New Residency Regulations to Benefit Us All
Hon. Alex Muscat – Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship and Communities
We genuinely believe in a spirit of dialogue, especially on matters that are as close to our hearts as citizenship.
This is a subject that is related to our very identity; our very own place in a very diverse world. This is precisely why we have pricked our ears and paid special attention to the criticism that the old programme received and availed ourselves to the constructive opinions of all those who provided them. We acted in a rational manner, because citizenship is a matter that deserves to be treated without any divisive blinkers. There is no political hue that should be attributed to it.
Many of you have asked: are we selling our national identity? We will not hesitate in our reply: national identity can never be sold. We are providing the opportunity for a number of exceptionally talented people to invest in our islands. We will do all this by completing the existing Individual Investor Programme, closing the Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency, reforming all residence regulations, and establishing a new agency that will be responsible for the administration and the running of all paths leading to Maltese citizenship and revise the related legal framework. It must be said that there are many countries who offer similar opportunities, with far less stringent attention and due diligence processes.
Some have asked whether it is in our best interest to stop processes related to citizenship altogether, in view of criticism from European fora surrounding the subject. In reality, the attribution of nationality is an exclusive competence of individual EU Member States. It is in our national interest to protect our sovereignty, a principle that is also enshrined in EU law.
Under the new regulations, an applicant must be a resident in Malta for three years before applying for citizenship. Or exceptionally through a higher investment in Malta, this can be done after one year of residence. Previous experience shows us that a number of applicants opened various businesses in Malta. To date, over 70 companies have been opened by successful applicants. I want even more. In this context, I have asked the Chamber of Commerce for their helping hand in this regard.
Interested residents who want to apply for citizenship will be required to apply for an eligibility assessment before applying for citizenship. At this stage, they will be subject to thorough due diligence. The new agency will be implementing the toughest criteria for due diligence and background verification reporting around the world. It will cooperate more with local and foreign investigative and law enforcement authorities, the MFSA, FIAU, and tax authorities.
An independent regulator, appointed in consultation with the Opposition, will scrutinise the application process executed by the Agency and all resultant decisions. Agents, with authority to assist applicants, will be limited to a set of professions familiar with the laws related to preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The names of all individuals who attain Maltese citizenship will continue to be published.
Why are we going through all this process? Largely because these new regulations will generate revenue for the Maltese islands in times and areas of economic need.
Although this is a new initiative separate from the IIP, the benefits of Malta’s policy for attracting international investment are noticeable across the country especially through multi-million euro investments; including €50 million in social housing projects with 500 new social housing units at 22 different sites, the €10 million project for the upgrading of 8 health centers and 54 clinics, a €950,000 investment in Mater Dei Hospital’s Cardiology Department to upgrade its two catheterisation suites and €5 million to Puttinu Cares for the construction of new apartments for cancer patients and their families in London. The previous programme has helped build Malta’s ‘war chest’ which is being used in these times of global pandemic.
The new regulations will be made available to 1,500 families. In reality, the EU welcomes 700,000 new citizens every year. In other words they make up 0.1% of the total new EU citizenry per year. And these persons are highly vetted, unlike the majority, who undergo a far more lenient screening process or none at all.
It is with an attitude of dialogue that we are willing to communicate on a national and international level, both with stakeholders and with those who take a genuine interest in matters that concern their own country.
We remain eager to communicate about this subject in a detailed manner, so that we can engage in healthy discussions. We count on informed opinions and we are confident that consensus can be found on a subject that matters so much to the citizens of Malta and Gozo.