Founder of Global Residence Index
Last updated: February 15, 2024
Malta is considered the “Blue Chip” European Union citizenship by investment program. Legally known as the Malta Exceptional Investor Naturalization (MEIN), the program is the most attractive citizenship by investment program among ultra-high net worth individuals.
This guide will serve as a knowledge-building document for the MEIN program to allow interested readers to understand all financial requirements and a thorough understanding of the due diligence process.
What are the benefits of looking at the Maltese Exceptional Investor Naturalisation (MEIN)? The program ultimately leads to investors and their dependents becoming European Union citizens.
Adding the Maltese passport to your passport portfolio provides global mobility and the ability to live, work or study anywhere in twenty-six other European Union countries.
If you believe the program might be for you, then one of our global experts at Global Residence Index will be happy to discuss it with you in detail.
The Maltese Citizenship Act allows citizenship under Chapter 188 of the Laws of Malta. The program has undergone several changes from its original form as the general citizenship by the investment industry matured and improvements were made.
The European Council encouraged additional due diligence requirements as the council requires transparency of the due diligence of the applicants and obtaining citizenship.
The new program is named Malta’s Exceptional Investor Naturalisation (MEIN) by direct investment, governed by Regulations (SL 188.05) under the Maltese Citizenship Act 188, LN437 of 2020. Under the new Laws, applicants can apply for citizenship after holding residence for twelve or thirty-six months. I will describe the timeline in detail later in this article.
As the crème de la crème of citizenship by investment programs, the costs are higher than other investment programs worldwide. The limited number of primary applicants ensures no oversupply of investor slots. High-Net-Worth Individuals looking for a European passport and all the benefits for themselves and their families need only consider Malta.
An investor must make a non-refundable contribution to Malta’s National Development and Social Fund (NDSF). The fund finances projects linked to public health, education, job creation, social improvement, and innovation, effectively placing it on a similar status as the country’s central bank.
The contribution requirements are as follows:
The second financial component requires the applicant to have a place of residence. There needs to be a commitment to purchase a property or sign a long-term lease for residence in Malta for five years. To satisfy the accommodation requirement, the applicant needs to either:
The caveat to the accommodation requirement is that the property cannot be leased or subleased. The Community Malta Agency (CMA) will conduct spot checks and follow-ups during the five-year requirement.
Malta places a Stamp Duty on purchasing existing real estate property depending on which island you invest on. There is a 5% charge on property in Malta and 2% on the smaller island of Gozo.
The final investment requirement is that the applicant makes a charitable contribution of at least €10,000. The applicant may choose from numerous qualified philanthropic, artistic, sports, scientific, or cultural non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and societies registered in Malta.
There are additional government fees and costs associated with the Malta program.
The applicants will be residents for twelve or thirty-six months, depending on their investment route. Because of the high initial contribution, most investors opt for the fast-track twelve-month residence to citizenship path.
The primary applicant is eligible to apply for MEIN if
Dependents who can join the primary applicant include:
The overall Malta citizenship by investment timeline usually takes about fourteen to eighteen months. The initial residence can occur quickly if documents are in order. The Maltese Government only allows a selected number of agencies that have been approved to take applicants through the entire process. This reduces the number of contacts for the government. However, there is strong case management support from the advisory firms working with the approved agents.
The initial engagement phase, with consultations and preparation work, takes about two months.
It is important to note that the “clock” for naturalization begins when applicants obtain their residence ID card. Additionally, there is no physical presence requirement outside the biometrics and a few days before the naturalization ceremony.
Application processing time will take about four months
Due diligence and compliance will take around four months
A final visit to Malta to attend a naturalization ceremony and the applicant must take an Oath of Allegiance and obtain the Naturalisation Certificate. The certificate allows the newly awarded citizen to apply for a Maltese passport.
The requirements to qualify for citizenship of Malta as the primary applicant are as follows:
Malta decided to vastly improve their due diligence process, requiring applicants to undergo a thorough process. The DD process has four different stages and seven tiers. The process does not scare away investors but reduces the possibility of persons who could be a danger to the EU becoming a citizen of Malta.
Malta has a second investment program, the Malta Permanent Resident Program (MPRP), which provides permanent residence to its applicants. It comes at a cheaper cost than MEIN, and you can only apply for citizenship if you live in Malta for five years.
The due diligence process ensures that each application receives the same scrutiny. The process follows a systematic approach to provide high consistency and transparency.
Investors undergo a thorough due diligence process, encompassing an exhaustive background investigation. The country upholds the highest due diligence standard, rejecting around one in four applicants.
Each applicant needs to pass a four-tier due diligence process. Any errors or nefarious documents submitted to the CMA can lead to the application’s rejection. Malta’s due diligence is unparalleled among other citizenship-by-investment programs. MEIN is the only program with a marketed and official citizenship-by-investment program in the European Union.
The first step involves the approved agent carrying out a standard know-your-client (KYC) screening. The CMA also performs a KYC when the client formally initiates the application process.
The CMA assumes responsibility for the following three stages. They conduct clearance checks with Interpol, Europol, and other police authority databases. Clients might be required to provide their Police Clearances from countries where they have previously resided. This second stage occurs during the initial residency application. Nationals from third countries requiring a visa to enter Malta must also undergo the standard Schengen visa application process.
Upon completing the residency application, the CMA assessors review the submitted application. They aim to detect any irregularities and underline potential risks at this stage. The CMA can access international databases to verify proof of funds and the legitimacy of business activities.
The CMA follow the below seven-category risk matrix to provide a final due diligence report to the Minister:
The CMA conducts an initial analysis of the KYC. They assess how the identity of the applicants has been established and verified. The process includes checks on all the applicants’ countries ten years before the application.
The CMA analyzes all of the applicants’ business and corporate affiliations worldwide.
Analyze applicants’ political associations and determine if they are on any watch lists or have sanctions against them.
Analysis of the applicant’s funds and wealth accumulation sources, based on evidence provided: bank statements, articles of association, share registers, certificates of incorporation, certified copies of contracts, and transactions.
The applicants’ reputation is assessed based on the ground and open source intelligence.
Analysis of the risks if the applicant has any charges or convictions for criminal and civil offenses.
Analysis of the activities and impact on the immediate network of the applicant within society. The research includes any areas not covered in the previous six categories.
One of the most significant advantages is children’s education access within the European Union. As an EU citizen, your children would be eligible for free or vastly reduced local citizen fees for undergraduate tuition at universities in countries like Germany, France, and Sweden, which can save tens of thousands of euros per year in tuition fees.
Healthcare in Malta is another significant benefit. The country has a robust healthcare system and is ranked among the top in the world by the World Health Organization. As a Maltese citizen, you will have access to this high-quality healthcare system, ensuring that you and your family are well cared for.
Malta also offers attractive tax residence programs. Special tax concessions are applied to non-resident or non-domiciled business people or company owners, significantly reducing taxes to single digits.
When living on the island for more than six months, tax residence programs allow qualifying individuals to pay tax on foreign income at a flat rate of 15% and remit the tax paid as a refund when they leave Malta. The tax savings are a return on investment from the donation for citizenship.
Regarding travel, a Maltese passport allows visa-free access to over 180 countries worldwide, including the United States, Canada, and Australia. It also grants the freedom of movement to live, work, or study anywhere in the twenty-seven EU member states. This mobility and access are invaluable for frequent travelers and those wanting flexibility in where they reside.
Maltese and EU citizenship through investment opens doors for visa-free travel, education, healthcare, tax incentives, and life in Europe.
Yes, immediate children under twenty-nine and parents over fifty-five may be eligible to apply if they show financial dependency.
The program has a thorough due diligence process, and Malta is an EU member state. European Union citizenship is very sought after.
Not in Europe. Malta is the only European Union country with an official citizenship by investment program that awards citizenship after holding residence for twelve months.
Portugal, Greece, and Spain all have Golden Visa residence programs costing between €250,000 to €500,000 investment. Portugal allows citizenship with a limited physical presence. However, the process will last five to six years.
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