Malta offers Europe’s fastest route to citizenship, without needing to get married or have ancestors in the country.
Let’s look at exactly what the Malta citizenship by investment process involves, as well as exploring other ways to get Malta citizenship.
Malta citizenship in a nutshell
- Best Malta citizenship pathway: Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment
- Timeline to citizenship: 1 year or 3 years (depending on size of investment)
- Dual citizenship allowed? Yes
- Minimum physical stay requirements: 1-3 years
- Must pay tax in Malta? Only on Malta-sourced income
- Language requirements: English only
- Citizenship test required? No
- Passive income pathway available? Yes
At Digital Émigré, we’ve done extensive research into citizenship pathways across the whole of the European Union. Malta is the absolute fastest route available for high net worth individuals with sufficient capital to invest.
Just like any EU country, getting citizenship of Malta grants you comprehensive EU rights. You’ll get the freedom to live, work, study and retire across 30 countries. You’ll also be part of the amazing EU project, the largest community of nations in history.
Malta in 2022 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.
To get the fastest possible access to EU citizenship (Maltese passport within 1 year), you’ll need to invest €750,000 in Malta’s National Development Fund, plus another €50,000 for each family member. There’s also a charitable donation requirement of €10,000, plus a requirement to purchase or rent a property.
Benefits of Malta citizenship
- The rights to live, work, study, do business, and retire anywhere within the EU, EEA, or Switzerland.
- Malta’s passport is also ranked 7th in the world for the number of countries its holders can access visa-free.
- Keep your existing citizenship – Malta recognizes dual citizenship
- Permanent connection to a progressive society with a stable government
- Access Malta’s top-quality healthcare system
- Voting rights, both in Malta’s national elections and in EU elections
- Access Malta’s attractive tax rates if you become a tax resident (source and remittance-based taxation only. No wealth tax. No asset reporting and no inheritance tax).
Source: SMM Group Malta
Malta citizenship after Brexit
For Brits looking for a fast pathway back to EU citizenship, Malta is the quickest option in the EU. However, you’ll need sufficient capital to invest in Malta’s citizenship by investment program. Let’s take a look at that in the next section.
Malta citizenship by investment program
Malta’s citizenship by investment program has been widely recognized as the EU’s most successful.
Launched in 2014 as the Individual Investor Program, it ran until 2020, before the Maltese government changed it to a new format with a brand new name – Malta Citizenship by Naturalization for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment.
The new program has a more stringent set of rules and regulations, designed to combat money laundering and keep foreign criminals out of the EU.
But the program still allows successful applicants to obtain EU citizenship without having to actually move to Malta for the long-term.
So far, Malta’s citizenship by investment program has generated over €1 billion for Malta, most of which has been transferred to the country’s National Development and Social Fund. Local NGOs have also benefited from donations worth over €1.8 million.
For investors, there are two options within the program: citizenship after 1 year, and citizenship after 3 years. Which one you pick depends on the amount of money you’re prepared to spend.
Here’s a quick summary of what’s involved in each option
|Type of investment||Citizenship after 1 year of residency||Citizenship after 3 years of residency|
|PART 1: |
Investment in Malta’s National Development Fund
|€750,000 (plus €50,000 for each family member)||€600,000 (plus €50,000 for each family member)|
Donation to charity
|PART 3: |
|Purchase at minimum value of €700,000 or rent for €16,000 per annum for five years||Purchase at minimum value of €700,000 or rent for €16,000 per annum for five years|
As you can see, the total investment is comprised of three separate parts.
The first and largest part is an investment in Malta’s National Development Fund, which finances public projects in health, education, job creation, and so on.
The second part is making a donation to a a registered non-governmental organization or society, which must be a charitable organization.
These include sports clubs, cultural heritage associations, religious entities, animal sanctuaries, band clubs, local councils, initiatives related to sport and music, the University of Malta, environmental organisations, and entities working towards inclusion and equality.
(Source: Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates)
For the last part, you’d need to buy a property worth at least €700,000, and keep it for at least five years. Alternatively, you could rent a property to the value of at least €16,000 per year, and keep it for at least five years (without subletting).
You can save €150,000 on the total investment if you don’t mind waiting three years for citizenship (and being resident in Malta during that time).
Maltese citizenship by investment requires a large sum of money, and it’s not necessarily an efficient way to maximize returns on your investment. What’s more, part of the investment is in the form of a donation to charity, which you won’t get back.
What’s more, Malta’s new program also has a residency requirement. That means you and any of your dependents will need to spend a period of time actually living in Malta before making your citizenship application.
The timeline (either 12 or 36 months) depends on how much money you invested.
Larger investment = faster citizenship.
Who is eligible for Malta citizenship by investment?
You have to be 18 years old or over, with a clean criminal record, and able to make the required investment.
Because of the large sums of money involved, you’ll also have to undergo several levels of due diligence checks.
To pass these checks, you’ll have to provide documents, including criminal records checks from previous countries of residence, plus proof of your source of funds and principal wealth.
Citizenship of Malta by marriage
Getting Malta citizenship by marriage is another possible route to explore.
Foreign (non-EU) nationals who marry Maltese citizens have the right to live and work in Malta without a work permit. However, citizenship is only available after five years of lawful marriage.
Even after a divorce or the death of your spouse, you can still apply for Maltese citizenship if your marriage lasted at least five years.
Keep in mind that sham marriages are prohibited in Malta. Applicants who marry just for citizenship may be fined or sentenced to two years in prison.
Citizenship of Malta by descent
Malta recognizes citizenship by descent. Anyone born on or after August 1, 1989, can be eligible for Maltese citizenship if one of their parents is a Maltese citizen.
Previously, on September 21, 1964, citizenship by birth was incorporated into the Maltese constitution. The Independence Constitution established who should be born a Maltese citizen.
Before that, the constitution stated that anyone born on Maltese soil is a citizen of Malta from the moment they are born.
Citizenship of Malta by family reunification
If you have family members who are already Maltese citizens and already living in Malta, then it may be possible to apply for citizenship by family reunification.
This route is best suited to those who are children of Maltese citizens and/or have other close family ties to Malta.
Here’s a full breakdown of all who can apply for this route:
- Born in Malta or to Maltese parents on September 21, 1964, on Malta’s independence from the United Kingdom.
- Born in Malta to at least one parent before September 21, 1964.
- Subject of the United Kingdom or its colonies before September 21, 1964.
- Born outside Malta to a Maltese father who was also born outside Malta, if your grandfather or great-grandfather was born in Malta.
- Former Maltese citizen.
- Adopted or fostered by Maltese nationals from outside Malta.
- A grandchild of a Maltese citizen.
- A sibling of a Maltese citizen.
- A child of foreign nationals who obtained Maltese citizenship.
- A guardian of a minor Maltese citizen.
Malta citizenship for refugees and political asylum seekers
Malta takes in several thousand refugees every year. In mid-2020, the top five countries of origin of asylum seekers were Sudan (33%), Bangladesh (15%), Somalia (11%), Eritrea (7%) and Cote D’Ivoire (7%). (Source: Migrants Refugees)
Asylum seekers can apply for citizenship of Malta after being legally resident for six years, with no fees or exams.
Citizenship for distinguished service
It’s possible to be granted citizenship of Malta in return for “distinguished service” to the country.
This is typically granted to scientists, athletes, cultural figures and others who have made a significant contribution to Malta.
However, the criteria for this route are extremely vague, so it’s unlikely to be a good fit for anyone reading this article.
Malta Citizenship by naturalization
Getting citizenship of Malta through the regular naturalization route (instead of through investment) can be a long, unpredictable and arduous process.
We spoke to a number of expats who have lived in Malta for many years. Our goal was to find out how quickly and easily foreigners could get Malta citizenship simply by maintaining residency in the country.
What we discovered was not encouraging. We couldn’t find any reports of foreigners being granted citizenship by naturalization after seven years of residency. Instead, many who had lived there for 10, 15, 20 years, still struggled to get their application accepted.
Our hunch is that the Maltese authorities would prefer all citizenship applications to go down the investment route – hence bringing substantial foreign investment into the country.
If you still want to try this route (perhaps you already live in Malta), here’s what’s needed.
To apply for Malta citizenship by naturalization, you first need to maintain residency for the required number of years. That means living in Malta for four consecutive years out of the last six, with a permanent residence permit.
Also, you mustn’t have been absent from Malta for over six months in any one of those years.
Other requirements for Malta citizenship by naturalization include:
- Having proof of a regular and sufficient income
- Having suitable health insurance coverage
- Having at least two Maltese citizens (who are not your relatives) willing to vouch for you in writing
- Being proficient in one of Malta’s official languages, either Maltese or English.
Getting residency in Malta
Becoming legally resident in Malta is the first step on your pathway to citizenship by naturalization. After approximately five years of residency, you’ll be eligible to submit your citizenship application.
You need to spend at least six months of every year in Malta. Don’t forget that the year directly before applying should be spent entirely in Malta.
Residency with passive income
Non-EU citizens who wish to stay in Malta for more than three months need to apply for residency. Malta offers two types of passive income residency pathways, one for retirees, and another for the ‘self-sufficient’.
If you’re an online business owner taking your income primarily from dividends, you can use 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/hotel receipts should be sufficient as proof of arrival date.
- Private health insurance plan for yourself and any dependents moving with you.
Malta Citizenship vs other EU options
So how does Malta citizenship measure up to other options in the EU? We’ve compared some of the most popular options according to our key criteria for the citizenship journey.
If you’re not keen on learning languages, or just don’t have time, then Malta could be a great fit. Malta doesn’t require any sort of language exam for citizenship. You’ll be fine with just English!
As you can see from the below comparison, Malta has by far the shortest citizenship timeline in Europe…. if you can afford to pay for it.
If not, then the only route left is Malta citizenship by regular naturalization. The timeline for this route is unpredictable, and we’ve heard many reports of long-time Malta expats having their applications rejected – even after living there for 10 or 15 years.
Malta is your best option for EU citizenship in two cases:
- If you have existing Maltese family connections,
- If you apply for the citizenship by investment program
In all other cases, we recommend considering alternative options for EU second citizenship.
|Country||Timeline||Dual citizenship ok?||Physical stay||Tax residency required?||Language level|
|Malta citizenship||1-3 years||Yes||12–36 months||Yes||English only|
|French citizenship||5 years||Yes||183 days per year||Yes||B1 French|
|Italian citizenship||10 years||Yes||183 days per year||Yes||B1 Italian|
|German citizenship||6-8 years||No||183 days per year||Yes||B1-B2 German|
|Portuguese citizenship||5 years||Yes||7 days per year with Golden Visa||No||A2 Portuguese|
|Spanish citizenship||10 years||No||183 days per year||Yes||A2 Spanish|
|Irish citizenship||5 years||Yes||183 days per year||Yes||English only|
|Luxembourg citizenship||5 years||Yes||183 days per year||Yes||B1 French or Luxembourgish|
Malta Citizenship: FAQs
How hard is it to get Maltese citizenship?
How hard it is to get Maltese citizenship depends on which route you choose. If you choose the Malta citizenship by investment program, getting Maltese citizenship is fast and easy. The same goes for Malta citizenship by descent, which can be done entirely remotely. In contrast, if you go for the regular citizenship by naturalization route, getting Maltese citizenship is typically a far longer and more challenging process.
How strong is Malta’s passport?
Malta’s passport provides visa-free access to 185 countries, putting it in 7th place on the Henley Passport Ranking index. This makes the Maltese passport one of the world’s strongest, although it’s in middle place in terms of the European Union/EEA (outranked by at least 17 countries).
Is it easy to immigrate to Malta?
Yes, especially if you are already an EU citizen. In that case, you simply need to move to Malta and inform the authorities that you would like to take up residency. The process is slightly more complicated if you’re a non-EU citizen. In that case, you would need to apply for a Malta residency visa, which you can do using passive income or pension income as proof of sufficient funds. You could also get residency through Malta’s citizenship by investment program, which grants full citizenship in 12 to 36 months.
Does Malta allow dual citizenship?
Yes. Malta allows dual citizenship under Article 22(2) of the Maltese Constitution. This permits dual or multiple citizenship, with no obligation to renounce existing citizenships.
Can anyone move to Malta?
Yes, anyone can move to Malta if they can meet the requirements to obtain residency. This could be from having a job in Malta, having pension income or other forms of passive income, or applying for the citizenship by investment program. If you’re an EU citizen of another member state, you can move to Malta any time, without a visa, and establish residency.
What language do they speak in Malta?
Malta has two official languages: English and Maltese.
Is healthcare free in Malta?
Most of Malta’s state healthcare services are free of charge for residents, although the government sets fees for prescription medications. These vary depending on the type of medication.
This article has provided a comprehensive overview of the different routes to Malta citizenship.
Citizenship of Malta is a mixed bag. For those willing to invest, it offers the ultimate pathway to acquiring EU rights as quickly as possible.
But beyond its citizenship by investment program, Malta is a poor choice for those seeking EU citizenship by regular naturalization.
The timeline and requirements for that route can be arduous and unpredictable, with many people rejected even after years as residents of Malta.
In short: if you have money to invest to get EU citizenship – choose Malta. If not, then look elsewhere – such as Portugal.