Malta’s citizenship by investment program has attracted the world’s elite and promoted the sale of citizenship to the global 0.1%, with the strong economy and favorable business regulations being a major selling point.
Malta introduced its citizenship program in 2014, offering a passport to high net worth individuals who can afford the 1.2 million euros fee. It is estimated that the program will raise €2 billion, almost a fourth of the country’s GDP.
The growing popularity of Malta’s citizenship program has led to a large number of applications from the global elite. The flexible residency requirements of the program have found favor with many wealthy candidates who are required to visit the country only a few times to complete the application process. Applicants are required to rent a property in Malta for 12 months to qualify under the program, though technically they do not have to spend any time residing in the country.
Malta, an island in the Mediterranean, is a part of the European Union, with a favorable tax system for foreign companies. The country has taxation agreements with over 65 nations, thus helping businessmen avoid double taxation. Hedge funds and online gambling companies have benefited from these rules in particular, with hundreds setting up shop in Malta in recent years. As a result, Malta has come out of the economic crisis relatively unscathed, with the economy growing 3.5% last year. Unemployment in Malta is at 5.8%, the fourth-lowest in Europe.
Wealthy businessmen are attracted to Malta as it provides access to good schools and European culture, besides boasting of one of the best climates in the world. And the quick processing time of Malta’s citizenship program provides it with a definite edge over other similar European schemes.
Despite the success of its citizenship program, critics say that the selling of citizenship undermines the value of Maltese nationality. To address these concerns, the Maltese government raised the bar for applicants to ensure the program is not abused by criminals or money launderers. The revised set of requirements provide that in addition to the €650,000 entry fee, candidates are also required to invest €150,000 in government bonds as well as purchase property worth a minimum of €350,000 or rent a property for at least €16,000 per annum for a period of five years.
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