Malta Citizenship Programme nears Applications Cap

June 03 15:44 2020 by The Editor Print This Article

Malta’s citizenship by investment program, the Malta Individual Investor Programme (MIIP), is approaching its 1,800 application cap and will require a parliamentary renewal in order for investor naturalizations to continue under the Maltese citizenship by investment programme.

Deadlines for last new MIIP applications

MIIPA will continue accepting applications for citizenship under the Malta Individual Investor Programme Regulations until the 30th of September 2020
Complete applications for residence will continue to be accepted until the 31st of July 2020.  Those individuals who obtain a residence card, but do not manage to submit a citizenship application by the 30th of September 2020, may be considered under new regulations that the Government is considering, if they qualify.

The Individual Investor Programme Regulations 2014 have been in force for almost 6 years now. Originally met with cynicism, the Maltese citizenship programme has become political football, with political opponents disagreeing with the concept of 'selling' Maltese citizenship while proponents of the IIP highlight the benefits of attracting only reputable business families to Malta (on the strength of world class citizenship due diligence) to contribute, invest, generate international economic activity and connect Malta to the world of international business.

Malta IIP Quota soon reached

According to the parliamentary secretary for citizenship and communities Alex Muscat, more than 70 per cent of the Maltese citizenship quota has been reached.

"At this rate, the programme will have been exhausted within months,” he said, pointing out that Prime Minister Robert Abela had already committed himself to retaining it.
Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat

Could the Maltese citizenship programme be suspended?

Given the economic success of the programme it is unlikely that any government would completely shut down an investment promotion incentive like this.  Even political opponents to the programme who cite moral objections on the probity of 'selling of passports' claim they would 'abolish the sale of passports' but in the sense of making amendments to the Maltese citizenship programme that make it less like a commercial transaction.  The business lobby the Malta Chamber of Commerce has recently been less cagey about this, withdrawing its outright calls for abolishing the programme.  The Malta Chamber directly acknowledged that the standard of due diligence of the MIIP is recognised internationally but insisted that the programme needs to be less 'sales oriented', probably referring to the often criticised role the prime minister takes attending promotional initiative by the MIIP's Marketing Concessionaire.

Will the Investment Threshold be Increased?

Currently the one-time non-refundable contribution required is at €650,000 for the main applicant.  It is not excluded that this minimum contribution may be increased.

Residency Requirement

Under the IIP, a successful applicant can't be naturalised as a Maltese citizenship before at least 12 months of residence.  Residence doesn't require physical presence for a full year. However, a residence card must be held for a minimum of 12 months and a sufficient level of integration with Malta should be achieved in order to satisfy this requirement.  In a legal article by senior lawyer Dr Antoine Saliba Haig and Dr Jean-Philippe Chetcuti, senior tax and immigration partner at Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates, the citizenship law experts call this minimum level of connection with Malta 'the "Genuine Link".

We asked Maltese citizenship agent, senior lawyer Dr Priscilla Mifsud Parker if any changes were expected in the connection requirements, Dr Mifsud Parker replied: "The residence requirement was introduced to reflect the principle of effective nationality embraced by the Nottebohm Judgement (ICJ 1955) which set a minimum period of 1 year of connection with the country for the new citizenship to be recognised by other states. My experience with investors under the IIP is that investing, doing business in Malta or making Malta one of their preferred global footholds is often sufficient to satisfy this requirement."

Property Investment / Rental Requirements

Mr Muscat recently stated that these thresholds might have made sense when the programme was drafted in 2013 but, in the context of the property boom, which has seen prices soar, there was a case for an upward revision:

"But is a €350,000 property or an expenditure on annual rent of €16,000 – the minimum requirements for IIP applicants – such a big deal nowadays?