By Kenneth Camilleri
A mixture of cultural history has molded the island of Malta’s identity. The Mediterranean nation continues to attract new cultures with its residency and citizenship programs. As a member of the European Union, the Schengen Area and the Commonwealth of Nations, the island of Malta offers unique benefits to investors. Investors from all over the globe, including high net worth individuals and their families, have relocated to the island’s shores as they look for a secure and stable jurisdiction to raise a family or set up a business.
The two distinct programs — the Malta Residency and Visa Program (MRVP) and the Malta citizenship-by-investment program, also known as the Malta Individual Investor Program (MIIP) — offer individuals a list of benefits, and each has its own set of application requirements. While the MRVP program allows applicants from outside the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland to acquire residency in Malta, the MIIP focuses on citizenship. Depending on investors’ personal objectives, situations and preferences, it is important to look into the different details of each program to see which is the right one.
Both the MRVP and the MIIP are in accordance with Maltese law. They set out the requirements for an investor to be accepted as either a resident or citizen. There is a strict four-tier due-diligence program for candidates and their family dependents that they must pass, making the difference as to whether an application is rejected or accepted. The due-diligence program is designed to filter the applications and assure that only individuals of good standing are permitted. The due-diligence program reviews pending court cases and will withdraw any already approved citizenships if found to have broken any of the due-diligence requirements. As part of the application process for each program, the candidates and their dependents must present a police certificate from Malta with a clean record, as well as certificates from their own country and any other country they have lived in for over six months in the last 10 years. Applicants will not be considered if they have a criminal record, are currently under investigation or are seen as a threat to security in any way. If the applicant has ever been refused entry into Malta or any other country that Malta provides visa-free access to, it is also a reason for an application to not move forward.
The Malta citizenship-by-investment program
The MIIP offers citizenship rights to applicants. It entitles successful applicants, and their direct dependents, with the right to reside in Malta, as well as free movement, the right to travel throughout Europe and the Schengen Zone, and visa-free access to more than 180 countries and destinations. The program also offers a fast-track option that offers a means of relocation in 12 months and residency within a fortnight of applying, which is not offered under the MRVP until the application is approved. Through the MIIP, Maltese citizenship can be acquired for the entire family unit. This includes a spouse, minors under 18 and dependents who are economically dependent on the main applicant (provided they are either children between the age of 18 and 26 and unmarried, or over the age of 55 for parents and grandparents.)
The MIIP program is only open to applicants over the age of 18. It requires a donation of 650,000 euros for the main applicant, 25,000 euros for the spouse and each dependent child, and 50,000 euros for every additional dependent. Applicants must also pay a 150,000-euro minimum in qualifying investment in bonds or shares that are kept for a minimum of five years. The requirements ask that the applicant purchase a qualifying property for a minimum of five years with a value of at least 350,000 euros or rent one for no less than 16,000 a year. They must also provide evidence of presence in Malta and valid health insurance. The minimum investment for the MIIP, therefore, amounts to 880,000 euros in total, excluding additional family members.
The Malta Residence and Visa Program
Similarly, the MRVP allows accepted applicants and their dependents the ability to live in Malta and travel within Europe and the Schengen Area. The application process for the MRVP program is even less than that of MIIP, with relocation being made available within a minimum of four months. While the MIIP limits the eligibility of adult dependents of the main applicant, the MRVP has no age limit.
Also applicable to candidates over the age of 18, the MRVP program requires that successful applicants pay a donation to the Maltese authorities of 30,000 euros and an additional 5,000 for each dependent who is not a spouse or dependent child. Applicants must also pay 250,000 euros worth of qualifying investments in bonds that are kept for a minimum of five years. The requirements ask that the applicant have a qualifying property for a minimum of five years with a value of at least 270,000 (or higher, depending on the location). Applicants can also rent property for no less than 10,000 a year, depending on the location, although no physical presence is necessary. They must also possess adequate health insurance.
Weighing your options
To date, the MIIP has granted foreign investors increased mobility, free quality health care across Malta and the European Union, and top educational opportunities for children, among other benefits. The MRVP has given successful applicants a fast-track opportunity to travel throughout Europe and the ability to reside indefinitely in Malta. Golden Visa holders have the right to work in Malta. Neither program is better than the other, but with benefits and requirements varying from one program to another, interested applicants can weigh their options to find which program best suits their needs.