Malta's 'instant citizenship' programme is 'delayed indefinitely'

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Malta's Individual Investor Program, which would allow wealthy people from outside the European Union to buy Maltese citizenship, has been postponed 'indefinitely' amid controversy and political opposition.

The Maltese government and opposition will now 'discuss amendments' to the programme according to the UK's Law Society Gazette, the journal of the solicitor's regulatory authority The Law Society.

The IIP was first proposed in late 2013. Legislation allowing the scheme to go ahead has been passed by the Maltese parliament. To qualify, each applicant under the IIP would have to

  • Pay a 'contribution' of €650,000; 70% of this would go into a national development fund
  • Purchase a property worth €350,000 (or rent one for €16,000 a year on a five year contract)
  • Invest at least €150,000 in Maltese bonds or shares for five years.

Citizenship in three months

Applicants will need to pay for their own security screening. Under the proposed citizenship programme, applicants may achieve Maltese citizenship in as little as three months. They would not have to live in Malta first. Indeed, they would only have to visit a couple of times to arrange their investments and fees.

Malta is an attractive island republic set in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. It has a warm climate and is a popular tourist destination but its attraction for wealthy people from outside Europe will probably lie in the fact that Malta is a member of the European Union. Therefore, any Maltese citizen can live anywhere in the EU; in London, Paris, Madrid or Rome.

This is why the new visa has caused disquiet in Brussels. In January 2014, reported that European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding was taking legal advice to prevent the scheme going ahead. Ms Reding told journalists that EU citizenship is 'not for sale'.

Political contributions

But there was also considerable disquiet about the arrangements for the administration of the scheme. A UK-based immigration consultancy which was reported to have made financial contributions to the Labour Party of Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has been awarded a contract to run the scheme.

The Law Society Gazette reports that there is disquiet that the firm, which we will not name, could make up to €28m a year from administrating the scheme. Opponents of the scheme have also expressed concern that the firm will experience a conflict of interests because it will conduct much of the security screening for the scheme but will only be paid if applicants are awarded citizenship.

One opponent of the scheme, opposition MP Jason Azzopardi, told the EU Observer 'It's like giving a teacher a stack of exam papers to mark and saying 'I'll give you €26,000 for every student who passes the exam'.

Wait and see

Sanwar Ali of said 'It seems as if the Maltese government still wants to go ahead with the scheme and the European Commission is dead set against it. Then again, the European Council has ruled that the criteria for granting citizenship are a matter for individual nations. We will have to wait and see what happens'. will continue to provide you with the latest developments on the Maltese second passport scheme as they happen. We will also report changes in our free immigration newsletter.

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