Acquisition and Renunciation of Citizenship

Antoine Saliba Haig | 11 Sep 2017

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Before dealing with the topic of Renunciation of Maltese Citizenship, it is useful to note that the relevant provisions which shall be dealt with shortly are found in the Maltese Citizenship Act, last amended in 2013 which supplements Chapter 3 of the Constitution of Malta. Evidently linked to the renunciation of citizenship is the acquisition of Maltese citizenship, and this can be through birth, naturalisation, registration, and by investment. Therefore, before analysing the renunciation of Maltese citizenship, the methods of acquisition of citizenship shall be considered.

Acquisition by Birth

Every person born in Malta on or after the appointed day shall be deemed to have become or shall become, a citizen of Malta at the date of his birth. 

Acquisition by Descent

Following amendments to the Maltese Citizenship Act in 2007, persons of Maltese descent became eligible for Maltese Citizenship by registration if they can prove they are descendants in the direct line of an ascendant born in Malta of a parent also born in Malta. Whilst there is no residency requirement, if the applicant has parents or grandparents who are still alive and are also direct descendants themselves, they would also have to apply for Maltese citizenship as otherwise Maltese citizenship link would have been broken. 

Acquisition by Naturalisation

What is naturalisation? It is a process through which a non-Maltese person (alien) is granted citizenship by the Minister (the Minister at the time responsible for matters relating to Maltese citizenship, from here onwards referred to as “the Minister”) though a certificate of naturalisation if he/she satisfies the following requirements:

  • He/she has resided in Malta throughout the twelve months immediately preceding the application; and
  • He/she has, during the six years immediately preceding the said period of twelve months, he has resided in Malta for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than four years; and
  • He/she is of good character; and
  • He/she has an adequate knowledge of the Maltese or the English language; and
  • He/she would be a suitable citizen of Malta.

Moreover, naturalisation can also be obtained if the applicant can prove Maltese descent or if he/she has authority over a minor child who is a citizen of Malta. In addition, a minor may be granted citizenship by naturalisation if he/she is under the authority of a Maltese citizen.

Acquisition by Registration (Marriage)

Acquisition by Registration is the registration for Maltese citizenship by a person who marries a citizen of Malta. The Maltese Citizenship Act further provides that such person may only be granted citizenship if, at the time of application, he/she is still married to a Maltese citizen or is his/her widow. Furthermore, if it is the case that they are not still married, either through de facto or de jure separation, the non-Maltese person may still apply for Maltese citizenship if, upon the celebration of their marriage, they had been living together for at least 5 years.

Acquisition by Investment

The Malta Citizenship by Investment Programme is the first EU approved citizenship Programme to be launched in Malta. It offers a second citizenship option to families wishing to relocate their personal or business affairs to an EU country. Citizenship granted through this programme is valid for life and it is passed on to future generations by descent. The programme offers several benefits, including:

  • Mobility:
  • EU approved citizenship program since Feb 2014
  • Family eligibility includes parents of main applicant and spouse, minor children, unmarried dependent adult children <27. Descendants automatically entitled to citizenship thereafter.
  • Efficient process:
    • Citizenship approved after 4 months processing time.
    • Fast track residence cards within 1-3 weeks with Schengen mobility for 18 months.
    • A total of 12 months to issue passport (inclusive of processing time) from the date of initial residency.

Renunciation of Citizenship

A citizen of Malta, of full age and capacity, who is also a national of a foreign country has the right to renounce his/her Maltese citizenship. Such person can make a declaration in the prescribed manner, in which he/she renounces his/her Maltese citizenship. It is then the Minister who causes such declaration to be registered and upon such registration, the person ceases to be a citizen of Malta. Moreover, the Minister is allowed discretion to refuse to register any such declaration if it is made during a war in which Malta may be engaged, or if it is contrary to public policy.

The following documents must be produced in support of a declaration of renunciation:

  • The original Maltese citizenship certificate (if applicable)
  • Evidence to show that the person making the declaration is a citizen of another country
  • Affidavit/Letter stating why the person making the declaration is renouncing his/her Maltese citizenship
  • A certified true copy of the passport’s data page of the person making the declaration

The prescribed form may be submitted against a fee of €12.90

Deprivation of Citizenship

Renunciation is not the only means through which Maltese citizenship may be lost. If it comes to the knowledge of the Minister that a person has obtained citizenship, either by naturalisation or registration, and that the certificate of naturalisation or registration was obtained by fraud, false representation, or concealment of any material fact, then the Minister has the authority to deprive such person of his/her Maltese citizenship. Furthermore, the Maltese Citizenship Act continues by providing for other scenarios in which a Maltese citizen may be deprived of his Maltese citizenship – if the Minister is satisfied that after the person has been naturalised or registered, he/she:

  • is, by act or speech, disloyal or disaffected towards the President or the Government of Malta; or
  • has, during any war in which Malta was engaged, unlawfully traded or communicated with an enemy or been engaged in business to assist an enemy in that war; or
  • has, within seven years after becoming naturalised, or being registered as a citizen of Malta, been sentenced in any country to an imprisonment for a term of not less than twelve months; or
  • has been ordinarily resident in foreign countries for a continuous period of seven years and during that period has neither - (i) been at any time in the service of the Republic or of an international organisation of which the Government of Malta was a member; or (ii) given notice in writing to the Minister of his intention to retain citizenship of Malta

An overview

As we have seen, the legislation governing Maltese citizenship has evolved, as we can see from the introduction of Maltese Individual Investment Programme. However, as seen through the laws governing renunciation and deprivation of citizenship, the concept has remained the same. Why? The underlying notion of citizenship remains allegiance to the State of Malta as we can see, more specifically, through the criteria governing the deprivation of Maltese citizenship. 


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