Malta Citizenship by Marriage

Dr. Jean-Philippe Chetcuti | 17 Sep 2015

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The Maltese Citizenship Act provides for the acquisition of Malta Citizenship by Marriage.  A foreign individual being married to a Maltese citizen for five years and provided the spouses are still living together at the time of application is entitled to Malta Citizenship by Marriage.

Legal Basis to Malta Citizenship by Marriage

The latest amendments were introduced by virtue of Act IV of 2000 which transferred the provisions regulating citizenship acquired by marriage from the Maltese Constitution to the Maltese Citizenship Act. Prior, to these amendments, the foreign spouse of a citizen of Malta could apply for registration, immediately after marriage. Hence it was being felt that the law was being abused as a result of a number of marriages of convenience, where foreign citizens were contracting marriages with Maltese citizens with the sole aim of obtaining Maltese citizenship. 

The law nowadays state that a foreign person married to a citizen of Malta may after five years of marriage, acquire Maltese citizenship by registration. Thus it is essential that on the date of application, the applicant is still married to the citizen of Malta and must have been so married and living together for at least five years. The law holds that the spouses must have been living together, and therefore it is not essential that such spouses had been living together in Malta.

Malta Citizenship by Marriage for Separated Spouses

The law also regulates separated spouses whether de jure or de facto. Thus, if a married couple had to seperate by law or by fact after five years of marriage, the foreign spouse is still entitled to apply for registration, provided that the said spouse lived together during those five years of marriage.

The Maltese Marriage Act, in Article 38 states that any person who marries with the sole intention of obtaining Maltese citizenship or any rights attached to it, such as freedom of movement or free healthcare, shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

Malta Citizenship by Marriage for the Surviving Spouse

This also applies to the widow or widower of a Maltese citizen, and hence if the Maltese spouse dies before the fifth year of marriage, the foreign spouse may still apply to be registered as a Maltese citizen, following the lapse of the fifth year from the date of marriage, Here it is also essential that such spouses had been living together until the date of death of the Maltese citizen. 

Malta Citizenship by Marriage for Foreign Spouses

The acquisition of citizenship through marriage is also available to those persons, who at the time of marriage were both foreigners. This can happen when following the marriage, one of the spouses acquire Maltese citizenship through another mode of acquisition provided for in the MCA. Thus the other spouse would become entitled to be registered as a citizen of Malta, provided that such spouses had been married and living together for five years, at the time the application for citizenship is made.

Malta Citizenship by Marriage: Civil Unions

Another recent development is the introduction of the Civil Unions Act in 2014 which provides that a civil union, once registered shall have the corresponding effects and consequences in law of a civil marriage. Where a civil union is contracted between a Maltese citizen and a foreign partner, the certificate of civil union, marriage or jurisdiction equivalent overseas can be registered in Malta. This means that a foreign partner in a civil union can be eligible to obtain Maltese citizenship provided that such person is still in the civil union and living with the Maltese citizen for at least five years and provided also that the Minister is satisfied that the grant of citizenship is not contrary to the public interest. 


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Key Contacts

Dr Jean-Philippe Chetcuti

Managing Partner

+356 22056411

Mr Kenneth Camilleri

Senior Partner

+356 22056414

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