Minimum Residency Rules of the Malta Citizenship Programme

The Malta Individual Investor Programme requires residence for one year prior to obtaining naturalisation as a Maltese citizen under the IIP regulations back in 2013.

Definition of 'Residence' under Maltese Citizenship Law Law

The law doesn't define "residence" for the purposes of the Malta Citizenship Programme but, based on judicial precedent in international jurisprudence, residence does not need to be physical presence for a full year. A residence card must be held for a minimum of 12 months from date of issue and a sufficient level of integration with Malta should be achieved during this time to satisfy this requirement.  In a paper I co-authored by Dr Jean-Philippe Chetcuti and Dr Antoine Saliba Haig, this minimum level of connection with Malta is described as 'the "Genuine Link" and this emanates from international jurisprudence on the subject of citizenship law.

Do I need to live in Malta for one year to get Maltese citizenship?

From its inception, the Malta Individual Investor Programme required one year of residency during which the 4-5 month due diligence process of the Malta Citizenship application was being conducted. This does not mean you need to relocate to Malta during this residency period.

Typical Applicant Profiles in the Malta Investor Programme

The typical profile of our investor or entrepreneur clients and their families who seek Maltese citizenship often build their wealth through several international assets and businesses.  These require close attention and it is quite common for our clients to keep several homes in different countries and to live between these homes.  Most international investors cannot and do not spend 6 months in their own country or any other country.

Our experience with investors under the IIP is that full relocation to Malta is the objective in only a small fraction of the cases. The majority regard the IIP as a first step in a medium to long term plan to move to Malta, or for the children to study in Malta and in all cases, investors are not able to relocate overnight to start the IIP process.  

So how do I satisfy Malta's residence requirement?

The residence requirement was introduced to reflect the principle of effective nationality espoused by the Nottebohm Case (ICJ 1955) which set a minimum period of one year of connection with the country for the new citizenship to be recognised by other states. Our experience with investors under the IIP is that investing, doing business in Malta or making Malta one of their preferred global footholds satisfies this requirement.

The Maltese Citizenship Programme allows investors to start their residence with a first visit to leave their biometrics in Malta, to return again within the same year to fulfil their presence commitment in one or more visits.  Some investors visit again sooner than expected because their first visit exposes them to a culture, a way of life, a global connectedness and a business scene that they never imagined could be found in a country as small as Malta.  As their lawyers, we introduce them to opportunities for investing in Malta, setting up business in Malta, acquiring or funding local businesses, making Malta a home for their wealth structures, or setting up international asset holding entities in Malta.  At the end, investors often end up making Malta one of their preferred footholds and this voluntary integration with Malta satisfies the residence requirement for Maltese citizenship purposes.