In face of recent turmoil, is it still a perfect time to apply for Maltese passport?
Disruption of European immigration landscape In 2023, European immigration policies have been undergoing frequent changes. Ministry of Justice of Ireland suddenly brought the Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP) to an end on February 15, 2023. Portuguese Prime Minister followed suit to suspend golden visa on February 16, 2023. Greek government also announced new policies for the golden visa, raising the minimum real estate investment amount to 500,000 euros in certain areas. Additionally, news reported that Más País Verdes Equo proposed the cancellation of Spain golden visa. These significant changes in the landscape of European immigration make the world wonder: how much longer can those citizenship or residency-by-investment programs continue? Is it the last chance for prudent investors? What will happen to applicants in the progress of application.
Status of the EU investment citizenship program
The EU citizenship by investment program has experienced significant transformations, transitioning from a period of prosperity to a decline, with only the Malta investment citizenship program remaining as an exception. Various European investment citizenship programs have been compelled to cease their operations due to immense pressure from the European Union. Notably, the Moldova investment citizenship program and the Cyprus investment citizenship program were closed in 2020, followed by the shutdown of the Montenegro investment citizenship program in 2022. Consequently, Malta’s investment citizenship program currently finds itself facing unparalleled pressure. Since the release of the “Cyprus Papers” by Al Jazeera in September 2020, the controversy surrounding the EU investment citizenship program has persisted. In October 2020, the European Union initiated pressure on the governments of Cyprus and Malta, demanding the discontinuation of their investor citizenship programs. In June 2021, the European Commission issued an official notice to Malta, cautioning them to terminate their investment citizenship program. In response to this pressure, Malta heightened its scrutiny of applicant backgrounds. During the same year, the European Parliament published an extensive 159-page research report specifically targeting EU investment citizenship programs, with a particular focus on Malta. In 2022, the European Parliament voted on a proposal presented by Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld, aiming to end all investment-based citizenship and residency programs by 2025. The proposal achieved a substantial majority, prompting the Parliament to call for EU legislation.
Introduction of Malta’s investment citizenship program
The remaining investment citizenship program in the European Union is Malta’s “The Granting of Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment,” officially launched on November 20, 2020. With a limited quota of 1,500 citizenship grants, it allows a maximum of four hundred approvals annually. This highly coveted “golden passport” program holds global appeal. As a Maltese citizen, you gain visa-free access to 187 countries and territories, including the United States. Moreover, being an EU citizen grants you the freedom to relocate, work, study, seek employment, or retire in any EU member state. Another advantage lies in Malta’s tax system, which is based on an individual’s tax residence and income source rather than citizenship. Consequently, even after obtaining Maltese citizenship, investors are not obligated to pay taxes in the country. The Office of the Regulator (ORGCES) recently published its annual investment citizenship report, highlighting the abundance of available quotas in Malta’s new citizenship program. Spanning sixty pages, this comprehensive report provides a wealth of data, such as application numbers, applicant profiles, approval statistics, popular property locations, and more. It serves as a valuable reference for prospective applicants and contributes to a higher level of transparency compared to similar programs in other countries. One intriguing trend observed in the 2021 data is the substantial proportion of European applicants, accounting for up to 48%. This raises questions regarding media reports of numerous British individuals willing to invest significant funds to preserve their EU citizenship following Brexit. It is believed that some of them are turning to Malta’s investment citizenship program as a means to maintain their EU citizenship status.
Is it still a perfect time to apply for Maltese Citizenship? According to the Times of Malta in April 2022, Maltese Prime Minister Robert Abela is contemplating various options regarding the future of the program. These options include the outright closure of the program, setting a deadline for its termination by 2025, or implementing stricter regulations. This development may raise concerns for prospective applicants who wonder if their applications will still be processed if they apply for a Maltese passport and the program is unexpectedly suspended during the application process. The answer to this concern is affirmative. It is noteworthy that the Ministry of Interior continued processing applications that were submitted before the official closure, even after the program was formally suspended. One year later, in November 2021, the Cypriot Minister of Interior announced that the backlog of applications had been cleared, resulting in the approval of 390 applications. This demonstrates that applications submitted before the program’s suspension were still processed and considered, offering reassurance to potential applicants in similar situations.
In June 2020, the Malta Individual Investor Programme (MIIP) announced the suspension of its previous policy, based on the experience of Malta’s immigration program. The official IIP website provided a two-month window for applicants to submit their E-Card applications. If applicants had applied and undergone fingerprinting before July 31, they were considered to have secured a place under the old policy. Despite the implementation of the new policy, Globevisa currently has several clients who entered the application process under the old policy and are still progressing through the normal application procedure. Notably, there have been genuine instances of successful naturalization and passport acquisition for Malta MIIP clients who applied under the old policy between 2021 and 2023. This history leads us to believe that applicants who commenced the application process prior to the program suspension announcement are unlikely to face retrospective measures, considering the Immigration Agency’s previous actions. Given the pressure from the European Union and the global attention focused on Malta’s remaining program, “The Granting of Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment,” Globevisa advises applicants to swiftly apply for the E-Card and complete the full submission during the Eligibility stage. This initiative-taking approach provides greater assurance for those seeking to align with the current policy. For prospective applicants, it may be an opportune moment to initiate the application process and expedite it, thereby minimizing the potential impact of future policy changes. Throughout the journey of obtaining an EU passport, a determined and experienced team is vital. By choosing Globevisa, you gain the expertise needed for the Malta Citizenship by Investment program.