Until this year, Maltese law presented three ways to acquire citizenship in Malta and therefore, a Maltese passport. A fourth option has now been introduced by the Government of Malta. This refers to the Individual Investor Programme (IIP Malta) which grants citizenship to foreign individuals and families who contribute to the economic development of Malta.
Under Malta Immigration laws, previously the following ways to become a Malta citizen applied:
Birth - people born in or outside Malta that would satisfy certain criteria would be eligible for Malta citizenship, depending mainly on their date of birth;
Registration - spouses of a Malta citizen after five years of marriage, widow/widower of a Malta citizen, children born abroad to Maltese mothers prior to 01/08/1989 and persons who are of second and subsequent generations born abroad of Maltese descent (two ancestors born in Malta) would be eligible for Malta citizenship; and
Naturalization - if one is a former Maltese citizen; one is born abroad to Maltese parents who are returned migrants; one is born in Malta, one holds a foreign citizenship and at least one parent is a Maltese citizen; one is born to parents who were non-Maltese but one of whom or both subsequently acquired Maltese citizenship, and if one is born abroad and is of Maltese descent.
Notable was also the fact that foreigners who have obtained residency could apply for citizenship, with such applications being only considered after 15 or 20 years and on a case by case basis.
Under the new Malta Individual Investment Programme (IIP Malta) citizenship can now also be obtained through a contribution to the economic development of Malta. This was done through the establishment of a programme to be known as the ‘Individual Investor Programme of the Republic of Malta’ (IIP Malta).
Following discussions and negotiations by the government, the opposition and the EU Commission, an agreement was reached on this Individual Investment Programme. The Commission opines that introducing the requirement for a minimum residency of 12 months prior to the opportunity to acquire Maltese citizenship proves that the programme adds genuine links between applicants and the state of Malta. As a result, no certificate of naturalisation will be issued unless the applicant proves that he has been residing in Malta by having purchased or rented a property.
In addition, Malta announced that it will no longer cap the Individual Investor Programme (IIP). Therefore, more than 1,800 applicants will be entitled to benefit from this Programme and acquire Maltese citizenship by naturalistion.
The government has now amended the Citizenship Act so as to render it more satisfactory to the European Commission and the European Parliament in terms of actual residency. The European Commission’s endorsement of the revised citizenship programme has been welcomed by the Maltese Government and Opposition and various stakeholders. Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commissionwho had voiced her concern over the original scheme has welcomed this breakthrough, stating that the European Commission is committed to ensure that member states with similar programmes to Malta’s adhere to the necessary requirements.
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