In October 2013, Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced new and more flexible rules for individuals and their immediate families to acquire Maltese citizenship. The new rules do not require individuals to permanently reside or buy property in Malta.
Following this announcement, in November 2013, the European Commission (the 'Commission') stated that 'member states have full sovereignty to decide to whom and how they grant their nationality'. Additionally, the EU court in Luxembourg has 'confirmed' in 'several' cases that 'it is for each member state to lay down the conditions for granting citizenship'.
Individual investor program
This 'Citizenship-by-Investment' option, which is also known as the Individual Investor Program ('IIP') is being piloted throughout November 2013. The Maltese Government hopes that this will generate around €30 million in the first year.
Under the terms of this programme, applicants will need to invest €650,000 into the Maltese economy, of which €10,000 will be a non-refundable deposit. Applicants will also need to provide deposits of €25,000 each for spouses and individual children below 18 years of age, and deposits of €50,000 each for dependent parents aged 55 or over and unmarried children aged between 18 and 25. It is anticipated that full citizenship will be issued with three months.
Should a non-EEA national acquire a Maltese passport, then he or she would be able to benefit from the right of free movement within the EEA. For those non-EEA nationals who wish to reside, work, and/or study in the UK and other EEA countries without needing a visa to do so, then obtaining a Maltese passport is potentially a new option for them. Once an EEA citizen has lived in the UK continuously for five years, h/she can apply to remain in the UK permanently and then apply for citizenship.
Acquiring residency and citizenship in other EU member states
Currently, in the UK, the vast majority of non-EEA nationals who wish to naturalise as a British citizen (and, in turn, obtain a British passport) must live in the UK for five years. Even those who are willing and able to invest £10 million or more in the UK must reside in the UK for five years before obtaining British citizenship, though they are able to benefit from accelerated settlement (also known as indefinite leave to remain) after two years. However, settlement can be lost if an individual remains outside of the UK for two or more years.
Other countries in the EU from which residency, but not citizenship, can be obtained for significant investments are Portugal and Spain. In Cyprus, an EU member state, it is possible to acquire citizenship for €2.5 million. In Austria, citizenship cannot be acquired by only investment; an applicant must also make extraordinary, direct contributions, e.g. in technology.