The Residency Malta Agency, which governs the country’s Permanent Residence Program (the MPRP, known in its pre-2021 guise as the MRVP) has shared, for the first time and exclusively with IMI, statistics on its residence by investment programs, going all the way back to 2016.
The figures show that a grand total of 2,273 main applicants, as well as 5,303 of their family members, have received residence permits in Malta through either the MPRP or the MRVP since the start in 2016. Of those, nearly nine in ten have been Chinese nationals. At a distant second, Vietnamese applicants accounted for 2.9% of the total, followed by Russians (2.6%), South Africans (1%), and Turks (1%).
The Agency reveals it has rejected some 10% of all applications to date, while about 3% of applicants voluntarily withdrew their applications during the due diligence process "as a result of questions posed to the applicants by the agency".
Approval volume grew steadily from the outset, peaking in 2020 at 988, making the MRVP (the current MPRP's precursor program) the second-biggest EU golden visa during that year. 2021 volumes landed at roughly half that level, with 500 main applicant approvals, which still makes it one of Europe's most applied-to golden visas in that year. The drop from the previous year is in large part explained by the transition from the old MRVP to the new MPRP.
“Though it may not have looked strategic to have launched a new program during COVID, for us it was the culmination of a thorough analysis of propositions, markets, and competition,” Charles Mizzi, CEO of the Residency Malta Agency, tells IMI.
He indicates enough time has now elapsed since the program launch in March last year to enable analysis of the market's reaction to the MPRP. Interest, he says, has been high all along and grew substantially in the second half of 2021. He expects application numbers to reach new heights in the near future.
During the early years, the Agency labored under a significant backlog of unprocessed applications, which caused significant delays in processing. The Agency explains to IMI that, in essence, the popularity of the program had grown faster than the bureau's own capacity to handle applications. The Agency's response to the bottleneck caused by too many applications for a relatively small staff to handle was to expand its recruitment drive, devote more resources to staff training and development, invest in software-based processing solutions, and streamline procedures.
The Agency tells IMI it "now promises a 4 to 6-month turnaround time for MPRP, from the submission of a complete and correct application," and emphasizes that the overhaul has allowed for an acceleration of the bureau's work "without compromising the due diligence process in any way."
New Startup Residence Program in the works
In June, Residency Malta launched the Nomad Residence Permit, a one-year permit for digital nomads and entrepreneurs who are location-independent and who would like to work from Malta for the short or medium term. Mizzi describes the program as a response to "increased global movements spurred by Covid as remote working became the norm" and a solution for digital "nomads from third countries wishing to try a remote working stint from Malta." The permit is suitable primarily for those who wish to live and work in Malta on a temporary basis, as it is issued for a one-year renewable term.
Now, however, the Agency is preparing a program for third-country nationals who wish to start a business in Malta and reside there on a more permanent basis. The Startup Residence Program, the Agency explains, will aim to attract "entrepreneurs wishing to use Malta as a base to launch their new business and reach new markets […] This new permit will be another step in the direction of enticing third country entrepreneurs to consider Malta and strengthen the country’s innovative industries."
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.