You may be among the many foreigners who have been keeping a keen eye on global affairs concerning financial and political matters. Conditions in some countries have deteriorated in recent years, while in others, they’ve maintained prosperity and improved as a society.
The consistent economic stability and commitment to maintaining political and social harmony has led Malta to become one of the most desirable places in the world to live. Many foreign expats and international investors are already aware of this, leading to an influx in searches through platforms like Nomad Capitalist on immigration investment programs in Malta and ways to live legally in this sunny Mediterranean gem.
Several avenues to lawfully reside in Malta through direct investment have been laid out by the Maltese government in order to boost and reinforce the nation’s economy. The most popular is the Malta residency by investment, which is a type of residence permit acquired through an investment program known as the Malta Permanent Residence Program (MPRP).
You might have been wondering how to go a step further and obtain Maltese citizenship. There isn’t a direct option to obtaining Malta citizenship through making an investment in the country in the same way as it’s possible for permanent residency, but it is possible to qualify for Malta citizenship by naturalization through a residence permit acquired from investment.
Foreign investors have the option of applying for a program known as the Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment program (CES) – more accurately referred to as the Maltese Citizenship Act Granting of Citizenship for Exceptional Services Regulations – which expedites the process of naturalization via foreign investment. This option extends beyond what an investment visa like the Malta Investor Visa offers. It grants full Maltese citizenship and a European passport, provided that the investor meets the investment and eligibility requirements.
Citizenship can be granted through the offering of a certificate of naturalization to expats and their families who contribute to the nation’s economic growth. The Malta citizenship by investment timeline is a 36-month residence period; this can be reduced to 12 months as an expedited route if a larger minimum investment is made.
In this detailed guide, you’ll learn about:
- Benefits of Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization Program
- Eligibility criteria
- Investment requirements
- Process of obtaining Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization Through Exceptional Services (CES)
- Tax treatment and benefits
- How to apply
Your Guide to Citizenship by Naturalization in Malta
Citizenship by investment is when individuals obtain a second nationality from a foreign country by making a substantial investment in its economy. This usually occurs through real estate investment, purchasing shares in an existing business, starting a new company that creates jobs, or contributing to a national development fund.
While Malta does not offer a direct route to citizenship by investment and dual citizenship status, applicants of CES can qualify for Maltese citizenship by naturalization by maintaining a consistent period of residence in the country, similar to what would be required for Malta citizenship by marriage. This is on the condition that the individual makes a combination of investments in the country that boosts the Maltese economy and national development.
The investments that qualify investors for this Malta citizenship program are a direct non-refundable investment, an investment in real estate, and a philanthropic donation. Note that each application goes through a strict due diligence process conducted by Community Malta Agency (CMA), the federal government agency that oversees and grants applications for Malta citizenship by investment.
The due diligence process includes detailed background checks related to character, source of funds, and anything else the CMA finds pertinent to ensuring that only the highest-quality candidates are selected for citizenship consideration.
Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (CES)
Launched at the end of 2020 and ratified by the Maltese government as a new policy for the old Malta citizenship by investment scheme, CES now replaces the previous Malta Individual Investor Program – which was also known as the Malta Investor Visa.
This scheme came out after changes occurred in the Malta citizenship by investment scheme and can lead to a Maltese passport on the condition that applicants meet the updated Malta citizenship requirements for the investment program. These changes raised the bar for acquiring Maltese citizenship through investment, further ensuring that only those who want to invest in and boost the Maltese economy are introduced into its society.
Benefits of the Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization Program
The new Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (CES) allows foreign nationals to enjoy all the benefits that come with having a Maltese passport and more.
1 – Freedom of movement within the EU
Malta is a full member of the European Union (EU), which means investors who acquire a Maltese passport acquire an EU passport. As per the EU freedom of movement legislation in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, citizens of the European Union are entitled to live and work or conduct business in any member state of the European Union.
A corporate base in the European Union is ideal for foreign entrepreneurs looking to start a business or trade in Europe. Trade between EU countries is tariff-free, and as part of the world’s largest trading bloc, companies have access to lucrative EU trade deals on international imports and exports.
Malta also lies within the Schengen Zone, meaning there are no visa or passport checks when traveling from country to country in the Schengen Area.
2 – Visa-free travel
The Malta passport is one of the strongest in the world, and besides freedom of movement within Europe, a Maltese passport opens up a world of travel doors, allowing visa-free travel and visa-on-arrival access to 170 countries worldwide.
3 – Obtain Malta dual citizenship
Another key benefit of the Malta immigration investment program is that it allows investors to obtain citizenship and a European passport within 12 to 36 months, as well as maintain dual citizenship with their home country. This is on the condition that foreign nationals who apply for citizenship maintain residence status in Malta.
4 – Passports for your whole family
Investing in the Maltese citizenship program means you can acquire citizenship not just for yourself but also for your immediate family members. This facilitation for family members to obtain a Malta passport is a key benefit of the program. Your family can work in any country in the EU, and enrolling in universities across the EU is also straightforward.
As EU citizens, your children will access many educational benefits, such as tuition-free higher education in Scandinavian countries like Denmark and Norway.
Do note that additional contributions must be made for dependents to acquire citizenship alongside the main applicant. However, children born to Maltese citizens are automatically granted citizenship by birthright, meaning you can pass on your Maltese citizenship to your children and grandchildren born after you acquired it. This is based on the Malta citizenship by descent law.
5 – Tax efficiency
Malta’s tax system is based upon residency, not citizenship, meaning that you may not have to pay tax in the country even if you become a Malta citizen. Malta also has special tax schemes for new citizens, which can result in additional tax efficiency and extremely advantageous tax exposure.
There is no income tax on global income, and global assets are not taxed either. You also pay tax at a significantly reduced rate of 15 percent [or a minimum of €15,000 ($16,000)] for money brought into Malta.
6 – Stable and secure country
Malta has one of the highest GDPs per capita in Europe and one of the lowest unemployment rates. It has an overall stable political climate and is regarded as one of the safest countries in Europe.
With the constant political turmoil and tension many of us experience in our respective countries, Malta is a breath of fresh air for those who wish to escape politics and live a peaceful life.
7 – Quality of life for your Family
Malta is an incredible country, and your family will enjoy the lovely climate, beautiful Mediterranean Sea, freedom of speech, and property rights, just as Maltese nationals would.
Additionally, there are many touristic places like the medieval hilltop town of Mdina and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. With modern infrastructure, fast internet speeds, and secure banking and payment options, the Maltese islands have become a top holiday destination for Europeans and foreigners from around the world.
8 – Access to the Maltese healthcare system
Despite being a tiny Mediterranean island nation, Malta has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and was ranked highly in a recent study published by Statista for the world’s best healthcare systems.
Health insurance and public taxation fund Malta’s highly-rated public healthcare system. By investing in Malta, individuals can enjoy medical services under health insurance coverage – including hospitalization, pregnancy, childbirth, medical prescriptions, and specialist treatment. Your family will have good medical care under Malta’s well-developed healthcare system.
9 – LGBTQ friendly
Malta was featured in TIME magazine after being crowned number one on the ILGA-Europe listing of countries promoting LGBT rights in 2016. It has ranked in first place ever since – a remarkable feat with Europe already being home to the most LGBTQ-friendly countries in the world, such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Portugal.
From being the first country in the European Union to prohibit conversion therapy and guarantee equal rights and freedom to LGBTQ citizens, to ensuring a safe environment for the LGBTQ community, this demonstrates that Malta’s dedication toward ensuring fairness for all citizens isn’t just a signal of virtue to please outsiders.
Malta has been the ultimate leader in building a fair, safe, and secure society for its LGBTQ community, which has reverberated around the world, encouraging other countries to improve the rights of their marginalized citizens.
Eligibility for Malta Citizenship by Naturalization
In order to become eligible for the CES program, you must:
- Be over the age of 18
- A third-country national (non-EU, non-EEA, or non-Swiss)
- Have a clean criminal record
- Pass a stringent due diligence process
- Not come from or have close ties to a sanctioned country
- Fulfill all the necessary investment requirements by meeting the program’s minimum investment thresholds
You can gain foreign citizenship through an investment of at least €600,000 ($640,000) if you have completed 36 months of residency in Malta or €750,000 ($800,000) after residing in the country for 12 months. Aside from the main investment, you must buy a residential property worth at least €700,000 ($747,000) in Malta, which must be held for at least five years. Alternatively, you can lease a residential property with an annual rental value of €16,000 ($17,000), which must also be held for a minimum of five years.
In addition to the two substantial investments, a donation worth €10,000 ($10,670) must be made to a Maltese organization approved by the Community Malta Agency.
Who can apply?
In the application, the main applicant can include the following family members:
- Their spouse
- Unmarried dependents under 20 years old
- Any dependent parents over the age of 55 years who must be fully dependent on the main applicant
Each family member must have a clean criminal record and pass a personal background check.
The main applicant and their family members must also pass additional criteria, including:
- Not have been previously denied a visa to a country that has a visa waiver agreement with Malta
- Not be deemed a national security risk or a reputation risk
- Not be under a criminal investigation
- Not hold the following nationalities or be a non-national but reside, do business, or have significant ties or connections to the following countries: Afghanistan, Belarus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Yemen,
- Not be a citizen from a country that’s on the US travel ban list.
Investment Requirements for CES
A Direct, Non-Refundable Investment
Real Estate Investment
Process of Obtaining Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization Through Exceptional Services (CES)
The process of obtaining Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization through Exceptional Services is broken up into four stages:
Stage 1: Residency in Malta
The main applicant, along with any dependents included in the application, must first apply for a Maltese residence card to gain a residency permit in Malta. To get the residence card, they must first pass the Community Malta Agency due diligence check.
Once your Malta visa for residency is approved, you are issued a permanent residence card with a 36-month validity. Afterward, you must visit the country to submit biometric data for the residence card. Keep in mind that ahead of lodging your residence application, you must lease an apartment.
- €10,000 for the Malta residence permit to secure your residency
- Government residency application fees – €5,000 ($5,300) for the main applicant and €1,000 ($1,070) per dependent
- Residency card fees – €27.50 ($29.30) per applicant
Stage 2: Eligibility for citizenship
A citizenship eligibility application must be submitted to the Community Malta Agency within 12 months from the issue date of the residency card. Otherwise, the Agency will revoke the card.
As usual, the Community Malta Agency performs due diligence to ensure the application is completed correctly. Further information and documents may be requested. Afterward, the CMA presents the application to the Minister, who then decides whether applicants are eligible to apply for citizenship.
Roughly speaking, applications take between 120 and 150 calendar days to be processed. If you’re eligible, you’ll then kick off the citizenship process. You’ll receive a Letter of Approval in Principle, upon which you need to pay extra fees.
- Due diligence fees – €15,000 for the main applicant, €15,000 for the benefactor (if applicable), and €10,000 per dependent aged 13 years old and above (paid directly to the CMA)
- Administrative Fees – €1,000 per applicant (paid directly to the CMA)
Stage 3: Maltese citizenship
After 12 months or 36 months from your residency stage, you can submit your application for the investment passport scheme to the Community Malta Agency. The CMA updates its due diligence on the applicants and presents its final findings to the Minister. Basically, your application for citizenship depends on whether the Minister approves it or not. Once approved, citizenship is granted.
The processing time to get citizenship takes around two to three months from the approval date. If the citizenship is approved, the main citizenship application must fulfill the exceptional investment, donation, and property requirements in order to start the process of naturalization.
- Administrative fees – €500 ($530) per applicant (paid directly to the CMA)
Stage 4: Naturalization
After fulfilling all the Malta citizenship by investment requirements, the main application and any dependents included in the citizenship application will be invited to visit Malta and take the Oath of Allegiance. The Oath of Allegiance must be completed within six months from the issuance date of the Letter of Approval in Principle.
Applicants acquire citizenship and a Maltese passport and are issued a Certificate of Naturalization. The name of all naturalized persons will be announced yearly in the Government Gazette.
- Government Direct Investment – €600,000 or €750,000 for the main applicant and €50,000 per dependent
- Charity Donation – €10,000
It is possible to have your citizenship revoked if you do not comply with the program’s requirements, as the CMA conducts continuous monitoring for five years. Therefore, to maintain your citizenship status, you must commit to retaining your residence in Malta for a period of no less than five years from the date you are issued an official certificate of citizenship.
Taxation in Malta
Potential investors in this program who are looking to reduce their tax burden must know that the state has:
- No inheritance tax
- No estate duty
- No wealth tax
- No municipal taxes
- No property ownership tax
Malta is also an excellent country for American retirees. For pension incomes of no more than €14,968 ($15,965) per annum, the tax exemption amount of 20 percent [capped at €2,864 ($3,055)] in 2022 will be raised to 40 percent of pension income [capped at €5,727 ($6,108)] during 2023.
This illustrates the Maltese government’s empathy toward elderly Maltese citizens, ensuring they’re taxed fairly and can maintain a good quality of life.
A Step-by-Step Guide to the Malta Citizenship by Naturalization Application
1 – Purchase qualifying real estate in Malta and register for residency. You may refer to this Malta real estate guide.
2 – After 12 to 36 Months, apply for the Malta investment program, pay the due diligence fees, submit paperwork, and pass a criminal background check assessed by INTERPOL, the International Criminal Court, and other authorities.
3 – After 120 to 150 days, relevant authorities will officially confirm whether the application has been successful and provide a conditional acceptance.
4 – Upon completing all requirements, the investor and dependents will receive a naturalization certificate and be given Maltese passports.
Malta Citizenship by Naturalization Timeline
Malta Permanent Residency Program versus Citizenship by Naturalization
While you cannot directly acquire citizenship by investment in Malta, the benefits of the Maltese citizenship by naturalization program are abundant compared to those offered by merely obtaining residency in Malta. Once citizenship has been granted, investors hold dual nationality status for life.
Children of Maltese citizens also automatically inherit citizenship by way of birthright citizenship based on citizenship by descent, which means you can pass on citizenship to your children and grandchildren born after you’re granted citizenship.
If you are still deciding whether to commit to the citizenship application, Malta happens to run a Permanent Residence Program too.
The Malta Permanent Residency Program (MPRP) provides permanent residency status to foreign investors for a lower qualifying investment. Permanent residency is based on three qualifying investments and can be acquired by:
- Purchasing real estate worth at least €350,000 ($373,000) [€300,000 ($320,000) in the South of Malta/Gozo] or leasing a property with an annual rental agreement of €12,000 ($12,800) [€10,000 ($10,600) in the South of Malta/Gozo]
- Making a government contribution of €28,000 ($30,000) or €58,000 ($62,000) if leasing or renting a property in Malta
- Making a charitable donation worth €2,000 ($2,130) to an NGO registered in Malta.
Qualifying applicants can obtain permanent residence permits with no minimum stay requirements through the Malta residence permit program. The Malta Residency by Investment Program has an array of benefits, from residing in a country with a high quality of life and stunning climate to enjoying significant tax advantages.
Choosing the Permanent Residence Program doesn’t mean you can’t acquire citizenship later. The scheme provides a pathway to gain Malta citizenship by naturalization after living there for seven years.
You may also like to read up on the Malta Visa Types Requirements Application and Guidelines.
How can Global Citizen Solutions help me?
Investors can encounter many difficulties when applying for citizenship or residency, which is why it is beneficial to have an expert on hand to provide you with personalized assistance throughout the process.
A specialist can help you with the following:
- Minimize the visits you have to make to the designated country
- Have someone who works solely on your behalf
- Reduce the hassle associated with putting your application together
- Acquire insider knowledge from someone with years of experience in the market
Let’s get you moving forward in your quest to obtain Maltese citizenship by naturalization. Contact us by filling out the contact form below.
Frequently Asked Questions about Malta Citizenship by Investment
How can I get Malta citizenship?
You cannot get Malta citizenship, but you can be eligible for Malta’s Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment program. In order to qualify for naturalization after three years, you must place a minimum investment of €600,000 ($640,000). If you place an investment of €750,000 ($800,000), you can reduce the length of the process to one year. You will be required to live in Malta throughout the period of eligibility to be granted citizenship by naturalization.
What is Malta's new program?
Malta’s new program refers to the new and updated policy of the previous Malta citizenship by investment scheme, which came into effect in early January 2021. The new program is referred to as CES, following the new Maltese Exceptional Investor Naturalization (CES) Regulations.
Is there a language test for Maltese citizenship?
There is no language requirement for acquiring Maltese citizenship or Malta citizenship by investment. If you are a British, Canadian, or US expat, you may be pleased to know that one of Malta’s two official languages is English, and 88 percent of the population speaks it.
Do I need a lawyer to get citizenship by investment in Malta?
While there is no Malta citizenship by investment program to become a Maltese citizen, the process leading up to citizenship eligibility must be carried out by a government-approved agent. You will need a lawyer that is familiar with Malta citizenship and real estate law.
Is Malta a member of the European Union?
Malta is a full member of the European Union, and citizenship in Malta comes with European citizenship, entitling bearers to freedom of movement to live and work in member states of the Schengen Area and the European Economic Area.
Is Malta in the Schengen Zone?
Yes, Malta is in the Schengen Zone, which entitles a Maltese citizen with a Maltese passport to freedom of movement and borderless travel throughout the Schengen Area.
How much does Malta citizenship cost?
The Maltese citizenship by naturalization program is not a direct route to citizenship but through naturalization. There are three investments to make that will cost around €690,000 ($736,000) [at the very minimum] with additional costs for dependents. To break that down, you must place a direct non-refundable investment worth at least €600,000 ($640,000) if you’re applying for the elongated 36-month residence period in Malta or €750,000 ($800,000) for the 12-month period.
You must also purchase residential real estate worth at least €700,000 ($747,000) in the Republic or enter a lease agreement worth at least €16,000 ($17,000) per year and hold your investment for a minimum of five years. Additionally, you must place a philanthropic donation of no less than €10,000 ($10,600).
Can I rent out my property in Malta?
You cannot rent out your property in Malta during the five-year minimum requirement, as it is considered to be in conflict with your intention to maintain residence in the country.
Can I pass Maltese citizenship on to my children/grandchildren?
Yes, Malta citizenship law abides by the rule of jus sanguinis (right of blood), so any child born to a Maltese citizen is a citizen at birth through the right of descent, whether born in Malta or overseas. Citizenship can be passed on to children and grandchildren. One of the key advantages of the Maltese citizenship program is that members of your immediate family are also eligible.
How fast can I get Maltese citizenship?
You must hold Maltese residency for at least 12 to 36 months before you can be naturalized through Malta’s Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment program.
Can my Maltese citizenship be revoked?
Under specific conditions, Maltese citizenship can be revoked. For example, if you fail to pass the government’s periodic due diligence checks, your citizenship can be revoked. Maltese nationality can also be revoked in rare but obvious cases, such as obtaining citizenship through fraudulent means or circumstances threatening national security.
Does Malta recognize Bitcoin?
Malta has lenient regulations regarding the use of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but it does not recognize Bitcoin as a method of payment for the Malta Citizenship by Naturalization Scheme or any other Maltese visa program.
Can I buy Malta citizenship?
It is not possible to buy or be granted Maltese citizenship, or acquire Malta citizenship by investment. However, citizenship by naturalization is possible. Your family members can also acquire citizenship when you’re eligible to apply for citizenship by naturalization.