Faced with criticism that Malta’s citizenship by investment program’s residency requirements are vague, the government agency running the scheme, Identity Malta, has admitted that the program does not typically result in actual physical residency from investors for a specific minimum duration.
“It doesn’t say physical residency… we expect an individual to be in Malta for a number of days; we don’t go into the specific number. If you’re asking me, are these people going to move here entirely, I would say, listen, let’s not fool ourselves,” said Jonathan Cardona, CEO of Identity Malta.
This admission contradicts Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s claims that the scheme – known as the Individual Investor Program (IIP) – was about attracting talent to the country and not the sale of passports for cash. Speaking at a Henley & Partners seminar in New York, Dr Muscat had said, “Malta wants your talent, not your money. Your networks, not your accounts. This is because we are about the future, not the past. Those who apply, endure the tight due diligence and scrutiny, and get selected to join the exclusive and limited pool of Maltese citizens, will be part of our future.”
Furthermore, Identity Malta’s admission also undermines the guarantee given by Malta to the European Commission in order to get the EC’s approval of the scheme. Last year, Malta added a one-year “effective residency” clause to the IIP to satisfy the EC and gain its approval, without which the EC had been set to initiate infringement proceedings against Malta for violating “European treaties and international law”.
Critics of the IIP continue to say that the program’s current residency requirements are vague and virtually non-existent when it should require physical residence of at least 183 days in a year, based on the international “residency for tax purposes” principle that specifies that individuals who spend six months a year in a particular country are considered to be residents of that country.
As things stand, the absence of a specific residence requirement may suit IIP applicants, but Malta is set to face further scrutiny and criticism because of it.