How to choose a Malta Citizenship Agent

June 15 00:00 2018 by The Editor Print This Article

Choosing the right Malta Citizenship Agent 

The spectrum of over a 190 Malta citizenship agents on the IIP list ranges from the larger law and accounting firms of the island, to sole-practitioners and the IIP's marketing concessionaire. 

Accounting Firms range from large accounting firms to sole practitioners.   A representative of a major accounting firm, who preferred to remain unnamed, told us that many accounting firms have joined the IIP band wagon without a real commitment to this main personal client offering given their focus on corporate clients, where they make the larger chunk of their annual revenue from audit and advisory fees. 

Law Firms have tended to neglect immigration over the years preferring to focus on Malta's corporate and financial services offerings.  As a result we couldn't find a law firm with a specialised immigration practice, with the exception of Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates, who holds the records of the first applications under the MIIP, the first approvals and tops the Malta citizenship agents list for media attention received due to authoritative research on Maltese Citizenship:  the CIP Index, the CIP Due Diligence Index, the Dual Citizenship Report and specialised Malta Citizenship videos. The firm's immigration law practice is headed by two of five partners of the firm, complemented by 35 immigration lawyers and advisers, offering citizenship and residence applications through a specialised company. Working with a law firm ensures the significant disclosures required by the IIP are covered by legal-privilege applicable to client-lawyer disclosures. This comfort results in fuller disclosure and higher chances of success.

Sole Practitioners have tended to appear and disappear from the list of licensed IIP agents, often due to lack of traction and inactivity. We spoke to senior lawyer Dr Priscilla Mifsud Parker, a big player in this market, who explains that clients appreciate the personal attention they get from her as a personal citizenship agent but they also benefit from full tax and legal advice thanks to her partnership in the Chetcuti Cauchi law firm on investments and businesses they set up during or after their citizenship process. The IIP Marketing Concessionaire's functions are described in a separate article. 

Track Records of Malta Citizenship Agents 

There is no official statistic of the success rates of those on the Malta Citizenship Agents List.  A recent IIP Regulator Report indicates that rejection rates of agents can be as high as a tragic 87%, indicating the levels of inexperience of some less specialised agents.  The only stated firm in the report, Chetcuti Cauchi, had a rejection rate at 10%.  Responding to our requests for comment, Dr JP Chetcuti, another citizenship expert at the firm, explained that the firm conducts extensive due diligence before on-boarding the client and advises clients against applying if, from the lawyer's experience, the application does not stand a reasonable chance of success.  "10% often represents the rejection of applicants who would have insisted on applying against our advice." (Reasons for failing the MIIP due diligence include health issues, difficulties providing documents for source of wealth, or other adverse findings not disclosed by the applicant.) 

Fees for Malta Citizenship Agents 

Not that fees should be an issue for someone paying close to €1 M for a second citizenship.  Our research has shown that fees range from as low as €30K to as high as €110,000, not counting new comers on the scene that may be zealous for first clients and may charge even lower.  Fees may vary according to complexity, the range of services offered, expertise and track record. For something as consequential as this, fee savings may turn out very costly in the event of rejection due to inexperienced handling.  

Citizenship agents on the lower fee side tend to be single service immigration consultancies that offer strictly a citizenship application. All other services would be separate service fees added on as the application progresses.  

Higher fees often represent a firm ticking all important factors: a high track record, a specialised immigration law approach within a full-service law firm environment.  A citizenship application is known to require the submission of a lot of legal, financial and corporate documentation. Therefore a firm that practices in corporate and trust structures and international taxation is often better positioned to fully understand, guide and represent an applicant. Such firms typically offer an all-in immigration process, as well as pre-immigration tax advice, legal advice on the required purchase/ rental of property, property viewings and buying advice and multi-lingual support.   

Choosing the wrong Malta Citizenship Agents

Generally, you get what you pay for.  The gap between the lowest and the highest fee rates is wide. However so is the service offering and the level of experience of Malta citizenship agents.  The consequence of a bad choice may be the rejection of an application, meaning you end up worse of than when you started.  Rejected applicants are nowadays not allowed to apply in other European countries so that would be a big red dot on your immigration history.  So get the right advice.