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Everything You Need to Know About the New Maltese Exceptional Investor Naturalization (MEIN) Regulations

See detailed application requirements, application forms, timelines, the code of ethics, the agent license application, and the regulation handbook.

As promised, Malta’s government yesterday published the regulations for its new expedited route to citizenship through investment. The policy’s formal name (note that official communications have studiously avoided referring to the policy as a “program”) is the rather clunky Maltese Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment. Not bound by the same circumscriptive limitations as officialdom, IMI will – for the sake of simplicity – henceforth refer to the policy as Maltese Exceptional Investor Naturalization (MEIN).

Under the MEIN policy, the number of citizenship certificates issued to principal applicants (i.e., excluding dependents) shall not exceed 400 a year and 1,500 for the duration of the policy.

The salient differences in policy between the MIIP and MEIN, which have not changed materially since first announced this summer, are summarized below, courtesy of Luke Frendo of Frendo Advisory:

  • Contribution
    The amount is either €600,000 or €750,000, depending on whether the standard (36 months) or expedited (12 months) residency route is chosen. For Dependents, the contribution is set at €50,000.
  • Donation
    A €10,000 compulsory donation to an NGO is introduced. Previously, this was generally done but at an amount of €5,000. 
  • Residential property
    Threshold for purchasing a property is increased to €700,000, while the threshold for rental remains unchanged at €16,000 per annum. This needs to be held for five years from the issuance of the certificate of citizenship.
  • Government bonds
    The requirement to invest in Government bonds is removed altogether. 
  • Due diligence fees
    There is a slight increase in the due diligence fees (to €15,000 for main applicant and €10,000 for dependents).
  • Maximum Age Threshold
    The maximum age threshold for dependents is increased from 27 to 29. Further, dependents who are deemed to meet the legal definition of disability can form part of a parent’s application, regardless of age. 
  • Application for residence
    All adult dependents need to apply for residence, not just the main applicant. The non-refundable pre-payment of the contribution at this stage, increased from €5,000 to €10,000. There is also a €5,000 fee for the main applicant. 

Procedural steps:

  • Application for residence; 
  • Submission of eligibility assessment (due diligence);
  • Approval in Principle à payment of contribution; 
  • Submission for naturalization for exceptional services by direct investment (that is, for citizenship);
  • Oath-swearing, within at most 6 months of approval/conferment of citizenship/issuance of passport(s).

Maltese law firm and RCBI specialists have helpfully provided details on which categories of persons qualify as dependents:

An applicant applying under these regulations can include in a citizenship application the following dependents:

  • The spouse in a monogamous marriage or partner having the same or similar status. The term ‘spouse’ shall be construed as gender neutral
  • A child of the Main Applicant or the spouse under the age of eighteen (18)
  • An economically dependent and unmarried  child of the Main Applicant or the spouse who has not yet attained the age of twenty-nine (29), at the time when the citizenship application is accepted by the Agency
  • A child of the Main Applicant or the spouse, including an adopted child who at the time of the application has attained the age of eighteen (18) and is qualified as a person with a disability
  • An economically dependent parent or grandparent of the Main Applicant or the spouse above the age of 55

These are the grounds for ineligibility:

  • The person or any of the dependants is or was indicted of an offence before an International Criminal Court or has been arraigned at any time before an International Criminal Court, whether such person has been found guilty or otherwise
  • The person or any of the dependants are listed with INTERPOL or EUROPOL
  • The person or any of the dependants is an actual or potential threat to Malta’s national security, public policy or public health
  • The person or any of the dependants has been charged or found guilty of terrorism, money laundering, funding of terrorism, crimes against humanity, war crimes, defilement of minors, indecent assault and other serious crimes
  • The person or any of the dependants has been found guilty or suspected or has criminal charges brought against him for any criminal offence punishable with more than one (1) year imprisonment, other than an involuntary offence
  • The person or any of the dependants is or is likely to be involved in any activity which may cause disrepute to the Republic of Malta
  • The person or any of the dependants has been denied a visa to a country with whom Malta has visa-free travel arrangements with, and has not subsequently obtained a visa from that country
  • The person or any of the dependants is named or listed in international sanctions

If an applicant makes a false statement or otherwise omits material information, the application may be suspended and considered inadmissible. 

One agent previously licensed under the MIIP shared with IMI a number of key documents related to the MEIN policy, which readers may download below:

According to the agent license application form, the fee for successful license applications amounts to EUR 5,000, a fee that is payable upon renewal once a year.

“Harshly politicized”
In his foreword accompanying the MEIN policy documents, Secretary Muscat once more reiterated his unwavering commitment to retaining Maltese sovereignty on questions of naturalization and lamented the politicization of citizenship by investment:

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“Despite the obvious economic benefits and the opportunity for better social development for Malta and for the Maltese, the Government has paid attention to the recommendations given by all the stakeholders involved and the EU Commission and availed itself of the constructive opinions of all those who provided them. The Government is acting in a rational manner because citizenship is, indeed, a matter that deserves to be treated without divisive blinkers. There is no political hue that should be attributed to it. Neither should such a fundamental concept: the attribution of citizenship, be up to any authority other than the Maltese to decide upon. Much to our disappointment, our initiatives have found themselves harshly politicised. The arguments being raised against the previous programme are largely political, with little to no legal substance to them.”

Muscat effectively dismissed the calls for a phase-out of citizenship by investment in Malta, instead pointing out that MEIN represents a refining of already-successful policies.

“We will not simply shelve initiatives that are proving to be beneficial to our society, but we will improve them. We have always displayed an attitude of dialogue on national and international levels, both with stakeholders and with the European Commission itself.”

Don’t call it a program
Despite the long-awaited publication of the new regulations, several program stakeholders have told IMI that authorities are requesting they refrain from marketing the MEIN policy. IMI understands that the decision to tell agents to keep a low marketing profile, as well as the conspicuous avoidance of the term “program”, is a reaction to previously published European Parliament reports that have criticized routes to EU naturalization in the guise of structured programs, all the while expressing no particular concern with more conventional routes to naturalization.

A few hundred carefully scrutinized investors a year were naturalized under Malta’s erstwhile IIP. The Commission argued that a non-negligible proportion of these constituted a security/corruption/money-laundering risk to the European Community. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of fraud-based naturalizations have taken place in the same period on the Southeastern periphery of the EU, and hundreds of thousands of legitimate but far more lightly vetted naturalizations take place under conventional routes (marriage, adoption, and so on) across the EU each year, without triggering infringement procedures. By not referring to MEIN as a program, Maltese authorities are, essentially, calling out European hypocrisy on the matter.

The European Commission’s opening of infringement procedures against Malta and Cyprus over their respective CIPs last month have been widely rejected as ultra vires by experts on EU law. Maltese authorities have consistently maintained that those procedures are politically motivated rather than grounded in legal concerns and that they are prepared to defend this position in an eventual case in the European Court of Jutice .

Know when to fold’em
Earlier this week, Paddy Blewer of Henley & Partners, the erstwhile concessionaire of the now-discontinued Malta IIP, told International Adviser that the “Commission’s move is a short-term political gamble with short/medium- and long-term risks. They clearly felt there was a window of opportunity to attack a policy that certain EU stakeholders do not like,” adding also that the Commission’s legal case was “remarkably weak” and that it raised “serious questions on the erosion of member state sovereignty vs centralization of power in Brussels.”

Employing a gambling-analogy, Blewer characterized the dispute as a game of “geopolitical poker,” in which the Commission appears to betting that Malta and Cyprus will be the first to blink.

“The Commission is a well-known successful player and pretends to be confident but they have a very weak hand. If Malta and Cyprus and other sovereign states call the Commission’s bluff on this case, Brussels might have to fold to avoid longer-term political damage.”

Welcoming the new rules, Andrés Gutierrez of Malta Sotheby’s International Realty said they reflected a “commitment from the Maltese government to maintain the highest standards of due diligence and also aligned well with the interests of both the country and prospective investors.

“By replacing the MIIP and moving towards a refined MEIN policy for the concession of residency and citizenship rights, Malta has shown that it has effectively listened to all stakeholders involved, including the EU, but also clearly stated that citizenship rights are the exclusive remit of each member state.”

Christian Henrik Nesheim AdministratorKeymaster

Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine – online or offline – for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.

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