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December 11, 2020

Malta sets up new agency that caters for all matters relating to citizenship

Earlier this year, Malta’s citizenship by investment programme, the Malta Individual Investor Programme (MIIP) came to an end after six years. Despite the programme’s tough stance on due diligence (Malta outranks most other CIPs for its stringent vetting procedures), the Maltese Government decided to scrap the MIIP prematurely and replace it with a new programme which was launched last month.

Since the MIIP’s inception in 2014, the Government of Malta has collected approximately €1.5 billion from successful applicants, which contributions funded the National Development and Social Fund. These funds have been primarily utilised in the social and health sectors, upgrading the Maltese public health infrastructure, but also during the COVID-19 pandemic, providing state incentives to businesses and individuals facing severe economic threats.

New programme, new agency

Community Malta Agency, or Aġenzija Komunità Malta in Maltese, is the new government entity responsible for administering and processing all Maltese citizenship-related matters. This includes accepting and processing applications for the acquisition of Maltese citizenship by descent, citizenship through merit, citizenship by naturalisation through long term residence and through exceptional service by merit and for exceptional service by investment in Malta.

The Agency is also responsible for the carrying out of an in-depth due diligence process on each and every application and putting forward recommendations to the Government regarding the granting of citizenship.

According to MaltaToday, the Agency is legally empowered to provide information to the Malta Commissioner for Revenue and the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, amongst others, as well as other local or foreign enforcement or regulatory authorities or agencies.

A new residency programme, which has been recently introduced by the Government of Malta, delivers a new legal framework, with even more stringent conditions which must be satisfied by those seeking to become eligible to apply for Maltese citizenship.

This new programme consists of three phases: firstly the applicants and eligible dependants will apply to become legal residents of Malta; secondly, the applicant and eligible dependants will go through a rigorous eligibility assessment to ensure that they are fit and proper to become eligible to apply for Maltese citizenship, which process includes verification on source of wealth and source of funds and other anti-money laundering controls; lastly, the applicants and eligible dependants would then have the option to apply for Maltese citizenship by naturalisation. The Agency will ensure that the applicant’s source of wealth and source of funds are legitimate as well as carrying out an appropriate risk assessment exercise for each application.

It is important to note that the applicants and eligible dependants can opt to apply for Maltese citizenship after being resident of Malta for either three years (if investing €600,000) or one year (if investing €750,000), and successfully completing the eligibility assessment conducted by the Agency.

Malta’s restructured citizenship for exceptional service by investment programme allows for 400 main applicants per year, with no more than 1,500 applications in total.

Only eligible agents, duly approved by the Agency, will be able to introduce and represent prospective applicants. The said agents will themselves be subject to stringent regulations and will be subject to regular compliance checks by the Agency to ensure that they are complying with all applicable legislation.

About Malta

Along with Austria, Malta achieved the highest scores for standard of living in the CBI Index 2020 for the fourth consecutive year. A combination of high scores in high life expectancy, safety levels, ability to uphold basic freedoms, high standard of education and GDP per capita yet again propelled Malta to top spot. Malta is also one of the best countries in terms of freedom of movement, scoring a perfect 10 in the latest CBI Index 2020.

This is hardly a surprise, given the facts. Whereas Malta is the EU’s smallest country, it has been punching above its weight year-on-year and it is regarded as being one of the most economically stable, with a strong economic rebound projected for 2021.

Strategically located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea between Italy and Tunisia, this archipelago operates under financially liberal rules, offers advantageous economic policies and is socially and politically stable, with a balanced two-party system and a highly developed culture. There is free universal childcare and education, and it boasts one of the best universal free healthcare systems worldwide.

Moreover, the beautiful scenery (its capital Valletta is a UNESCO World Heritage site), the rich history, the Mediterranean climate with warm summers and mild winters and the fact that English is one of the official languages, along with Maltese, makes Malta the leading country of choice for investment migration purposes.