In a press briefing, Alex Muscat, Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship, announced that – starting in September – the Malta Individual Investor Programme (MIIP) will relaunch under materially different conditions. Cabinet has already approved the amendments.
1-3 years of residency, contributions EUR 600,000-750,000
Perhaps the most salient change is the introduction of two contribution alternatives, each corresponding to a different residency period. Whereas previously, the MIIP stipulated a flat EUR 650,000 contribution requirement, applicants will now have the choice between contributing EUR 600,000 and qualifying for citizenship within three years of becoming residents or qualifying for citizenship following just one year of residency by contributing EUR 750,000 at the outset.
It was not immediately clear how (or whether) the MIIP would enforce a potential physical presence requirement, though Muscat’s choice of words hinted at a possible hardening of the hitherto soft residency requirement: According to the Times of Malta, the Parliamentary Secretary told reporters the new regulations would remove the possibility for individuals to apply for Maltese citizenship without first becoming residents.
The program already mandates applicants hold a valid residence permit for at least 12 months prior to applying for citizenship, though, in practice, their physical presence is not monitored. Under current rules, applicants may begin their 12-month period when they submit their citizenship application (in effect, allowing them to be resident while awaiting adjudication on citizenship and then “hit the ground running”). Under the new rules, explained Muscat, the citizenship application may not be filed until the 12-month period has been completed.
Real estate investment requirement doubled
The minimum investment amount for property investment – one of the program’s three chief requirements – will double, said Muscat, from EUR 350,000 to EUR 700,000. It remains unclear whether the new minimum will apply only to properties acquired on the island of Malta or also on its sister islands, Gozo and Comino. For those who opt to lease, rather than buy, a home, the minimum annual lease will rise from EUR 16,000 to EUR 18,000. Whether applicants buy or lease, they will need to substantiate the value of the property through an architect’s report, writes Lovin’ Malta.
After September, the program will also have a new category of financial requirements; applicants will have to pick a registered charitable organization to which they must donate EUR 10,000.
Malta will reportedly approve no more than 400 applicants a year, and cap overall approvals at 1,500. The Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency (MIIPA), the government body currently charged with program operations, will be replaced by a new agency responsible for overseeing all paths to Maltese citizenship.
Describing the changes, Muscat is reported as stating the government was “scrapping” the IIP.
“The easy way out,” he said, “was to go from IIP 1 to IIP 2 but we wanted to have more people onboard, including the Opposition.”
Questioned as to what had brought on the comprehensive overhaul, Muscat commented that “we know that we cannot get it wrong. We cannot afford to have one rotten apple,” adding that Malta needed to “protect its reputation”.
Henley & Partners, the firm that six years ago won a contract to design and implement the MIIP following a hotly contested public tender, has a contract with the country that expires in 2023. Questioned as to whether this partnership would be affected by the revisions, Muscat responded that “talks are still ongoing and I don’t want to comment further to not jeopardize the process.”