UPDATE: We’ve received additional information that the five years is the earliest point at which you can submit an application for citizenship by naturalisation. After that, approval is at the discretion of the minister of immigration. As you can imagine, this leads to unpredictable timelines. We recommend proceeding with caution when considering Malta as a destination for acquiring EU citizenship.
This article on citizenship of Malta is primarily aimed at:
- Non-EU citizens who wish to join (or rejoin) the EU
- Those willing to make Malta their main base for at least five years
- Online business owners who receive their income in dividends
Before you can get citizenship in the EU, you need to become resident in an EU country. There are various pathways to becoming a resident, but we believe that income from online businesses, sourced outside the target country, is the most effective way. You can use proof of this income to access ‘passive income’ or ‘independent means’ residency pathways in a number of EU countries, including Malta.
Malta is a really interesting option for those looking for a fast pathway to EU citizenship. The small island has a relatively low cost of living, 300 days of sun per year, fascinating historical architecture, and a set of appealing tax benefits. Malta also has a varied and eventful history, comprising Phoenician, Roman, Arab and Byzantine influences, as well as the more recent Italian and British.
Malta in 2021 attracts a sizeable immigrant community, including Brits, Italians, other Europeans, and North Africans. In particular, Malta could be a welcoming choice for Brits looking to regain EU citizenship, thanks to the large British community on the island.
Citizenship of Malta: Key benefits
Just like any EU country, getting citizenship of Malta grants you comprehensive EU rights. Yep, you’ll get freedom to live, work, study and retire across 27 countries. You’ll also be part of the amazing EU project, the largest community of nations in history.
Here’s the full list of benefits of citizenship of Malta:
- Access to a Maltese EU passport, which provides full freedom of movement rights across the EU.
- Malta’s passport is also ranked 9th in the world for the number of countries its holders can access visa-free.
- The ability to keep your existing citizenship
- Having permanent connection to a progressive society with a stable government
- Voting rights, both in Malta’s national elections and in EU elections
- Guaranteed access to Malta’s attractive tax rates
What are the routes to citizenship of Malta?
There are several routes to acquiring citizenship of Malta. We’ll focus on citizenship through naturalisation. This involves becoming a resident of the country (which usually means tax resident) and living there long enough to become eligible for citizenship. In Malta, you become eligible to apply after five years of legal residency. It’s important to keep in mind that acceptance of citizenship applications takes place at the discretion of the Immigration Minister. Timelines may vary.
Other possible routes include:
- Citizenship by descent: if you have family ties to a Maltese citizen.
- Citizenship by marriage: if you’ve been married to a Maltese citizen for five years.
- And finally there’s citizenship by investment: if you’re prepared to make a large contribution to Malta’s economy.
How long does the citizenship process take?
Becoming legally resident in Malta is the first step on your pathway to citizenship by naturalisation. After five years of residency, you’ll be eligible to make your citizenship application. You need to spend at least six months of every year in Malta. It’s also important to keep in mind that the year directly before applying should be spent entirely in Malta.
As an online business owner, which Malta residency pathway should I choose?
Anyone who wants to stay in Malta for more than three months needs to apply for residency. There’s different options for EU and non-EU citizens (and the process will be much easier for the former). We’ll focus on the non-EU pathway here, specifically aimed at those who earn their income via an online business.
Malta’s self-sufficiency residency permit for passive income
Malta offers two types of passive income residency pathways, one for retirees, and another for the ‘self-sufficient’. As an online business owner drawing your income primarily from dividends, you’ll want to aim for the self-sufficient option. Its requirements for non-EU citizens are as follows.
- Proof of €50,000 in savings OR a regular income of €370 per month, for a single applicant, €436 for a couple, plus €33 for each dependent child). You should plan to show proof of this income over the previous six months before applying.
- Proof of having lived in Malta for two months before applying (this is a wise idea because it allows you to ‘test drive’ life in Malta). Travel tickets, passport stamps, or Airbnb receipts should be sufficient as proof of arrival date.
- Private health insurance plan for yourself and any dependents moving with you.
Can I get citizenship of Malta by investment?
Malta has made headlines over the last few years for its citizenship by investment program. Originally called the Individual Investor Program, it underwent some changes in late 2020 and now has a whole new identity. Now it’s more of a mouthful: Malta Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (MEIN for short).
For those with sufficient means, MEIN is the fastest way to get Maltese (and EU) citizenship. Successful MEIN applicants can obtain citizenship of Malta in a timeline of just 12-36 months. You’ll need to get residency before you can start the application.
Citizenship of Malta via MEIN requires you to make several different types of investments. These are as follows:
- Direct and non-refundable investment of either €600,000 (for 12 months residency) or €750,000 (for 36 months residency)
- Property investment: either a rented property with a minimum value of €16,000 per year for five years, or purchase of property for at least €700,000 and then maintain it for five years without selling.
- Finally, a philanthropic donation of €10,000 to one of Malta’s NGOs.
What are taxes like in Malta?
Malta isn’t just a fast pathway to EU citizenship. It’s also very interesting in terms of taxes. While Portugal has attracted a lot of attention for its generous NHR scheme, Malta is one of its closest competitors. Malta’s tax system is based on remittance, rather than worldwide income (as is the case for Portugal).
That means as a resident of Malta, you’ll only be taxed on: income generated within Malta, capital gains within Malta, and income from abroad received in a Maltese bank account. For online business owners, who receive their income from a limited company based abroad, this offers plenty of scope for creating an attractive tax situation.
You can earn your income from foreign clients, extract it from your company as dividends, then receive it into your non-Maltese bank account (getting a TransferWise business account will be an essential part of this toolkit).
As a resident of Malta under the self-sufficiency route, you’ll only pay tax on income made in Malta or remitted to Malta. That’s a flat rate of just 15%.
Malta for remote workers
Malta can be a good choice for those who work remotely. But, as with everything, it all depends on what you’re looking for. In terms of digital nomad basics, Malta has plenty to offer – affordable accommodation, great weather, interesting history, and fast Internet speeds.
The island has a number of excellent coffee shops where you can take your laptop for a change of scene, although dedicated co-working spaces seem quite scarce (and the ones that do exist are pricey).
But if you’re reading this, chances are you’re there for the long haul, rather than just a few months. So I recommend spending a month or two living in Malta before deciding if it’s the right fit for starting your pathway to EU citizenship.