Maltese Citizenship: Acquiring Citizenship through Naturalization

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Author:
Rihab Saad

Managing Director
Next Generation Equity

Malta Citizenship by Naturalization offers you and your family the chance to become part of a vibrant, culturally rich, and economically stable nation. This process, outlined in the Maltese Citizenship Act and enhanced by the Granting of Citizenship for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment Regulations, provides a clear and structured pathway to contributing to Malta’s prosperity.

By meeting specific residency and investment criteria, you can enjoy the many benefits that come with being a Maltese citizen, including access to EU member states, a robust passport for global travel, and the promise of a secure future.

Whether through long-term residency or exceptional investment, your journey to Maltese citizenship is meticulously governed to maintain the integrity and high standards of the Maltese community.

Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization

What Is Citizenship By Naturalization?

Citizenship by Naturalization in Malta allows you and your family to acquire Maltese citizenship after contributing to the country’s economic development. It’s governed by the Maltese Citizenship Act, specifically the Granting of Citizenship for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment Regulations. It involves a thorough application and vetting process, ending with the issuance of a certificate of naturalization.

Benefits of Maltese Citizenship

Maltese citizenship offers a wealth of advantages, such as visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to around 190 destinations worldwide. It also gives you the right to live, work, and study in any European Union country since Malta is a full EU member state. Plus, as a Maltese citizen, you’ll enjoy the stability of a growing economy and the security of a politically stable environment.

Citizenship also allows you to include family members in the application, providing them with the same rights and benefits.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization, you must be at least 18 years old and meet certain investment requirements. These include a minimum contribution to the national development fund, the purchase or lease of residential property in Malta, and a donation to a registered Maltese organization. Before applying for citizenship, you must also have legal residence status in Malta for at least 36 months, or 12 months by exception.

A stringent due diligence process ensures thorough background checks of all applicants.

Different Pathways to Naturalization

There are several pathways to obtaining Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization. These include the traditional route of long-term residence and the more expedited route through the Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment. The latter offers two options based on the residency period: a standard 36-month residency requirement with a lower investment threshold or a 12-month expedited residency option with a higher investment requirement.

Both pathways require you to meet the Maltese government’s investment, property, and donation criteria.

Importance of the 2024 Updates

The updates to the Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization process in 2024 are significant as they introduce a cap on the number of successful applicants. This limit is set at 400 per year and a total of 1500 overall, ensuring exclusivity and maintaining the program’s integrity.

The updates also reflect Malta’s commitment to the world’s strictest due diligence standards, ensuring that only reputable individuals can acquire citizenship. The changes align with international norms and safeguard Malta’s reputation while contributing to its economic growth.

Buildings In Malta

The Application Process

Obtaining the Necessary Forms

To initiate the process, applicants must acquire the appropriate forms from the Community Malta Agency, which oversees citizenship applications. Using the current forms that reflect the most recent regulations is crucial.

Required Documentation

Applicants must compile a comprehensive dossier to support their application. This includes evidence of the requisite residency period and the necessary direct investment amount. Additional funds of $54,447 per dependent are required for those who are dependent, including family members, in their application.

Documentation for the acquisition or leasing of property is also necessary, with minimum values set for both purchasing and renting. A charitable contribution to a local NGO is required. Personal identification and proof of good character for all applicants must be included.

Submission Guidelines

Applications must be meticulously prepared and submitted in accordance with the Community Malta Agency’s guidelines. You can proceed with your application only after completing the residency prerequisites and completing the initial vetting. Ensuring that the submission is comprehensive and well-documented is essential to avoid delays or rejection.

Handling of Fees and Costs

Applicants should be ready to cover various fees associated with due diligence, processing, and the mandated investments and contributions. Consulting with financial or legal experts can provide clarity on these financial requirements and assist in planning for them.

Eligibility Test and Preliminary Due Diligence

An initial assessment and vetting are conducted to confirm applicants’ compliance with Malta’s stringent standards. This phase involves rigorous background checks to exclude individuals who may pose a risk to national security or have a problematic history.

Processing Timeframes

The annual limit on new citizens and the overall cap ensure a meticulous review of each application. Applicants should be aware of these restrictions and the potential variability in processing times, reflecting the country’s commitment to carefully integrating new citizens.

Ocean And Buildings In Malta

Residency Requirements for Naturalization

Defining Ordinary and Legal Residency

Understanding the distinction between ordinary and legal residency is crucial for those seeking Maltese Citizenship through Naturalization. Ordinary residency refers to the actual time spent in the country, with a requirement of over half the year spent in Malta, potentially affecting tax status.

Legal residency, on the other hand, is a formal status that permits you to reside, work, and study in Malta, obtainable through various types of residence permits. It’s important to note that being an ordinary resident does not equate to having legal residency.

Duration of Residency

For Naturalization, you must hold Maltese residence status for a minimum of 36 months or 12 months in certain circumstances. This period is essential to demonstrate your commitment to integrating into the Maltese community.

Residence Permit Types

Malta issues several types of residence permits, both temporary and permanent. Temporary permits, which can be issued for up to five years, cater to individuals with specific purposes, such as education or entrepreneurship.

To qualify for a permanent residence permit, applicants must prove financial stability, consistent income, and secure housing in Malta for a minimum of five years. Obtaining a residence permit is necessary to fulfill the residency requirement for Naturalization.

Impact of Gaps in Residency

Maintaining continuous residency in Malta during the required period is imperative. Absences exceeding six months within a year can disrupt your residency status and potentially reset the duration of residency needed for Naturalization. Consistent presence in Malta is crucial to demonstrate your genuine connection to the country, which is a significant factor in Naturalization.

Proving Your Residency Status

Demonstrating your residency status involves presenting evidence of your physical presence and ties to Malta, such as utility bills, bank statements reflecting local expenditures, housing agreements, and a valid residence card. These documents are necessary to confirm your compliance with the residency requirements.

Applicants undergo extensive due diligence checks, including background investigations and monitoring by the Community Malta Agency for five years post-citizenship. Citizenship through investment is an alternative for those without familial connections to Malta, requiring a substantial financial contribution to the nation’s economy, property acquisition or leasing, and a philanthropic donation.

After satisfying all prerequisites and completing the residency period, you can pledge your allegiance to Malta. Subsequently, you will receive your Naturalization certificate, marking your official status as a Maltese citizen.

Aerial View Of Malta

Legal Considerations and Compliance

Malta’s Legal Framework for Citizenship

The Maltese Citizenship Act, Cap 188, provides the legal basis for the acquisition of citizenship through Naturalization. This legislation stipulates additional conditions, such as the necessity to have resided in Malta for a specific duration before application submission. It also includes provisions for individuals under the age of 18. It grants the Minister responsible for citizenship the authority to make final decisions on applications.

Criminal Record and Comprehensive Background Checks

To be considered for citizenship, applicants must have an unblemished criminal history. This process includes obtaining police clearances and conducting checks with international law enforcement agencies to ensure applicants have no criminal background. This rigorous vetting is critical to preserving the prestige of Malta’s citizenship program.

Dual Citizenship Policies

Since February 2000, Malta has recognized the possibility of holding multiple citizenships. This allows individuals to retain their original nationality while acquiring Maltese citizenship. Applicants should verify that their country of origin also permits dual citizenship to avoid legal complications.

Due Diligence Process

The due diligence process, particularly under the Exceptional Services by Direct Investment route, is managed by Komunità Malta and commences with acquiring a residence permit. This process, which can extend beyond four months, includes a comprehensive investigation to ensure the legitimacy of applicants’ funds and their overall eligibility for citizenship.

Following a successful due diligence review and the required residency period, applicants may then proceed with their citizenship application.

Legal Support and Advice

Navigating the intricacies of the Naturalization process often necessitates professional legal support. Applicants must be aware of the various steps, such as securing a residence certificate from the Agency and providing additional documentation. The process also requires two sponsors who are not related to the applicant.

Fees are associated with different application stages, including the initial submission and the Oath of Allegiance. Legal advisors can provide invaluable assistance in ensuring that all requirements are met and that applications are submitted accurately and completely.

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Preparing for the Citizenship Test

Study Resources and Material

Applicants for Maltese citizenship through Naturalization are not required to pass a language or citizenship test, which is a notable difference from many other countries’ citizenship requirements. Nonetheless, gaining knowledge of Malta’s history, culture, and legal framework is beneficial for societal integration.

While formal study materials are not mandated, engaging with the local community and customs is encouraged to foster a bond with the nation.

Exam Format and Content Overview

The absence of a citizenship test eliminates the need for applicants to prepare for specific exam content. However, it is important to be aware of the comprehensive due diligence conducted by the authorities, which includes health screenings and criminal record checks through international law enforcement agencies.

Awareness of these checks can aid applicants in ensuring they meet the necessary standards for citizenship approval.

Registration and Testing Locations

Applicants do not have to register at testing centers as there are no tests. The focus should instead be on fulfilling the application requirements, such as property investments and contributions to the national fund, and establishing a genuine link with Malta. Holding a residence card for the stipulated time is imperative to the Naturalization registration process.

Tips for Success and Common Pitfalls

To avoid common errors, applicants should ensure they meet all investment criteria and maintain these investments for the required duration. Avoiding any actions that could negatively impact Malta’s image is vital. Utilizing the services of approved agents who can provide preliminary written approval of your proposed ties with Malta can be beneficial.

Exemption Scenarios

While there are no exemptions related to a non-existent citizenship test, applicants should be aware of disqualifying conditions. These include having a criminal record, being under investigation, or posing a threat to national security.

Additionally, a previous visa refusal from a country with visa-free travel arrangements with Malta could lead to disqualification. Ensuring that none of these conditions apply is essential for maintaining eligibility for citizenship by Naturalization.

Start Your Journey to Maltese Citizenship

Embarking on the path to Maltese Citizenship by Naturalization is a process marked by commitment and meticulous adherence to legal requirements.

It’s a journey that culminates in the privilege of being part of a nation that is as rich in history as it is forward-looking in its economic and social landscapes. By following the guidelines set forth and with the assistance of expert advisors, your goal of obtaining Maltese citizenship can become a reality.

Remember, this passage isn’t just about acquiring a new passport; it’s about forming an enduring bond with a country poised at the crossroads of cultures. With diligence and dedication, you can join the exclusive ranks of Maltese citizens, enjoying all the rights and benefits this prestigious status confers.

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