By Moustafa Daly
Malta’s newly launched visa for entrepreneurs and startup founders aims to attract talent and funds to the small EU island nation.
“The main motive for launching Malta’s Startup Residence Programme is to turn the country into a hub for startups & scale-ups, while giving upcoming entrepreneurs the opportunity to bring their ideas to Malta and having access to the European Union market,” says Jean-Philippe Chetcuti, founder and managing partner at Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates. The new visa is open to non-EU entrepreneurs seeking to set up their business operations in Malta, granting them a three-year residency visa that can be renewed for another five years.
In addition to increasing Malta’s business competitiveness amongst its EU peers, the Startup Residence Programme also aims to expand its tax revenue.
“The program is another step towards increasing Malta’s competitiveness in the area by providing a residence permit to founders, employees, and family members of the startup,” says Antoine Saliba Haig, senior lawyer at Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates. “Beneficiaries would need to be having a tangible presence in Malta including paying taxes here, thus increasing tax revenue to the island.”
What are the eligibility conditions for Malta’s startup visa?
Applicants must demonstrate their intention to launch a viable business or scale up an existing startup in Malta to qualify. Founders must be running a company registered within the preceding seven years. Also, the startups cannot be the result of a merger or the acquisition of another business.
The startup’s product or services must “have the potential to generate income from various geographical markets, and be new, innovative or substantially improved compared to [similar] products on the market,” says Haig.
The minimum investment amount to qualify for the visa is only €25,000, enabling four co-founders to apply for the startup visa. Any additional co-founder will result in an added cost of €10,000.
“The program is not open only to founders of the enterprise but also to co-founders, core employees, and their immediate family members,” Chetcuti explains. “They would all receive a Maltese residence card granting them the right to live in Malta and to travel within the Schengen Area without a visa.”
Malta or the EU must not have rejected the investors’ previous residence or citizenship applications. However, citizens of Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and Venezuela are not eligible to apply.
What advantages does Malta’s new investor visa offer to entrepreneurs?
Malta is particularly interested in attracting startups working within certain industries, including manufacturing, industrial services, software development, eco-startups, and biotech, among others, Chetcuti adds.
“Malta offers various competitive advantages, which have been attracting private individuals and businesses to move to Malta,” he says. “The country is a stable jurisdiction forming part of the European Union and is strategically located in the Mediterranean Sea, making it an ideal bridge between Europe and Africa. Malta is connected with daily air/sea links and logistics transshipments to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.”
Both professionals agree that Malta’s other main advantages are that its official language is English, making it easier to conduct business with companies across the globe, and the existence of a skilled workforce.
“Startups can access a bilingual and skilled workforce giving enterprises the required administrative and operational support. The country also boasts a pro-business environment with a number of government entities in place to support businesses with incentives and European Union funded opportunities,” Haig highlights.
Chetcuti also views Malta’s ‘transparent and competitive’ tax system as another factor to Malta’s startup visa advantage.
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