Malta to launch new Investment Migration Programme

MIIP to be replaced by Residence routes to Citizenship

Dr. Jean-Philippe Chetcuti co-authored with Antoine Saliba Haig | Published on 13 Jul 2020

malta citizenship

As expected since the announcement of the Maltese Citizenship Quota being close to full take-up, the Ministry responsible for citizenship has announced its intention to repeal the current Malta Individual Investor Programme and to replace it with a completely new Residence by Investment Programme.  A new Investment Migration Programme will be enacted introducing two investment routes to Maltese citizenship for international investor families who have been resident in Malta for one or three years.  Last June, we wrote about the elements we expected revision in the new Malta Investment Programme. In this article, we review how these elements are being addressed by the recently proposed programme, but meanwhile:

Last applications under current Investment Migration Programme

The current Maltese Citizenship Programme, the Individual Investor Programme, is currently accepting the final applications until the quota of 1,800 applications is reached. Earlier in June the Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency (MIIPA) announced it would continue accepting applications for citizenship until the 30th of September 2020. This applies for applicants who applied for and have already obtained Maltese residency under the MIIP. In case of new applicants who do not yet hold Maltese residency, the MIIPA will accept residence applications until the 31st of July 2020.

Applicants who obtain a residence status in Malta prior to the 31st of July 2020, but do not submit a formal application for citizenship until the end of September 2020, will be eligible under the new Maltese investment migration programme, that Malta will be launching in the coming weeks.

Malta's New Investment Migration Programme

Malta's new investment migration programme will provide a residence route to citizenship after three years of residence upon the investor making an exceptional direct investment or for demonstrating exceptional talent in sports, science, research or culture.  A higher direct investment reduces the residence route to citizenship to one year.  

Minimum Direct Investment Threshold

Currently the one-time non-refundable contribution required is at €650,000 by the main investor and smaller amount of €25,000 by the spouse, and €25,000 or €50,000 for minor/adult dependent parents or children of the main investor and the spouse. 

The exceptional direct investment required for the three year residence route to citizenship is in the amount of €600,000.  A higher direct investment of €750,000 reduces the residence route to citizenship to one year.  The investment is in addition to the purchase or rental of property in Malta or a 5 year rental.  An additional investment of €50,000 is to be paid for each dependant included in a family application.

Minimum Property Investment Threshold

Six years on from the enactment of the Maltese Individual Investor Programme, the property investment threshold of €350,000 is regarded as out of tune with current market conditions in the property market and justifies a significant upward adjustment of this minimum investment. The programme does have a rental option which our investor clients have often found more suitable until they familiarise with the Maltese property market and before purchasing property in Malta. Despite past discussions on whether a rental option impacts the local property market, this consideration may have become irrelevant in a post-Covid economy and a proposed increase of the minimum annual rental from €16,000 to €18,000 is still uncertain.  

The proposed minimum investment value in real estate has been raised by 100% to €700,000.

Residence & Genuine Connection Requirement

Investors successfully passing the 4 tier due diligence process required by the MIIP are required to demonstrate at least 12 months of residence in order to naturalised as a Maltese citizen.  This becomes 36 months in the proposed residence route to citizenship.  While this doesn't require physical presence throughout the year, 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 paper I co-authored with fellow immigration lawyer Dr Antoine Saliba Haig, we call this minimum level of connection with Malta 'the "Genuine Link" and is in compliance with international jurisprudence in the area of citizenship law.  

As a Maltese law firm loyal to Malta and the Maltese identity and well-being, we have ensured that our clients commit genuinely to Malta.  It would also help if the Malta Investment Programme issues some public even if generic guidelines as an official position on the practice described above. In the absence of that, public perception will remain that investors fly in, pick up their passports and fly back out in their private jets, never to set foot again on Malta.  This couldn't be further from the truth.

Publicly Listed Investment Holdings

The 2014 Malta Citizenship Programme requires a holding of Malta Government Bonds or other securities listed on the Malta Stock Exchange. Feedback from investors represented by the firm suggests that this is not a popular investment largely because of the relatively small size of the investment in proportion with the administrative burden of acquiring, administering and disposing of this holding for the five year term imposed by the Malta  Investment Programme.  

The €150,000 five-year investment requirement of the current MIIP is being removed.

Doing Business in Malta

We have long held that true citizenship requires a true commitment to the new country of citizenship even within an investment programme.  Throughout our experience of the Individual Investor Programme, we have worked to localise our investor clients by facilitating local business and investment opportunities.  Our multi-disciplinary legal practice enables us to help our clients implement wealth management and business structures using Malta as their home-base. We have helped investors finance or acquire businesses in Malta as well as set up subsidiaries of their international businesses in Malta, creating new jobs in Malta in the process.

The existing Individual Investor Programme does already factor in business investments in its genuine-link rating of applicants.  We expect that the proposed residence route to citizenship will give more weighting to business investments and will encourage more business investments in Malta.

Philanthropic Contributions to Malta

Thanks to Malta's 2014 Investor Migration Programme, a host of approved NGOs have raised €4.8 million in charitable donations under the first MIIP.  Philanthropy forms a significant criterion in assessing the genuine link profile of an investor family in Malta in the residence period leading to citizenship.  A minimum philanthropic donation of €10,000 to a local registered NGO will now be a mandatory requirement.

MIIP Due Diligence

The new citizenship agency to be set up to manage all of Malta's routes to citizenship will conduct citizenship eligibility tests and will perform Malta's famed due diligence process, scrutinising for sanctions and other restrictive measures, screening against EUROPOL and INTERPOL databases.  The citizenship agency will cooperate with the FIAU, the MFSA and the Maltese tax authorities to ensure full compliance. There will be increased emphasis on reviewing the source of funds and the source of wealth of applicants and a risk evaluation will be performed for each investor family.  The same agency will be responsible for verifying new Maltese citizens' compliance with their post-passport obligations for five years after being naturalised as Maltese citizens.  The exceptional discretion of the minister to override the Agency's decision shall be removed. 

Due Diligence Safety Net

The government has committed to continued enforcement of the already existing provisions of the Maltese Citizenship Act that require the revocation of citizenship to approved investors who are convicted of a serious criminal offence within 7 years of their naturalisation.  Also, a conviction of a new Maltese citizen after obtaining Maltese Citizenship will receive serious attention to ensure the authorities identify and remedy any flaws in the already tight due diligence standard.

Administration of the Malta Investment Migration Programme

Malta's Individual Investor Programme Agency (MIIPA) will be replaced by a new government agency tasked with the administration and processing of all routes leading to Maltese citizenship including naturalisation as Maltese citizens by birth, naturalisation and registration.

Supervision

The role of the Regulator of the Maltese citizenship programme (the Office of the Regulator of the IIP) is to be retained and strengthened to enable the meaningful supervision and oversight of all citizenship applications.

Appeal Mechanism

As immigration lawyers, we are pleased to hear that an appeal remedy will be clearly laid down for all Maltese citizenship routes, in fairness to investors and other applicants.

Quota

The new programme will be limited to 400 successful applications per year and 1,500 for the duration of the programme.

Seamless transition of Maltese Investment Migration 

In view of the critical importance of revenues generated from Malta Investment Migration Programmes, the changes in the residence by investment programmes leading to citizenship will be implemented seamlessly to ensure a continued flow of investment in Malta from investment migration programmes.



Contact Us
Please send me legal and other updates
Key Contacts

Dr Jean-Philippe Chetcuti

Senior Partner, Tax & Immigration

+356 22056411

Dr Priscilla Mifsud Parker

Senior Partner - Corporate, Tax & Immigration

+356 22056422

Dr Antoine Saliba Haig

Senior Lawyer

+356 22056446