Malta, an archipelago in the central Mediterranean, boasts a rich and varied history. Located in the Schengen zone and as a bona fide member of the European Union, Malta has become a sought-after destination for third-country nationals (non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss) to gain a European passport through obtaining Malta citizenship by naturalization.
The country’s strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea has made it a coveted prize for empires throughout the ages. From the Phoenicians and Romans to the Knights of St. John and the British Empire, Malta has been subject to a succession of rulers. Malta gained independence from British colonial rule in 1964 and subsequently became a republic a decade later, in 1974.
Today, Malta is a proud member EU member state and stands as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of its people throughout millennia of challenges and triumphs. Since gaining independence, the country has transformed itself into one of the most stable in Europe, and Malta citizens benefit from a politically neutral government focused on the well-being of its citizens.
After obtaining Maltese citizenship and a Maltese passport, you access numerous advantages, including a high quality of life, a business-friendly environment, and visa-free travel or visa-on-arrival access to 172 countries worldwide. But how do you acquire Maltese citizenship? This article explores the finer details of citizenship by naturalization in Malta and how you can become a Maltese citizen through exceptional services to the country by direct investment.
What is a naturalized citizen?
A naturalized Maltese national is a foreign national who gains citizenship of a state through what is known as the “Malta naturalization process.” In the pursuit of naturalized citizenship, foreign nationals must meet a predetermined set of eligibility criteria, typically encompassing:
- A minimum period of seven years of continuous lawful residence in the country
- Proficiency in the English or Maltese language
- Knowledge of the Maltese history and customs
- Having a good character
Depending on the country, eligibility criteria can also include being financially stable with proof of paying taxes and renouncing your original citizenship if the country you seek to acquire citizenship doesn’t allow dual citizenship.
Maltese Citizenship by Registration
Malta citizenship by registration is Maltese legislation granting citizenship to those with familial ties to a citizen of Malta or a former Maltese citizen seeking to re-acquire the country’s citizenship.
Prospective applicants must generally be one of the following individuals to be eligible to apply for Malta citizenship by registration:
- The spouse of a citizen of Malta married for at least five years and is still married and living with the Maltese spouse.
- The spouse of a citizen of Malta who is still married but separated de jure or de facto provided that they lived together for at least five years after marriage.
- A widow/widower of a national of Malta
- A former citizen of Malta
- A person born before 21 September 1964 of a female born in the Republic of Malta who is or was a citizen of Malta.
- A person born abroad between 21 September 1964 and 31 July 1989 of a Maltese mother, who was a citizen of Malta at the time of the child’s birth.
- A descendent up to the third generation born abroad of an ascendant born in Malta had one parent born in Malta.
The Difference Between Malta Citizenship by Naturalization and Registration
Naturalization in Malta generally follows the process of most countries that grant citizenship by naturalization. Foreign nationals with no familial connections to Malta must prove their suitability for citizenship by demonstrating other links to the country.
This includes a minimum residence period, proficiency in one of the country’s official languages, knowledge of its history and customs, and other factors such as social contributions to the local community.
Citizenship by registration, on the other hand, is typically available to certain individuals with a specific connection to Malta, such as descendants of citizens of Malta, spouses of Maltese nationals, and other exceptional cases defined by law. Most applicants for citizenship by registration aren’t required to prove the same connections as those entering the naturalization process to be eligible for citizenship.
Benefits of Obtaining Citizenship by Naturalization in Malta
Permanent residence in Malta
Acquiring Maltese citizenship by naturalization means you can reside indefinitely in Malta and enjoy the benefits of being a Maltese citizen.
Freedom of movement in the European Union
A person with Malta citizenship gains a passport of an EU country, allowing them to move freely in other EU countries with the right to reside should they choose; however, it necessitates registering in the country they choose, according to EU legislation.
Business opportunities in Europe
With a European passport from an EU country, Maltese nationals don’t need to apply for work visas or permits to establish a business in another EU nation.
Maltese citizenship for family members
Foreign investors who obtain citizenship through the new Maltese Exceptional Investor Naturalization (CES) process can apply for a Malta passport for their immediate family members through Maltese law allowing family reunification. This includes a spouse and dependent children born abroad.
Expanded visa-free travel
A Maltese passport allows travel to 172 countries visa-free, including countries in the Schengen Area and other nations in the European Union.
Become a Malta tax resident
Malta is considered a low-tax country for retirees and expats earning foreign incomes. Maltese citizens and residents pay tax on foreign income remitted to Malta at a flat rate of 15 percent. Additionally, senior foreign nationals considering acquiring Maltese citizenship to retire in Malta avoid gift, wealth, and inheritance taxes.
A high quality of life
Unlike other nations in the West, like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, Malta has a relatively low cost of living. After successfully obtaining citizenship through the Maltese citizenship program, you can enjoy a high quality of life in a stable and prosperous country for about $2,000 per month.
The Requirements to Obtain Malta Citizenship by Naturalization
There are two ways to obtain citizenship by naturalization in Malta: General naturalization after seven years of residency with a valid residence permit and Malta Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment.
Maltese citizenship by naturalization eligibility criteria
Foreign nationals who seek naturalization to obtain Maltese passports must fulfill the following criteria:
- At least 12 months of residence in Malta before submitting a citizenship application
- At least four years of residency in Malta during the six years preceding the above period of 12 months
- Be a person of good character
- Possess adequate knowledge of the Maltese or English language
- Be considered suitable for Maltese citizenship
Persons with children born in Malta after obtaining Malta citizenship can pass new Malta citizenship to their children. A person born abroad without a parent who obtained Maltese citizenship by birthright does not qualify for naturalization unless their parent acquired Maltese citizenship through the Malta Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (CES) program.
Documents for Acquiring Citizenship by Naturalization in Malta
Maltese foreign residents who fulfill the eligibility criteria to gain citizenship by naturalization in Malta must provide the following documents:
- A valid residence permit
- A valid passport
- A citizenship application for naturalization (form E)
- A certified birth certificate
- A certified marriage certificate (if applicable)
- A certified criminal record certificate for all countries of residence
- Three 35 x 45 mm passport photos
- A letter signed by the applicant detailing the reason for applying for Maltese citizenship by naturalization.
You must submit both the original documents and their copies. If the originals are in a language other than English or Maltese, they must be accompanied by a legally translated copy.
Before submission to immigration authorities, a Malta citizenship application must be signed by two sponsors besides the main applicant. One must be an adult Maltese citizen automatically granted citizenship at birth. The other sponsor must be an individual of one of the following professions:
- A judge
- A magistrate
- A member of Parliament
- A notary public
- An advocate
- A medical practitioner
- A legal procurator
- A police officer not lower than the rank of an inspector
- A public officer not lower than the rank of principal
- An officer of the Armed Forces of Malta not below the rank of captain
- A parish priest
A fee of €450 applies for administration and due diligence. A certificate of citizenship comes with an additional fee of €50.
Step-by-Step Procedure to Become a Citizen of Malta by Naturalization
To be granted Maltese citizenship by naturalization and a Maltese passport, foreign residents living in Malta must first maintain seven years of residency with a valid residence permit. After completing the minimum residency requirement, they can acquire citizenship and a Maltese passport after the following steps:
Step one: Submission of required documents
The required documents will depend on the applicant, but standard documents include an application (form E), a valid passport, a residence permit, birth and marriage certificates, and a receipt proving payment of application fees.
Step two: Due diligence by immigration officials
Citizenship by naturalization applications usually take nine months to be processed, which includes a four-tier due diligence process. The main applicant must also attend an interview with authorities in the Police Headquarters for Migration. At this point, you may also be required to prove proficiency in English or Maltese and knowledge of the country’s history and customs.
Step three: Citizenship oath
After successfully applying, an applicant must take a citizenship oath, determined as an Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of Malta, before being granted citizenship.
Step four: Issuance of a citizenship certificate
After taking a citizenship oath, new Maltese citizens can collect their citizenship certificate from the relevant government agency.
New Maltese passport recipients are not granted anonymity. Once the applicant gains Maltese nationality, this information is published in the Government newspaper.
How Can Global Citizen Solutions Help You?
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We guide you from start to finish, taking you beyond your citizenship or residency by investment application.
Other Ways to Obtain Maltese Citizenship
Maltese citizenship by birth or descent
While this is not a voluntary process, it is worth acknowledging. Maltese nationality is based on jus sanguinis (right of blood). As it currently stands for those born after the last amendments to nationality laws in the Maltese Citizenship Act for granting citizenship by birthright, there are three circumstances where individuals acquire Maltese citizenship at birth or by descent:
- A individual born in Malta to a parent who was a Maltese citizen at the time of their birth
- A individual born in Malta with an ascendent born in Malta (including a maternal and paternal grandparent) to parents born in Malta
- A individual born abroad to a parent who was a Maltese citizen at the time of their birth; The parent must have been born in Malta, or acquired citizenship by naturalization or registration (citizenship eligibility through registration applies in specific circumstances).
Maltese citizenship by marriage
The spouse of a Malta citizen can acquire citizenship and a Maltese passport if they have been married for at least five years and are still married and living together in Malta on the date of applying. Citizenship by marriage in Malta is referred to as Malta citizenship by registration.
Maltese citizenship by naturalization for exceptional services
An individual with foreign citizenship and without familial ties to Maltese citizens can acquire Malta citizenship in 12 to 36 months through Malta’s Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment program (CES). The program is often inaccurately referred to as Malta citizenship by investment; however, it is not investment citizenship.
A prospective applicant is only considered a suitable citizen if they are deemed to contribute to the country’s national development and social progression.
The Community Malta Agency is the federal government agency overseeing the Malta citizenship program for exceptional services by directly investing. The exceptional services regulations, as determined by the Community Malta Agency, state that third-country nationals (non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss) can gain citizenship eligibility through an exceptional direct investment, which consists of three separate investments:
- A €600,000 or €750,000 contribution to Malta’s national development fund
- A purchase of immovable residential property for at least €700,000 or a five-year lease agreement with a minimum annual rent of €16,000
- A €10,000 donation to a Maltese non-government organization
In the accelerated naturalization process, investors are initially required to secure a residence permit, successfully clear a rigorous eligibility test and due diligence process, and subsequently submit an application for citizenship to the Community Malta Agency.
The main applicant for Malta citizenship through exceptional services by direct investment must:
- Be 18 or over
- Be a third-country national (non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss)
- Prove a legitimate source of income and source of funding for the direct investment
- Have a clean criminal record
- Not come from or have close ties to banned countries
- Have not been denied entry or a visa to any country with which Malta has a visa-free arrangement
The application takes 36 months to process with a contribution of €600,000 and 12 months with a contribution of €750,000. Alongside the main applicant, a spouse, children under 20, and dependent parents over 55 are eligible to obtain citizenship and a Maltese passport.
Dual Citizenship in Malta
Before the year 2000, Malta dual citizenship was limited to citizens born in Malta who acquired citizenship of a foreign country and spent six years living there. The government of Malta amended the Malta Citizenship Act (Cap. 188) in 2000, granting all Maltese nationals the right to dual citizenship.
This is subject to the policies of the individual’s original country of citizenship or the country in which a Maltese national is pursuing dual nationality.
Frequently Asked Questions about Malta Citizenship by Naturalization
Are there any investment requirements for obtaining Maltese citizenship by naturalization?
There are no requirements to make a direct investment to obtain citizenship by naturalization in Malta. Provided you fulfill the eligibility criteria, including at least seven years of residency in Malta, you can apply for citizenship and a Maltese passport through the Malta Passport Office.
However, obtaining Malta citizenship in 12 to 36 through the exceptional services route with a real estate purchase or lease does require a direct investment. The Community Malta Agency handles applications for Malta citizenship through exceptional services by direct investment.
What are the residency requirements for Maltese citizenship by naturalization?
Malta has a seven-year naturalization period, so you must maintain a Maltese residence permit for seven years before submitting a Malta citizenship application. The Malta Permanent Residence Program is a Malta investor visa providing a straightforward solution to maintain a Maltese residence permit for seven years.
Can I retain my current citizenship if I become a Maltese citizen?
The Maltese government permits dual nationality, so you can acquire or retain Maltese citizenship and Maltese passport, provided your other country of citizenship allows dual citizenship.
What happens if my application for citizenship by naturalization is denied?
You will receive an official notification from a relevant authority of the Maltese government explaining the reasons for the denial. In some situations, missing documents or information may lead to rejection, and the opportunity for reconsideration may be possible by providing the required information.
However, reconsideration is discretionary in Malta, and there is no official appeal process for denied Malta citizenship applications. Applicants are advised to work closely with legal professionals or immigration advisors to ensure they fulfill the criteria and requirements for Malta citizenship and address any concerns the authorities raise.
How long does the application process usually take?
The entire application process to obtain Malta citizenship by naturalization takes seven years and an additional nine months once a citizenship application has been submitted. The length of the application process for a main applicant can be reduced to 12 or 36 months through the Malta citizenship program granting a Malta passport for exceptional direct investment.