Malta sets dumping price for EU citizenship

In November, the Maltese parliament approved a plan paving way for acquiring a Maltese passport (and the EU citizenship) for a modest sum of EUR 650,000. Representatives of the European Commission commented by saying that the European authorities are not able to influence this decision. The new citizens of Malta will receive a residence and work permit for the the EU. According to the local media, the country’s authorities took this decision in order to increase the budget revenues. «All EU countries have every right to decide on granting their citizenship,» — says EC rep Michele Cercone. According to experts, the EU institutions have nearly no instruments at their disposal that could limit such practices.

It is assumed that the first year of the new regulation in place will allow Malta to receive some EUR 30 mln, and in the future, these revenues might grow up to EUR 300 mln a year. The draft regulation, still to be signed by the country’s President, keeps secrecy on the names of the potential new EU citizens.

Malta is not the only EU state that attracts wealthy foreigners using the citizenship or residency. Austrian citizenship may be obtained for a charity investment of EUR 3 mln or for investing EUR 10 mln in the local economy. In Portugal, an investor bringing over EUR 1 million into the country’s economy may claim for a Portuguese passport after five years. Spain and UK offer their residence permits and passports to rich foreigners. This practice was also adopted by Hungary and Cyprus. The latter sets 2 prerequisites for the citizenship: investments in the economy and an acquired real estate.

Meanwhile, the Latvian parliament (Saeima) intends to impose restrictions on its residence permit programme. However, in November the President of Latvia, Andris Berzins, suspended the entry into force of the amendments to immigration law approved by the Saeima. The amendments set a quota on the number of permits issued in exchange for investments, and adjusted the terms on which such permits could be obtained. According to the Citizenship and Migration Board, since the introduction of the «residence permits for investment» scheme in 2010 the provisional permits for the Latvian residency was solicited by 5130 citizens of Russia. This figure is significantly higher than the requests from the citizens of Ukraine (462), China (412), or Kazakhstan (301). In most cases (76%) the justification for a residence permit was the purchase of real estate.

Across the EU, the highest number of passports are given by the UK (177,565 new citizens in 2010), followed by France (114,599), Spain (114,584), Germany (109,594), Italy (56,153), Czech Republic (36,012), Belgium (29,786), the Netherlands (28,598) and Portugal (23 238).