investment can be financed through a mortgage, but the direct investment and donation amounts must be paid in advance and in full by the applicant.

Now let’s go through the step-by-step application process under Malta’s investment migration program.

Malta Citizenship by Investment Application Process

The processing of citizenship applications under the Maltese investment program involves strict procedures and several stages. Here are the main steps:

Stage 1 – Residence Application

  • Purchase or lease a property that meets the minimum real estate investment requirements.
  • Submit a residence application through an approved agent such as a law firm.
  • Provide due diligence documents (police clearance, medical checks, proof of address, etc.)
  • Pass due diligence and background checks.
  • Obtain residency permit approval and identity card.
  • Maintain physical residence and investment property.

Stage 2 – Citizenship Application

  • After having resided for 12 or 36 months, apply for citizenship.
  • Submit all supporting documents (birth/marriage certificates, bank statements, etc.)
  • Make the exceptional investment of €600,000/€750,000 depending on the period of residence.
  • Donate €10,000 to a Maltese non-profit organization.
  • Complete the property purchase or long term lease.
  • Pass enhanced due diligence and background checks.
  • Receive approval in principle for citizenship.

Step 3 – Naturalization and Passport

  • Pay all outstanding fees and investments in full.
  • Take the Oath of Allegiance in Malta.
  • Receive Certificate of Naturalization.
  • Apply for and obtain Maltese passport.
  • Enjoy full Maltese citizenship for life.

The Maltese citizenship by investment process involves detailed procedures, significant investments and a commitment to reside in Malta before being approved for naturalization and a passport.

Let’s now explore the due diligence requirements.

Due Diligence Requirements

Malta has some of the most stringent due diligence processes of any residency or citizenship by investment program in the world.

The due diligence procedures have been enhanced in the new MEIN regulations and include several levels of screening:

  • Tier 1 – The accredited agent handling the application conducts KYC and background checks on the investor and his dependents.
  • Stage 2 – Identity Malta verifies the completeness of the application and collects any additional information/documents.
  • Stage 3 – Anti-money laundering specialists conduct bank account and asset verifications as well as worldwide criminal record checks through INTERPOL.
  • Step 4 – The results of steps 1-3 are consolidated and evaluated by a Risk Management Committee which makes a recommendation on the application.

Approximately 23% of applications to Malta are rejected during due diligence – one of the highest rejection rates. Reasons include inconsistencies, suspicious funds or undisclosed criminal records.

After citizenship, Identity Malta continues background checks on new citizens for 5 years. Citizenship can be revoked if an investor is found to have made false statements during the application process.

The due diligence process ensures that only applicants with legitimate sources of wealth who pass exhaustive checks are approved for Maltese citizenship.

Now let’s look at the taxation policy for Malta’s citizenship program.

Taxation Policy

Tax obligations after obtaining citizenship is a common question investors have about Malta.

Maltese tax laws are based on domicile and physical residence rather than citizenship. This means that merely having Maltese citizenship does not automatically make you a tax resident if you do not reside in Malta.

  • Non-residents – Individuals who do not reside in Malta for more than 183 days a year are not taxed in Malta on foreign source income. They only pay tax on income remitted to Malta.
  • New Residents – Individuals who become tax resident in Malta have access to preferential tax regimes for a period after taking up residence.
  • New Residents – New residents domiciled abroad can legally avoid paying tax on their non-Maltese income for over a decade if they do not remit any foreign income to Malta.
  • Tax Rates – The maximum income tax rate for residents is 35%. Certain types of foreign income are taxed at a flat rate of 15% when remitted to Malta.
  • Wealth / Inheritance Tax – No taxes are levied in Malta on worldwide assets, inheritance, gifts or estates.
  • Real Estate – A capital gains tax of 12% applies if a primary residence is sold within 3 years of purchase. No tax after 5 years.
  • Due Diligence – Investors will likely need to budget for around €60,000-€80,000 in total legal and due diligence fees.

Overall, Malta can offer a very advantageous tax exposure for new citizens, especially if they structure their affairs carefully and obtain specialist tax advice.

Now let’s look at Malta’s dual citizenship policy under the investment scheme.

Dual Citizenship

Another common concern of investors considering the Maltese citizenship program is whether dual citizenship is allowed.

The answer is yes – Malta formally allows its citizens to hold dual citizenship without any restrictions.

After acquiring Maltese citizenship, investors are not required to renounce their existing nationalities and may legally hold two or more passports.

However, applicants should be aware of the following:

– Dependents – Minor children also acquire Maltese citizenship and automatically acquire dual citizenship if they hold another passport.

– Other countries – While Malta allows dual citizenship, the investor’s country of origin may not. Some countries require the renunciation of the original citizenship when acquiring a foreign citizenship.

– Disclosures – The holding of a second passport must be disclosed in certain jurisdictions when opening bank accounts, paying taxes, etc.

– Visa Applications – When traveling, the general rule is to use the passport of the country you are visiting to avoid questioning.

– Politically Sensitive – There may be risks in holding certain passport combinations that may trigger additional scrutiny.

With proper structuring and advice, virtually anyone can legally hold dual or even triple citizenship through Malta’s investment program.

Now let’s look at the timeline for acquiring citizenship under the MALTA regulations.

Maltese Citizenship Timeline

Depending on the amount of investment and length of stay, the overall process for obtaining citizenship through the Maltese residency program can take between 12 and 36 months:

  • Preparation (2 months) – Assemble documents, complete property purchase and engage necessary professionals to prepare application.
  • Residency (6-12 months) – Submit application, undergo due diligence and obtain residency permit.
  • Temporary Residence (12-36 months) – Maintain physical residence in Malta in accordance with program rules.
  • Citizenship Application (4-6 months) – After meeting residency requirements, apply for citizenship, submit documents, undergo checks.
  • Approval and Investment (1-2 months) – Receive approval in principle, make full investment and pay all fees.
  • Naturalization (1-2 months) – Take oath of allegiance, receive naturalization certificate, apply for and receive passport.

The entire process can realistically take 12-18 months for high net worth individuals who qualify for the accelerated 12 month residency period. Slower timelines of up to 3 years apply. This depends on the amount of investment and the length of residency.

Now let’s look at the application statistics and trends under Malta’s updated investment migration regulations.

Program Statistics and Outlook

Some key facts and figures about Malta’s MEIN Citizenship Program:

  • Limited to 400 approvals per year, with a lifetime cap of 1,500 total new citizens.
  • Received over 200 applications in 2021 after the new rules came into effect.
  • Granted citizenship to 137 applicants in 2021, with a denial rate of approximately 20%.
  • Generated over €200 million in foreign investment in 2021 under MEIN.
  • Applications expected to increase to 300+ per year over the next 5 years due to rigorous due diligence.
  • Significant and growing interest from the Middle East, China, Russia, India, South Africa.
  • Strong reputation with continued EU support under strict vetting procedures.
  • Program expected to remain active for the foreseeable future with possible increase in investment requirements.

Malta’s citizenship program remains a highly exclusive option with intensive vetting. Although limited in scope, it continues to attract growing interest from foreign investors seeking European citizenship.

Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about Malta’s investment migration program.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the Maltese citizenship by investment scheme:

How much does it cost to obtain Maltese citizenship?

The total investment cost for the main applicant is approximately €690,000 if applying after 36 months of residence or €800,000 after 12 months. Dependent fees are additional. Government and due diligence fees are also around €60,000-€80,000.

How long does it take to become a Maltese citizen?

The whole process takes between 12-36 months from start to finish. The accelerated route can lead to citizenship within 12-18 months, while the standard route takes around 36 months.

Does Malta allow dual citizenship?

Yes, Malta allows dual citizenship, allowing investors to hold a Maltese passport in addition to their existing nationality. However, the laws of the investor’s current country apply to dual citizenship.

Do I have to live in Malta to qualify for citizenship?

Yes, you must hold a valid Maltese temporary residence permit and reside in Malta for at least 12 or 36 months before qualifying for citizenship through the naturalization process.

What due diligence is required for Maltese citizenship?

Malta has a 4-step due diligence process which includes background checks, INTERPOL checks, bank account checks and cross-checking of all documents and information provided. Approximately 20-25% of applicants are rejected.

Is the Maltese passport a good investment?

The Maltese passport offers extensive benefits as a Tier 1 EU passport, allowing visa-free travel, residence/working rights throughout the EU and inheritance.

Does Malta publish the names of citizens who acquire citizenship through investment?

Yes, Malta publishes the names of all persons who acquire citizenship through naturalization in the Government Gazette on an annual basis. This includes those who acquire citizenship through the Investment Scheme.

What are the requirements for renewing a Maltese citizenship acquired through investment?

Maltese citizenship acquired through naturalization is permanent, so there is no need to renew it. However, due diligence is ongoing and citizenship can be revoked if residency requirements are not met or false information is provided.

Can I buy property in Malta to apply for citizenship without living there?

No, before you can qualify for citizenship through the naturalization process, you must hold a valid Maltese temporary residence permit and reside in Malta for at least 12 or 36 months.

Does Maltese citizenship confer any special privileges?

Apart from EU citizenship rights, a Maltese passport does not confer any special privileges within the country itself. Maltese citizens have the same rights regardless of how citizenship was acquired.

Can I get a Maltese passport for my foreign born children?

Yes, minor children can be included in a parent’s application for citizenship. Once the parent obtains Maltese citizenship, any children born after that date automatically obtain citizenship by descent.

What happens if my citizenship application is rejected?

Your property investment and government fees, excluding due diligence fees, may be refunded if your citizenship application is rejected. Legal advice should be sought.

How long can I keep my existing citizenship if I become a Maltese citizen?

There is no time limit – Malta allows dual citizenship so you can keep your existing nationality indefinitely along with acquiring Maltese citizenship.

Is the investment amount fixed or can it change in the future?

The program rules state that the investment for residency and citizenship can be changed in the future. The amounts have increased since inception and may increase further.

Can I invest in the Maltese citizenship program using bitcoin or cryptocurrency?

No, cryptocurrency is not accepted for any investment under the Maltese citizenship by investment program. All funds must be verifiable through conventional banks.

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