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20 November, 2020

Malta has made changes in legislation: who can now obtain citizenship and how?

The Government of Malta has published amendments to the Citizenship Act. Citizenship can now be obtained 1 or 3 years after a residence permit has been issued.

Malta has changed its citizenship law: how to obtain citizenship in 2020
Photo: Adobe Stock

A new mechanism has been introduced for granting Maltese citizenship to 一. Naturalisation based on direct investment for exceptional services. The amendments entered into force today, 20 November 2020. The Maltese Citizenship Act (Cap. 188) Granting of Citizenship for Exceptional Services Regulations, 2020 has been published on the government website.

How the procedure for obtaining citizenship has changed

In accordance with the new provisions of the law, it is planned to issue no more than 400 certificates of Maltese citizenship per year. The total number of certificates for principal applicants and their family members shall not exceed 1,500. Based on the rate of expenditure of the previous programme, this mechanism for granting Maltese citizenship is designed to last 3-4 years.

Citizenship in Malta has always been in high demand. Now we expect even more interest in Maltese citizenship for special merits.

Victoria Atanasova,
head of the Malta office Immigrant Invest, international and economic law lawyer

To obtain citizenship, you must go through 3 stages. The updated procedure includes:

  1. Registration of residence permits in Malta. It will be possible to apply for citizenship 1 or 3 years after applying for a residence permit, depending on the option. Family members who acquire citizenship together with the main applicant do not need to apply for a residence permit.
  2. Eligibility Assessment - a test for compliance with the conditions. This is an updated version of the due diligence. The applicant must provide information about their sources of income and confirm their legality.
  3. Obtaining citizenship. Based on the results of the audit, the Minister may authorise the applicant to issue a certificate of naturalisation. Once approved, the applicant must take the oath in person in Malta within 6 months.

Which family member can obtain Maltese citizenship together with the main applicant

The main applicant may include family members in the application for citizenship of Malta. Under the new rules, additional applicants may become:

  • spouse;
  • children of the main applicant or his spouse under the age of 29. The children of adult age must, however, be financially dependent on the main applicant and not be married;
  • parents and grandparents of the main applicant or his or her spouse over the age of 55 if they are wholly or substantially financially dependent on the main applicant.

The applicant may join a child under 18 at any time before applying for citizenship.

How much do you have to invest in the country's economy in order to obtain citizenship?

Costs consist of several items. The applicant must make a non-refundable contribution to the national fund and rent or buy property on the island. A charitable donation of 10 000 € is also required.

The minimum contribution amount depends on when the applicant plans to apply for citizenship - a year or 3 years after applying for a residence permit.

Expenditure under the new conditions of the Citizenship Act

Expense itemNew rules
Contribution to the Malta National Development Fund750 000 € or 600 000 €
Purchase of government bondsNo
Charitable donation10 000 €
Participation of family members50 000 € for each dependant
Buying propertyFrom 700 000 €
Rent of property for 5 years, annual valueFrom 16 000 €

Applicants have the opportunity to choose between two investment options and the deadline for applying for citizenship 一 after 1 or 3 years. In the first case, applicants can obtain citizenship within 14 months.

The second option makes it possible to significantly reduce costs. If the applicant gets citizenship after 3 years, he or she needs to invest from 700 000 €

Victoria Atanasova
head of the Malta office Immigrant Invest, international and economic law lawyer

Three bedroom apartment with sea view
Malta, Marsascala

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Due diligence will become stricter

Malta carries out due diligence in accordance with the EU Directive on Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorist Organisations. Malta's vetting procedure is one of the strictest in the world.

The Old Citizenship Programme Department has approved around 1,460 investor applications since 2013. At the same time it rejected about 500 applications - 25% of investors did not pass due diligence.

The Government has strengthened procedures to ensure that no breaches are likely to occur. The law states that due diligence checks will be carried out on each applicant. The due diligence procedure will be regulated by the Government of Malta. The checks will be carried out in 4 or more stages.

The cost of due diligence under the new rules is 15 000 € for the main applicant and 10 000 € for each family member.

Obtaining citizenship in any country in the world depends on the results of due diligence. If an applicant is refused in at least one country, they will no longer be able to apply for passports from other countries.

Immigrant Invest is a company that has its own compliance department. Our lawyers perform preliminary security checks.

What other changes have been made to the Citizenship Act

The Government has not only changed the conditions for those wishing to acquire Maltese citizenship. The innovations affected the organisation of work at the department and local agent level.

The MIPA, a government agency, was dissolved which dealt with participation in the individual investor programme. The government created a new body, the Community Malta Agency. The Agency will have full control over the process of granting Maltese citizenship. It will monitor all methods of obtaining a passport, including the issuance of citizenship for merit.

Reissue of licenses for agents started. We recommend that you pay attention to whether an agent has a renewed licence under the provisions of the Citizenship Act. The quality and legality of the services provided depends on this.

Renewal of licenses is a good incentive for companies to develop. It is an opportunity to confirm once again that they meet all criteria of accredited agents. The Maltese Government monitors the performance of all those involved in the granting of citizenship for special merit and requires the diligent performance of their duties from agents who act as intermediaries between the applicants and the State

Victoria Atanasova
international and economic law lawyer
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Malta has made changes in legislation: who can now obtain citizenship and how?