Andrew Henderson

Andrew Henderson

Founder of Nomad Capitalist and the world’s most sought-after expert on global citizenship.

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How to Get Malta Residency: the Ultimate Guide

Dateline: Belgrade, Serbia Located in the Mediterranean, Malta is a charming island country comprising three islands: Malta, Gozo, and Comino. Due to its sunny summers and mild winters, International Living named Malta the country with one of the best qualities of life in Europe. This just adds to the appeal of gaining Maltese residency. But the tourists don’t just come for the great weather. Malta also offers numerous architectural and historical monuments, diverse recreational areas, and a popular boating culture.  Even better, they have attractive tax benefits for the right kind of investor. We’ve spoken before about the benefits of Maltese citizenship and how to obtain it through an investment of €1 million; surprisingly, we have never discussed the requirements to obtain permanent residency in Malta.  While there are certainly many benefits to Malta residency via the citizenship by investment program, an EU citizenship will not fit into everyone’s individualized plan to internationalize their life. For those who want to plant a flag in Malta, but who aren’t looking to become a citizen of the country, there are several paths toward permanent Malta residency. If Malta checks any of your boxes for the ideal lifestyle location, you’re in luck. There are several resident schemes including The Global Residence Programme, The Residence Programme, and the Malta Permanent Residence Programme. Despite a long history of foreigners occupying its shores — from the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs to the French and British in more recent years — Malta has not tired of opening its doors to outsiders.  In this article we’ll examine if one of these programs is right for you.

WHY MALTA?

Malta is an island country in the Mediterranean Sea and lies close to neighboring Italy, Libya, and Tunisia. With a total population of around 500,000, Malta has the smallest capital city in the EU. Don’t Let the size fool you. Malta has a rich culture and political and economic stability. In fact, Malta is the only state in the Schengen area to consistently maintain good economic growth. It has even ranked among the strongest banks in the world. Opening a bank account in Malta will make you part of this circle. Add to this: free universal healthcare, childcare, and education for its citizens and you can’t go wrong. And if that for some reason isn’t enough, then there is still Malta’s natural beauty. The weather is rarely too hot or cold and the beaches are always easy to access. If you’re looking for the best quality of life, Malta should definitely be at the top of your list.

MALTA RESIDENCE PROGRAMME TERMS

Before I dive into the various residence programs, there are certain terms and caveats that are applicable to all of the programs. I will review them here so that you can be familiar with them throughout this article. ARM: The application process for the Global Residence Programme must be managed through an authorized registered mandatary/mandatory (ARM). The ARM is an individual with the legal right to practice as an advocate, legal procurator, notary public, accountant, or financial services practitioner in Malta. They must also be registered with the Commissioner of Revenue. Your application will not be valid until it is signed and submitted by an ARM. FIT AND PROPER PERSON: While the language used in the application guidelines are vague, being a “fit and proper person” merely means that you need to prove you don’t have a criminal record by submitting an apostilled police conduct certificate. The certificate cannot be issued earlier than six months prior to the date of your application.  You must also submit a sworn declaration taken before a Commissioner of Oaths in Malta affirming that you do not have any ongoing civil or criminal proceedings. The Commissioner can ask further questions until they are satisfied that you qualify for this requirement. The Commissioner can consider a number of factors, including whether you are of good conduct and morals, your reputation and character, convictions for fraud, disqualification by professional or regulatory bodies, bankruptcy, involvement with terrorist organizations, money laundering, child abuse, past experiences with the Maltese government, and more. Each individual included in your application — dependents and household staff — must make the same sworn declaration. HEALTHCARE: In order to qualify for the program, you must also obtain health insurance with a company licensed in Malta or an internationally reputable health insurance company. You must submit a certified copy of the insurance policy with your application for residency.  While I have not been impressed with healthcare in much of Europe, according to a survey conducted by Number, Malta has the second-best healthcare system in Europe and EU health card holders can make use of subsidized healthcare locally. If you are not from the EU, you are best off obtaining a private insurance policy. INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTS: Any documents that you submit in your application that were not issued by Malta must be accompanied by an Apostille Certificate, as per the Hague Convention of 1961. If the jurisdiction that issued your public documents does not follow the Hague Convention rules for apostilles, your documents must be legalized by a notary or lawyer. Furthermore, all documents that are not in English must have a certified English translation. NO OTHER MALTA TAX PROGRAM: This goes without saying, but you can’t stack tax benefits from different Malta residency programs on top of each other. PROPERTY REQUISITES: The localities that comprise the south of Malta include Birżebbuġia, Cospicua, Fgura, Għaxaq, Gudja, Kalkara, Kirkop, Luqa, Marsascala, Marsaxlokk, Mqabba, Paola, Qrendi, Safi, Santa Luċija, Senglea, Siġġiewi, Tarxien, Vittoriosa, Xgħajra, Żabbar, Żejtun, and Żurrieq. It is also important to note that the property you rent or lease cannot be used by any person other than you, your dependents, or those you employ. In other words, renting your house out on Airbnb for the six months you are gone is not an option, and neither is subletting. It is not allowed in any of the locations for any period of time. RENEWAL: If you choose to renew your Malta residency, you will need to provide evidence that you met the conditions for the previous year and that you will fulfill all the requirements for the coming year. This means you should submit your Annual Tax Return showing that you paid the minimum tax of €15,000. You should also provide a declaration that you did not live outside of Malta for more than 183 days. SUBMISSION AND PROCESSING: Your application and all supporting documents will be submitted to the International Tax Unit at the address: Commissioner for Revenue, International Tax Unit, MFSA Building, Notabile Road, Attard, BKR 3000. Make sure that the envelope is clearly marked as an application for the specific residence program to which you’re applying. Once submitted, your application will be checked and vetted. An acknowledgment letter will be sent to your ARM and will inform you of the progress of your application and any missing information or documents until your application is approved. Now let’s dive into the details of each of Malta’s residence programs.

THE GLOBAL RESIDENCE PROGRAMME

Launched in June 2013, the Maltese government created the Global Residence Programme (GRP) to draw in folks who can buy or rent high-value property, as well as pay taxes. The end goal for Malta is, of course, economic growth.  However, since the The Residence Programme is made specifically for EU and European Economic Area (EEA) nationals looking to transfer their tax residence to a safe, high quality, and tax-efficient jurisdiction, citizens from those same countries are barred from participating in the GRP. This list also includes citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The program is designed to strengthen Malta’s property market, increase work for professionals working in the legal, tax, and financial services industries, and boost the leisure and hospitality sectors.  While there is not a lot of detail about what denotes economic sufficiency for the GRP, the main idea is that you can prove that you have enough resources and financial stability to maintain yourself and any of your dependents and that you can do so without becoming dependent on Malta’s social assistance system. As with any immigration program, they are looking to let people in who add to the economy and won’t become a liability to the government.  Whatever its motives, Malta understands that in order to compete for the attention of seven- or eight-figure entrepreneurs, they have to offer something in return for their investment.  The Global Residence Programme does just that with an attractive tax scheme. Add to it visa-free access to the entire Schengen area and Malta residency looks even better. 

REQUIREMENTS

To be eligible for this program, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be the resident or national of a country other than countries in the EU/EEA, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland 
  • Maintain stable and regular resources to sustain yourself and any dependents
  • Possess valid travel documents
  • Purchase health insurance that covers yourself and any dependents
  • Undergo a fit and proper person assessment
  • Be able to communicate in Maltese or English
  • Spend less than 183 days outside the country
  • Submit the proper documents

Additionally, you must own or rent a property in Malta, which is the biggest requirement for Malta’s GRP.  If purchased on the central island of Malta, the property value must be at least €275,000. If purchased in Gozo and the Southern Region of Malta the property value must be at least €220,000.  However, if you purchased a property to qualify for another Malta residency program before June of 2013 and would like to re-qualify for the GRP with the same property, all you will need to do is prove the value of the home. If the original purchase price was below the new investment requirement, you will need to make a declaration of the home’s current value, supported by a separate and independent architect valuation of your property. If you choose to rent, you must sign a contract of at least 12 months for a property. The rent must be at least €9,600 a month in Malta or €8,750 a month in Gozo and the Southern Region. The lease agreement should also indicate whether or not the property is furnished and any separate agreements relating to furnishings and their value.

QUALIFYING FAMILY MEMBERS

You are allowed to include some family members in your residence request. The following persons are eligible:

  • Your spouse
  • Any of your children that are under 25 years old
  • Anyone that you have employed in the past two years

APPLICATION STEPS AND FEES

  1. Submit the application. It is mandatory that the application is signed and submitted to the Commissioner for Revenue by an ARM.
  2. Pay the non-refundable application fee of €4000. When you officially begin your residence in Malta, you must pay an additional €2000 fee. However, if you have selected a residence in Gozo or in the Southern Region of Malta, the fee is reduced to €1,500. 
  3. After that, the Commissioner’s office will review and vet the application accordingly. They will inform the ARM of the progress and/or outcome.
  4. Once an application is deemed valid, a due diligence process will be conducted. Again, the ARM will be informed of the outcome.
  5. If all is successful, a confirmation letter will be issued. 

It is generally a fast process, allowing you to reside in the EU within 3 months. You will also be entitled to a work permit and will have visa-free access to the EU and Schengen area.

TAX BENEFITS WITH MALTA RESIDENCY

If you qualify, you will be able to live in Malta as a long-term resident and enjoy the tax benefits that come with being a Global Resident of Malta. The biggest tax benefit is that you will not be taxed on your foreign-sourced income as long as that money is not remitted to Malta. If it is remitted, it will be taxed at a reasonable 15%. There is also no inheritance tax. Any foreign-sourced capital gains will not be taxed, even if they are remitted to Malta. And if you have any local personal, business, or investment income, it will be taxed at a rate of 35%. One caveat to all of this is that you must pay a minimum tax of €15,000 per year. That €15,000 can come from the 15% on remitted income, but even if you do not reach that limit through remitted income or locally-sourced income taxes, you must pay a sum of €15,000 to retain your residency qualification. This minimum tax does cover both you and any of your dependents, including your spouse, minor children, and anyone in your care and custody who is unable to maintain themselves due to illness or disability. Another caveat is that the first year that you apply to become a Global Resident you must pay the minimum tax of €15,000 to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) before you can receive the special tax status. You must present a receipt of your payment to the IRD and a letter of confirmation issued by the IRD. Household staff is subject to the regular tax rates in Malta since their work is based in Malta, preventing them from benefiting from the 15% tax rate. It is also important to note that an applicant with dual-citizenship in any of the jurisdictions mentioned above cannot apply for the special tax status granted under the GRP, even if they apply with their non-EU/EEA citizenship. However, if you already have access to the tax benefits of one program, you can renounce the right to those benefits prior to submitting an application for the GRP. You would need to make this declaration to an ARM. You are responsible for managing your tax affairs and should keep supporting documents of all your finances. At the end of each year, you must submit your Annual Tax Return in order to renew your residency and the accompanying special tax status.

THE RESIDENCE PROGRAMME BASICS

The Residence Programme (TRP) is a tax and residence program for nationals of the EEA, EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland. Once a national from one of these areas takes up a tax residence in Malta, they are allowed to have a normal residence there as well.  If you dream of living on a beautiful island and paying a flat tax rate, then making Malta your permanent address may be the right option for you.

REQUIREMENTS

To be eligible for this program, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be the national of the EEA, EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland
  • Maintain stable resources to support themselves and their family members, without needing to rely on the social assistance system in Malta
  • Possess valid travel documents
  • Purchase health insurance
  • Undergo a fit and proper person assessment
  • Be able to communicate in Maltese or English
  • Spend less than 183 days outside the country 
  • Submit the proper documents, including:
    • A certified copy of the insurance policy
    • A police conduct certificate
    • Any documents that will be submitted for tax residence

Additionally, you must own or rent a qualifying property as your main residence worldwide. But you won’t be able to let or sublet it — you and your dependents are the only people allowed to reside there. To purchase a property, the value must be €220,000 or more in the south of Malta or Gozo and €275,000 for the rest of the island. To rent a property for at least a year, the minimum monthly value must be €8,750 in the south of Malta or Gozo and €9,600 for the rest of the island. However, you do not have to own or rent a qualifying property at the time of the application. The certified deed or lease agreement can be submitted later, though a special tax status cannot be confirmed until this step is completed.

QUALIFYING FAMILY MEMBERS

You are also allowed to include family members in your residence request. The following dependents are eligible:

  • Your spouse
  • A minor child of, or in the custody of, you or your spouse 
  • Children, adopted children, or children in you or your spouse’s custody who cannot support themselves

APPLICATION STEPS AND FEES

  1. Submit the application. It is mandatory that the application is signed and submitted to the Commissioner for Revenue by an ARM.
  2. Pay the non-refundable application fee of €6,000. If you happen to own a qualifying property in the south of Malta, the application fee will be reduced to €5,500— given that the property was already purchased at the time of submission.
  3. After that, the Commissioner’s office will review and vet the application accordingly. They will inform the ARM of the progress and/or outcome.
  4. Once an application is deemed valid, a due diligence process will be conducted. Again, the ARM will be informed of the outcome.
  5. If all is successful, a confirmation letter will be issued. However, if you have not yet submitted your deed or lease agreement, you will need to do so in order to receive this letter.

TAX RESIDENCE

A person who is granted a special tax status — also known as a beneficiary – through The Residency Program (TRP) will be taxed 15% on any foreign earned income that is remitted to Malta and 35% on any local income. This is also applied to your dependents. There is also a requirement to pay a minimum tax of €15,000 on any of the income that was earned from outside of Malta, even in the year when the tax status is confirmed or canceled. However, you may request relief from double taxation, once the minimum tax amount is met. Once you qualify for the special tax status, you must submit an Annual Tax Return. As with most countries, there are also provisions and rules for when tax payments are due. And like the GRP, you cannot be a recipient of other Maltese tax programs if you are a beneficiary of the TRP.

PERMANENT RESIDENCE

In addition to procuring a tax residence, nationals of the EEA, EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland can also obtain permanent residence in Malta. You have the option of applying for permanent residence once you become a beneficiary through TRP, given that certain conditions are met. These conditions include having a permanent residence certificate or having applied for permanent residence through the Free Movement of European Nationals and the Family Members Order. If the tax residence benefits no longer apply, you will be taxed on a worldwide basis instead. 

THE MALTA PERMANENT RESIDENCE PROGRAMME BASICS

Launched in April 2021 — and replacing the previous Malta Residence and Visa Programme — the Malta Permanent Residence Program (MPRP) will offer options for non-EU nationals, and qualifying family members. Perks of Malta residency include visa-free travel within the Schengen area and the right to reside, settle, and stay indefinitely within Malta. There is not a minimum stay requirement with this option, however, it is expected that the residence permit will need to be renewed or updated on an annual basis. Those looking for a residence card that can support employment opportunities or that allows them to redeem a qualifying investment after 5 years may also find this option attractive.

REQUIREMENTS

To be eligible for this program, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a national of a non-EU country
  • Maintain stable resources to support yourself and your family members
  • Provide evidence of a clean police record 
  • Have a source of wealth and funds
  • Be able to demonstrate a minimum capital of €500,000, with €150,000 being in financial assets
  • Possess valid travel documents
  • Purchase health insurance
  • Undergo a stringent 4-tier due diligence test

Additionally, you must commit to paying the full non-refundable government contribution and rent or purchase a property in Malta. Depending on if you are purchasing or renting a property, the contribution is €68,000 or €98,000, respectively to gain you Malta residency. To purchase a property, the value must be €300,000 or more in the south of Malta and €350,000 for the rest of the island. To rent a property, the minimum monthly value must be €10,000 in the south of Malta and €12,000 for the rest of the island. In either case, you will need to hold the property for at least 5 years. A €2,000 donation to a charity or non-governmental organization (NGO) is also required.

QUALIFYING FAMILY MEMBERS

You are also allowed to include family members in your residency request. The following dependents are eligible:

  • Your spouse or partner 
  • A child of you or your spouse that is unmarried and financially dependent
  • Your parents or your spouse’s parent, who are financially dependent 
  • Your grandparents or your spouse’s grandparents, who are financially dependent.

APPLICATION STEPS AND FEES

  1. Submit the application. This can be done through a Power of Attorney to entrust the application process to a law firm.
  2. Pay the initial non-refundable application fee deposit of €10,000
  3. The Malta Permanent Residence Agency (MPRA) will then review the application and supporting documents and conduct the due diligence test. This usually takes 4 – 6 months to complete.
  4. Once approved, pay the remaining application fee of €30,000. 
  5. Rent or purchase property.
  6. Pay the government contribution fee and the charity donation. 

If you are applying for qualifying family members as well, additional application fees will be due.

CITIZENSHIP

The MPRP can eventually lead to citizenship, but it is a rather long process.  After you have gained Malta residency and lived there for five years, you can apply for citizenship. However, you will need to have resided in Malta for a full 12 months immediately before the date of application. Additionally, you will need to have lived in Malta for 4 of the 5 years prior to those 12 months. At this point, you will also need to be able to prove that you have adequate knowledge of Maltese or English.

HOW TO GET MALTA CITIZENSHIP BY INVESTMENT

 

THE PROS AND CONS OF MALTA’S RESIDENCY PROGRAMS 

While there are many benefits of Malta residency through its different schemes, there are a few caveats as well. Exploring these will help you understand which program is right for you.

THE PROS

Visa-free access: Since Malta is part of the EU, you will gain visa-free access to travel throughout EU countries and the Schengen area. This is a pretty nice perk, especially if your current passport doesn’t allow you access to several countries at once. An indefinite stay: As a resident of Malta under the MPRP, you have the right to stay and settle indefinitely and can even eventually apply for citizenship. Under the GRP and TRP, you can gain long-term or permanent residence. This means that once you decide to become a resident, you can settle in and know that you don’t have to leave any time soon. And your family members and staff can join you too. Tax benefits: The GRP and TRP plans come with a special tax status that allows you to benefit from a flat minimum tax rate, a 15% rate on foreign earned remitted income, and a 35% on local income. Quality of life: Even though Malta is a small island, it boasts one of the best qualities of life in all of Europe. From a rich history, first-class infrastructure, ideal temperatures, and sparkling beaches to a stable economy and some of the best banks in the world, you really can’t go wrong. We give it a Nomad score of 80.6 on the Nomad Quality of Life Index.

THE CONS

Heavy investment schemes: Malta’s residence programs are expensive and require you to make a sizable investment, though they do offer several benefits in return. Between the cost of renting or purchasing a property and the administrative fees involved, it is not a residence program that you want to be on the fence about. It’s a commitment: While there are some residence programs out there that only require you to visit the country a couple of times a year, Malta is not one of them. In order to qualify for Malta residency, you must spend less than 183 days outside the country per year under the GRP and TRP. Citizenship: Citizenship is a lengthy process. And under the GRP and TRP, if you opt for the citizenship path, you will lose your special tax status and end up paying taxes on your worldwide income. Stacked programs are out: You can’t stack tax benefits from different Malta residency programs on top of each other. You can only choose one program at a time – though with some, you can renounce one to apply for another, if you qualify. 

MALTA RESIDENCE PROGRAM FAQS

Still have questions? See if one of them can be answered below. If not, our team is ready to help you become a resident of Malta.  Who is eligible to become a resident of Malta? Anyone can apply for residency in Malta, given that they apply to the correct program and meet the specific requirements, such as adequate financial resources and making a property investment in Malta. Do I have to live in the country to qualify for residency?  Yes, under the GRP and TRP, you must spend less than 183 days outside of the country per year. Additionally, you need to rent or purchase a property for a given amount of time per program. Basically, you will truly need to live there to qualify for residency. Will I be able to travel to other European countries? Yes, one bonus of having residency in Malta is that you will gain visa-free access to all the countries in the EU and Schengen area. Can I obtain Maltese citizenship through the residence program? You are allowed to apply for citizenship, but it is a lengthy process. Additionally, under the GRP and TRP, you would have to give up your special tax status and pay taxes on your worldwide income instead.  Do I have to pay taxes in Malta?  Yes, you have to pay taxes in Malta. However, they offer tax benefits to residents such as a flat tax rate or a fixed percentage rate. Though, being an EU member does make the rules more stringent.

THE RIGHT RESIDENCY?

Malta is a fantastic lifestyle location and could easily work into your overall plan for an international life. There are definite benefits and limitations to all of the residence programs, which should be taken into consideration for your personal plans, goals, and preferences.   If you want a program to reduce your taxes while you live in a stunning location, you should seriously consider it. As long as you are fine with spending half the year in Malta, you will enjoy great travel perks for the rest of the year.  Just don’t wait too long before making a decision to gain Malta residency. Something tells me these programs won’t be around forever.

Andrew Henderson

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