Known for its scenic beauty, picturesque landscapes, luxurious lifestyle, and year-round pleasant climate, the tiny country of Malta is a tourist’s delight. Located in the heart of the Mediterranean, sandwiched between North Africa and Sicily, it serves as a gateway to mainland Europe.
A small archipelago, Malta boasts of a booming economy, efficient and world-class public services such as health care, free childcare, free education, and an EU-backed Citizenship and Residency program. This program, touted as one of the best in the world, is a rousing success due to many of the inherent advantages that a Maltese passport provides. According to the Global Passport Index 2019, the Maltese passport is ranked as the fourth strongest in the world, due to the fact that it allows visa-free travel to 124 countries and a further visa-on-arrival facility for 41 more countries. Plus, having a Maltese passport is a ticket to the 28 countries in the Schengen zone of the European Union along with Switzerland. A Maltese national possesses all the individual rights and liberties accorded to any citizen of other EU nations.
Many people, native to countries outside the EU region and Switzerland, thus, highly aspire to possess a Maltese passport for a variety of reasons ranging from business opportunities in Malta and the rest of Europe or for purely recreational reasons, or to enjoy a luxurious retirement! The advantages are many, and the applicants increasing manifold every year, hence, it’s natural that the Citizenship application process is clear cut, stringent and choosy when it comes to awarding candidates the priceless citizenship.
Malta Citizenship Department
The entire citizenship and residency application process is handled by the Department of Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs, Malta which is more commonly known as Identity Malta. It’s a department dedicated to servicing the needs of expatriates and is in charge of issuing passports, identity cards, travel, work, and residence permits, help in registration of land, title, and public deeds for the country’s non-citizens – be it citizenship hopefuls or expatriates.
Identity Malta, also known as the Maltese Citizenship Department, is in charge of the Individual Investment Programmes, the most common way for foreigners, without any kind of Maltese ancestry, to apply for Maltese citizenship. A candidate applying for Maltese citizenship needs to pay approximately €1.2 million in the process, through the payment of various fees, investment in the Malta National Development Fund, real estate investment, etc. The Maltese Citizenship Department is responsible for the administration and the efficient use of funds thus generated. For any expatriate, the Department of Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs, Malta is the most important Maltese institution that one needs to turn to for any kind of citizenship or residency-related matters.
The Department of Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs, Malta is responsible for receiving and processing residence applications of expatriates that are non-Maltese citizens intending to reside in Malta for longer than three months.
There are various ways to acquire Maltese citizenship, including by birth, by registration and by naturalization.
- Maltese Citizenship By Birth
As per the Maltese Citizenship Act, “you’re a citizen by birth if you were born in Malta before 21st September 1964, and at least one of your parents was also born in Malta;
you were born abroad but your father and a paternal grandparent were both born in Malta; and until 20th September 1964 you were still a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies.”
If someone is a citizen of Malta and is over eighteen years old, then that person can be a citizen of another country at the same time – while retaining their Maltese citizenship.
If a foreign government requires proof of a Maltese citizen’s national status, a certificate of Maltese citizenship can be issued. For this, the applicant has to produce the request from the authorities of the foreign country, along with a fee of €12.90.
Furthermore, the Malta Citizenship Department also requires the applicant to submit their:
- Birth certificate
- Identity card
- Father’s birth certificate
- Parents’ marriage certificate
- Maltese Citizenship By Registration
The following applicants qualify to apply for Maltese Citizenship by registration:
- If an applicant is the spouse to a Maltese citizen and has been married to them for at least five years. Moreover, on the date of the application, the person should still be married to and living with his/her Maltese spouse.
- If an applicant were/are married to a Maltese citizen at least five years, but on the date of the application, are separated de jure or de facto.
- If an applicant were married to a Maltese citizen and lived with them for at least five years up to their date of passing away.
- If an applicant were married to a citizen of Malta at the time of their death and would have stayed married to that person for five years on the date of the application but for the death of that person.
There are plenty of other conditions, which when met, could qualify an applicant to be granted a Maltese Citizenship.
- Maltese Citizenship By Naturalization
The Maltese Citizenship Act permits applicants to become a citizen of Malta by naturalization, by fulfilling the conditions of the given Act. In order for a foreign national to become a citizen of Malta through Naturalization, he/she will need to undergo the following processes and steps, which will also involve a stringent four-tier due diligence check. The steps are:
- Initial Checks
Firstly, the agent at the Department of Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs, Malta, checks if the applicant is eligible for the citizenship program. It is at this stage that most of the important and mandatory documents – the letter of engagement, Malta police clearance to name a few are prepared and produced. The regulator then performs the initial due diligence checks.
- Residency Permit
This is the stage where the candidate applies for a residency permit, after which he/she needs to fulfill the mandatory year-long residency stay in Malta. Once the applicant presents his/her biometrics, the person receives the Malta residence permit and card.
- Application Submission
Once the police have provided verification and approval for a candidate’s profile and background, and the strict due diligence process is completed, it is finally time for the applicant to submit his/her citizenship application to the Programme Agency (MIIPA) with the requisite fees.
- Application Process
It takes four months for an endorsement letter to be issued to the applicant. This is done after a thorough investigation into the applicant’s profile and application and only when there are no discrepancies in the application.
- Contribution Fees
The applicants now need to settle the contribution fees within 20 working days.
- Investment Requirements
This is the step where candidates have to furnish evidence of their mandatory property investment in Malta and the possession of an internationally recognized health insurance.
- Oath of Allegiance
The candidates and their dependents are asked to take an Oath of Allegiance to the country of Malta. This signifies that candidates have successfully fulfilled all the criteria required for the Malta Individual Investor Programme citizenship.
- Certificate of Naturalization
Since all the requirements have been fulfilled, applicants now get the all-important certificate of naturalization from the Maltese Government. It takes just more than a year, approximately 55 weeks to finally obtain a Maltese passport.
Due Diligence Process
The four-tier due diligence process, conducted by the Malta Citizenship Department, is a crucial feature of the entire citizenship application process and it is regarded as the strictest, most detailed, and the best in the field.
The IIP Unit and the agent uses databases such as World-Check to perform the KYC due diligence on the candidate.
This is where the Maltese police authorities verify that every applicant has a clean criminal record. World law enforcement groups such as Interpol, Europol are consulted and thorough background verification of the candidate is done. If there are any concerns, then a red flag is raised and the IIP unit is notified of any potential issues. Else, the police approval is given for the candidate. Applicants from third world nationals have to undergo the screening process as per Schengen rules.
The IIP team takes complete charge of the third tier of due diligence. This is further divided into two stages.
This is a very crucial step for the applicant. Here the IIP checks for errors and omissions in the application forms. Its task is to identify and highlight it to the candidate who needs to refill all the information correctly and resubmit the application. The entire process comes to a halt if there are issues such as missing documents or incorrect filing of the application or if the application is riddled with errors. It is in the applicant’s interest that all documentation is thoroughly verified for accuracy, has certified translations and is notarized where necessary.
The second stage is that of a full and in-depth online due diligence check and the checking of documents submitted. These checks include verifying with external databases for authorized individuals and companies. Similar searches are carried out on all the members of the family applying for citizenship and on their corporate affiliations, any significant one-time transactions, donations, inheritance, and any relevant business partners or very close associates.
On completion of these checks, a different member of the due diligence team reviews all the information gathered, both internally and externally, to prepare an in-house memo. The IIP Unit can perform more checks if the level of precision required is not getting satisfied. The IIP Unit further questions the applicant to ensure it has the right and proper understanding of the family’s application. Information is exchanged with the due diligence companies to ensure consistency.
After this, every application is reviewed internally within the IIP due diligence team. The team consists of eight individuals from an investment and audit background, trained in anti-money laundering regulations. The information is shared and discussed among the senior management team within the IIP Unit. If the team needs more information/clarifications before passing citizenship recommendation to the Minister, they request the same from the applicant.
Eventually, the senior management of the IIP pass a mutual judgment where they provide a proposal and present it to the Minister responsible for citizenship. They submit the portfolio with all the supporting documentation of due diligence reports and findings. The Minister, together with the team once again verifies and studies the application, before arriving at a final decision regarding the granting of citizenship.
Dual citizenship is permitted under the Maltese law after important amendments were made in the legislation in the year 2000. The applicant should, also, however, check the legislation of his nation of origin and verify that it also permits dual citizenship.
If a person wants the Citizenship department to confirm in writing that he/she is qualified to hold dual citizenship, then he/she is required to present the following documents:
- Birth certificate
- Father’s birth certificate
- Parents’ marriage certificate
- A certificate showing the date of acquisition of the citizenship the concerned person presently holds, if such citizenship was acquired by Registration or by Naturalization;
- His/her present passport: Maltese and/or non-Maltese;
- Documentary evidence to prove that the individual has resided abroad for an aggregate period of at least six years. This should primarily consist of a person’s passport or passports for the period/s concerned.
Expatriate Residence Permits
If a non-Maltese citizen intends to reside in Malta for longer than 3 months, they are required by law to apply for a resident permit. The Department of Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs, Malta, receives and processes these permits.
The process is simple and requires applicants to fill out certain documentation, based on their country of origin. The list of the supporting documents to be submitted are mentioned on the form and have to be submitted in person. If the expatriate’s residence permit is approved, he/she will have to also collect it in person.
Citizens of EU (European Union), EEA (European Economic Area), Switzerland, or family members of these citizens are exempted from the fees.
Other applicants are charged as per the categories listed below:
- Non-EU citizen: 25 Euros
- Long-term resident: 120 Euros
In case the permit is lost, stolen, defaced, or destroyed, the applicable fees are listed below:
- Defaced Permit: 15 Euros
- Stolen, lost, or destroyed Permit: 20 Euros
Residence permits for non-EU citizens are valid for up to one year. Residence permits for long-term residents are covered for up to five years.
Fee exceptions in these categories are given to applicants who:
- Are married to Maltese citizens, and have an ‘Exempt Person’ status under Article 4, Immigration Act of Malta.
- Have just got released from detention, and have International Protection under Article 4, Refugees Act of Malta.
If a person intends to stay in Malta for longer than 90 days, he/she is required by law to apply for an e-Residence card, issued by the Identity Malta, in Valletta. It is important to note that this requirement exists irrespective of the applicant’s nationality.
There are multiple benefits of an e-Residence card: it makes availing certain public services quite convenient and also entitles a person to local discounts. Some additional benefits:
- Cheaper utility bills
- Discounts on bus fare
- Opening a bank account becomes easier
- Applying for property leasing and insurance becomes easier
An individual’s application forms and the process will be determined by two key metrics:
- Whether the person’s nationality is of EU/EAA/Switzerland
- An individual’s financial situation
Additionally, the application forms differ based on employment, pensioner, student, self-sufficiency status.
The Identity Malta website contains the entire information and documentation needed to apply for an e-Residence card.
For EU nationals, the following forms are applicable:
- Electoral Form
- Economic Self Sufficiency – CEA Form J
- Employment/Self Employment – CEA Form A
- Family Members – CEA Form F
- Permanent Residence – CEA Form P
- Study – CEA Form M
Non-EU Nationals are required to submit the following forms:
- Blue Card – CEA Form B
- Economic Self Sufficiency – CEA Form K
- Employment/Self Employment – CEA Form C
- Family Members – CEA Form G
- International Protection- CEA Form I
- Long Term Residents- CEA Form L
- Students – CEA Form N
- Temporary – CEA Form O
The applicant needs to ensure that he/she is carrying all the listed forms as applicable, including certified English translations (if necessary) and original documents as requested.
The application fee is applicable for third-country nationals, depending on the application type. EU nationals and their family members are exempted from these fees.
A single work permit can be applied for by third-country nationals coming for work to Malta, based on the appropriate category of work and residence, as found on the Identity Malta website.
A second citizenship, especially one of Malta, offers multiple benefits to applicants of all ages, whether its education opportunities, business or retirement. While the application process to seek citizenship or residence Malta is straightforward, it is a time-consuming meticulous process that requires strict attention to detail. Engaging with a professional will help you leverage their expertise in counseling thousands of successful applications, as well as their professional expertise across business, investment, and taxation. If you are interested in seeking a hassle-free transition to residing in this beautiful Mediterranean haven, get in touch with us today!