Last Thursday’s The Guardian article titled “Revealed: residency loophole in Malta’s cash-for-passports scheme” only revealed itself to be an overpromising non-exposé.
More sizzle than steak
The piece’s sensational title fizzles down to the humdrum “discovery” that some applicants to Malta’s citizenship by investment program only spend the minimum amount of time in Malta required by the program in order to satisfy the EU’s “genuine link” requirement [which, in any case, is an argument of questionable legal merit].
Citizenship applicants the world over often complete the minimum statutory requirements to obtain the benefit. Immigration professionals and adjudicators alike know that this is hardly a revelation or a loophole.
The core problem with The Guardian’s article is that instead of posing the simple but challenging question of whether Malta should be required to demand more physical presence of applicants (the intellectually honest framing of the issue), the article starts at the finish line by strongly implying from the get-go that residency with a “minimal” amount of physical presence is a “loophole” or “sham.”
The whole point of citizenship by investment is that it enables naturalization IN THE ABSENCE of genuine links. That’s what makes it different from, say, work visas. It’s a feature, not a bug. @guardian
— imidaily.com (@imidaily) April 23, 2021
It’s a false insinuation that the authors likely employed due to either temptation to sensationalize or lack of understanding.
In fact, residence and physical presence are two separate concepts. Residence requirements for naturalization in some countries require significant physical presence whereas some countries require less or even no minimum statutory physical presence.
Unfortunately, the average The Guardian reader, unaware of this diversity in the world’s residence regimes, may have fallen prey to the article’s insinuating language regarding Malta’s program applicants.
After all, melodramatic titles with the terms “revealed”, “loophole”, and “cash” sell better than the dry language of sober EU citizenship policy questions.
The Guardian overreached on this one.
Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald is a Los Angeles-based immigration attorney at the Law Office of Parviz Malakouti and an adjunct professor of immigration law at Nevada State College.