Mustafa and Seraphina from Saudi Arabia own IT companies. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the couple spent some time without travelling to the EU. They realised that it was inconvenient and resulted in a loss of profit. The couple was not satisfied with the situation, so they decided to get Malta permanent residence and never again depend on visas to travel to the Schengen countries.
Under the Malta permanent residence program, the applicant must prove ownership of assets worth €500,000. The couple’s savings were not enough, but Immigrant Invest lawyers found a way for the couple to meet this condition.
Mustafa and Seraphina’s problems and goals
Mustafa and Seraphina are IT entrepreneurs. Mustafa's company acquires patents for the use of information technology, and Seraphina's company develops software based on the patents acquired. The couple used to often travel to Europe to participate in international IT forums and business conferences. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it became impossible to obtain or even use a Schengen visa.
In 2020, our business went online almost completely. But the coolest events still take place offline. Meeting our partners and clients, conducting negotiations – all this is done personally. We need to be able to fly to Europe for meetings at any time.
IT company owner
The couple started looking for a way to travel to the EU and Schengen countries without restrictions and found out that some European countries issue residence permits in return for investment.
An EU residence permit can replace a Schengen visa. In the country that issued the card, residence permit holders may stay with no time limitations. In the other countries of the Schengen area, they may spend up to 90 days out of 180. It is also allowed to enter this country even if its borders are closed. So, Mustafa and Seraphina decided to take part in one of the residency by investment programs to solve their travelling issue.
Why the couple chose Malta permanent residence over other options
Mustafa and Seraphina contacted Immigrant Invest for advice. They wanted to get a residence permit in the European Union but did not know which country to choose.
Several EU states issue a temporary or permanent residence permit in return for investment. The most popular are Malta, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, and Spain programs. But the terms of these programs differ. Immigrant Invest experts helped the couple find the program that suited them best.
Residence in the EU by investment
|Country||Investment amount||Schengen area||Status||Validity||Mandatory residence|
|Portugal||€250,000+||Visa-free||Temporary residence||2 years||7 days a year|
|Greece||€250,000+||Visa-free||Temporary residence||5 years||Not required|
|Cyprus||€300,000+||Visa required||Permanent residence||Termless||Visit every 2 years|
|Malta*||€340,000+||Visa-free||Permanent residence||Termless||Not required|
|Spain||€500,000+||Visa-free||Temporary residence||2 years||Not required|
As Cyprus is a part of the EU but not of the Schengen zone, a Cyprus residence card allows its holders to travel without visas only to those EU countries that have not signed the Schengen Agreement: Bulgaria, Ireland, Croatia and Romania. It did not suit the investors, so this option got off the table first.
The other four options could solve the couple’s problems. However, there is a significant difference between the Malta program and the other three. Portugal, Greece and Spain issue temporary residence permits: investors have to reapply regularly to maintain the status.
Malta grants investors permanent residency status, valid for the holder’s lifetime. The status is confirmed by an ID card. As long as the holder complies with the stipulated conditions, the ID card is reissued every five years. There is no need to reapply for permanent residence.
So, Mustafa and Seraphina decided on the Maltese program due to the following reasons:
- Maltese residence cards open up visa-free access to both the EU and Schengen countries.
- Residency holders are not obliged to move to Malta or even spend any time in the country.
- The status is termless.
How the couple proved ownership of assets for their permanent residence application
Before signing an agreement with Mustafa and Seraphina, Immigrant Invest’s lawyers conducted a preliminary Due Diligence check on the couple. The Compliance Anti Money Laundering Officer identified no risks: the investors’ sources of money were legal. However, another issue arose.
To participate in the Maltese program, applicants must prove their financial self-sufficiency: capital of at least €500,000, including liquid financial assets of €150,000, like deposits, stocks or bonds. This requirement is in place because Maltese residence holders acquire the right to live in Malta. They have to prove they have sufficient funds to do it, even if they are not going to move.
€500,000 is the minimum level of assets of the main applicant. Assets owned by the other applicants are excluded. Thus, the Seraphina or Mustafa had to prove individual ownership of assets, though they were not sure they could do it. We analysed the situation and helped Seraphina prepare the proof.
Head of the Maltese office, a lawyer in international and economic law
The investors had savings of €170,000 in their joint bank account, which was suitable to prove they owned more than €150,000 of liquid assets. The bank statements confirmed the presence and legality of their savings.
Then, the value of Mustafa's and Seraphina's respective companies was to be estimated. As Mustafa's company dealt with patents, its value could only be estimated by investment analysts. The Maltese residence program does not allow such estimates to be included in the application as an asset of the applicant.
The asset value of Seraphina's company, which provides software development services, was estimated independently. The estimation was based on her company's relevant documents for the previous five years:
- financial statements under Saudi Arabian accounting standards;
- reports on the financial position of the company under international financial reporting standards;
- tax returns.
Seraphina's business was valued at €369,000. Together with the balance in the bank account, this made €539,000. It was sufficient to allow Seraphina to participate in the Maltese permanent residence program as the main applicant, with Mustafa included as the main applicant's spouse.
Seraphina will have to re-prove she owns €500,000 in assets every year for five years.
How the investors obtained Malta permanent residence by investment
1. Consultation. Mustafa and Seraphina turned for consultation in August, 2020. Having chosen the program and undergone the preliminary Due Diligence check, they signed an agreement with Immigrant Invest.
2. Documents preparation. Mustafa and Seraphina needed to submit the following documents:
- Copies of passports;
- Birth Certificates;
- Marriage Certificate;
- Higher Education diplomas;
- No criminal record certificate;
- Medical insurance;
- Proof of assets of €500,000 worth.
The papers must be translated into English with the copies certified and apostilled. The Immigrant Invest lawyers arranged for the couple to meet the Maltese notary to sign and certify the documents. The lawyers also filled out the government forms and checked the application to make sure all was correctly prepared. So, the package of documents was ready within two weeks.
3. Due Diligence check. When the documents were ready, Seraphina paid for the Due Diligence check to be conducted by the Residency Malta Agency. The lawyers submitted the application and the payment receipt on September 10, 2020.
The Due Diligence lasted six-and-a-half months. On March 24, 2021, Immigrant Invest’s lawyers received notification that the department had approved the application.
4. Application approval and biometrics submission. Applicants need to provide their biometric information in Malta by appointment at the migration service. Immigrant Invest’s lawyers in Malta had booked the appointment for Seraphina and Mustafa.
In March 2021, the couple flew on their Schengen visa to Malta at the invitation of Malta’s government department responsible for the permanent residence program. Their appointment to provide biometric information at the Maltese Immigration Office was considered a valid reason to travel even during the pandemic. The applicants’ biometric information is entered into Malta’s permanent residence cards.
5. Fulfilment of investment conditions. The couple was to fulfil three investment conditions: buy government bonds, rent or buy a property, pay the administrative fee.
However, on March 29, 2021, the Government of Malta changed the terms of the permanent residence program. Purchasing government bonds became no longer mandatory. Instead, investors are to make a contribution to the government and a charitable donation.
Investors were given the choice to continue participating in the program according to the old rules or participate under the new ones. Seraphina and Mustafa had not yet bought government bonds when the changes took effect. They took advantage of the government’s offer, reducing their costs more than twice: from €340,000 to €160,000.
Malta permanent residence program costs
|Under the old rules||Under the new rules|
|€250,000 on buying government bonds;|
€12,000 per annum on renting a property for five years;
€30,000 on the administrative fee
|€0 on buying government bonds;|
€12,000 per annum on renting a property for five years;
€40,000 on the administrative fee;
€58,000 on the contribution to the government;
€2,000 on the charity donation
|€340,000 in total||€160,000 in total|
Immigrant Invest’s real estate experts selected apartments in different Maltese cities for the couple. As the couple could not come to Malta to view the properties, they were shown the properties online. The investors chose an apartment in Qawra, one of the largest resorts in the country, located in the north of Malta.
Seraphina signed a rental agreement remotely, paid for the apartment for six months and the remaining fees and contributions as required.
Seraphina and Mustafa rented similar apartment
6. Final approval. The proof of the investment conditions fulfilment was submitted to the Residency Malta Agency. When the documents got reviewed, the couple received final approval of their application.
7. Receipt of permanent residence cards. The cards were issued and then sent to the couple by courier. Seraphina and Mustafa received Maltese permanent residence cards and certificates on May 14, 2021. In total, it took the investors 8.5 months to achieve their goals.
Investments under the Malta program are mostly non-refundable. Only if investors choose to buy a property they can sell it after five years and get the money back.
Yet, to maintain Maltese residency, investors must continue renting or owning a residential property. But after five years, the minimum threshold for renting or buying a property is no longer applicable, so investors can buy or rent any property instead.
Mustafa and Seraphina’s lifestyle with Maltese permanent residence cards
The couple travelled to Malta on vacation in July 2021. They spent their holidays on the Maltese coast in the Mediterranean, in the rented property in the resort town of Qawra. As permanent residents, they can travel to Malta even in periods when Malta closes its border to tourists due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mustafa booked tickets for an information technology conference held in Copenhagen in September. Although the couple’s Schengen visa expired by that time, they were able to travel to the event using their Maltese permanent residence cards.
The couple is also exploring the possibility of relocating their business or opening a branch in Malta in the next two to three years. If they enjoy spending time on the island, Seraphina and Mustafa may move to Malta. If the investors live in the country for five years, they can apply for citizenship.
A Maltese passport gives the freedom to live and do business in any EU country without restrictions. Maltese citizens can travel without visas to 186 countries, including the Schengen area, the UK, Singapore, Australia and the United States. Yet, Mustafa and Seraphina do not count on this opportunity much because Saudi Arabians have to get permission from their premier to obtain second citizenship.