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If you are thinking of applying for an EU passport, particularly a Maltese one, don’t delay as the window of opportunity will be closing soon.
by Mel Roberts*
Malta introduced the Individual Investor Programme less than 18 months ago, and decided to limit the programme to only 1,800 main applicants (excluding their dependents). Identity Malta, the government agency charged with interviewing the applicants and processing their applications, has been inundated and so far roughly 600 applications have been received, representing over 40 nationalities. Indications from Identity Malta are that it could reach the 1,800 applicant ceiling by the end of next year.
The process is clearly defined and efficiently handled by Identity Malta, and the financial implications ensure that only high net-worth individuals will be able to avail themselves of this opportunity.
South Africa is represented, with perhaps a dozen applications in the pipeline. There is already a large community of South Africans on the island, estimated at over 500 people. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the political situation, well over half of the 600 applications thus far to Identity Malta are from wealthy Ukrainian, Russian, or other Eastern European citizens, with a fair sprinkling of Chinese and Middle Eastern individuals.
The obvious advantages of applying for a Maltese passport are:
- Citizenship in an EU country that is stable, neutral, and highly respected
- Visa-free travel to more than 160 countries
- The right to work and pursue economic activities in all 28 EU countries
- Good quality of life in a country enjoying an excellent climate and a very low crime rate
- A highly evolved educational system and excellent health services.
The major expense is a once-off, non-refundable contribution to the Malta National Development and Social Fund of €650,000. Added to this is a contribution of €25,000 for a spouse, €25,000 for each child below 18 years of age, and €50,000 per dependant child between the ages of 18 and 26 years. Thus costs for a typical family consisting of father, mother, and two teenage children (16 & 19) would be €750 000. There are additional smaller due diligence and passport fees which will add a further €20,000 to this.
There is also a requirement to invest €150,000 in Maltese stocks, bonds, debentures, or SPVs for a minimum of five years. Finally, there is a need to prove that you have invested in property, to a minimum value of €350,000, or alternatively have entered into a five-year lease over an apartment or house at a minimum rental of €16,000 per annum (€1,350 per month).
Apart from the above costs, applicants need to:
- Prove that they are fit and proper persons, as evidenced by recent police clearance certificates
- Provide medical proof that they are all in good health
- Prove that they have sufficient funds to pay the costs involved, and still support their lifestyle
- Give their financial background and indicate where their wealth originated
- Confirm that they will take out separate medical cover valid throughout Europe
- Undertake to buy or rent immovable property for a minimum period of five years.
Regarding this last point, it is advisable to rent or buy a property at the early stage of the process, so that an e-residency card can be obtained and so that the 12 months “residency” requirement for issuance of a Maltese passport can commence as soon as possible. A bonus is that once you have your residency card, this is equivalent to a Schengen Visa and you are therefore free to travel within the Schengen area until such time as your Maltese passport is issued.
Applications cannot be submitted directly to Identity Malta and require the intervention of an Accredited Person, who acts on behalf of the applicant. Normally within 10 days of submission, Identity Malta will have reviewed the documents and will advise whether there are any obvious omissions and, within 120 days, will grant an approval in principle. The applicant is then required to complete the payment to the Malta National Development and Social Fund, purchase the government approved stocks, and provide proof that he/she has entered into the necessary commitment regarding property in Malta. Once the applicant has satisfied all follow up requirements, can prove that they have met the 12-month residency requirement, and can indicate that they have developed other ties to Malta (such as joining local sports clubs for instance) they are then in a position to take an Oath of Allegiance (in English or Maltese), be issued with a Certificate of Naturalisation, and receive a Maltese passport.
The nation’s Citizenship Act makes special provision for dual citizenship and you are therefore not required to revoke your existing citizenship. However, some countries, such as South Africa, have introduced legislation preventing their citizens from holding a second passport, unless specific approval has been sought and obtained.
*Mel Roberts is a consultant at Maitland