The Malta Individual Investor Programme was launched in February 2014 to attract new talent and investors to Malta and give them the opportunity to become Maltese citizens. It is widely acknowledged as one of the leading investment migration programmes worldwide and is also considered to be one of the most rigorous programmes, putting an emphasis on due diligence processes.
Jonathan Cardona, CEO of the Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency (MIIPA) tells us more about the programme and why it works so well for the international investment community.
What are the aims and objectives of the Malta Individual Investor Programme?
Jonathan Cardona: The programme was created to appeal to highly successful individuals and families to come to Malta and invest, and therefore contribute directly or indirectly to our society. Maltese citizenship is only granted to individuals who are indeed of good repute. MIIPA’s responsibility does not start and end with the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) programme it conducts. We are committed to strengthening the integrity of the whole CBI industry. The programme’s success and robustness rests on three mechanisms intertwined in such a way that none can thrive without the other – due diligence, good governance and transparency. This allows the country to break new ground through innovative foreign direct investment, garnering even more interest from all over the world for the ultimate benefit of the Maltese economy.
Investors have been embracing this opportunity, given Malta’s reputation and economic growth, as it is projected as one of the most productive economies in the EU. Malta’s main purpose for the programme is to attract high-net-worth individuals (HNWI), new talent and investors to open their business on the Maltese islands. Their positive contribution to the Maltese society stimulates businesses, increasing job creation, and revenue, as well as augmenting the island’s human capital.
Moreover, 70% of the contribution paid by the applicants and their dependents is deposited into the National Development and Social Fund to address government social projects. In past years, the government has already confirmed projects related to healthcare, social housing, and sports. Applicants have also proved to be of great help to many philanthropic organisations through their donations, adding up to around €4m.
What advantages and benefits does MIIPA offer?
JC: The Malta Individual Investor Programme Agency goes through a serious level of detail on each application, knowing that like all service industries, the programme’s reputation is guarded with very stringent due diligence and high regulatory standards. Malta’s ambition strives for quality rather than quantity. In turn, this proves to be beneficial to the parties on both ends, adding value to the country as much as to the individuals acquiring its citizenship.
Please describe the process when an application is received.
JC: The process to acquire Maltese citizenship is very stringent and takes around 12 months to be completed. Applicants have to submit their application through a MIIPA accredited agent, who will compile the necessary documentation. Once the agency receives the full application and supporting documentation, the due diligence process is initiated for the applicant and dependants. Malta engages in a four-tier process, taking a minimum of four months to complete and involves a multitude of checks, which include Know Your Client, checks with law enforcement agencies, including Interpol and Europol’s databases, in-depth verification of completeness and correctness of documentation submitted, and outsourced due diligence. This results in a rejection rate of around 22%. This level of security is a reason why the programme distinguishes itself from the rest, safeguarding Malta’s ambition to strive for quality rather than quantity.
How has the programme developed over the years and what do you see the future in this sector holding?
JC: The agency constantly seeks to make the programme more efficient in order to maintain the high reputation it has gained. Throughout the years, the programme has developed and evolved according to the industry requirements, where internal processes and procedures have been constantly improved by advocating higher industry standards across the board. Malta has been encouraging more cooperation between jurisdictions in the aspect of due diligence and background checks and creating awareness on due diligence to the Residency and Citizenship by Investment sector.
Moreover, MIIPA published a consultation process to revise the programme and update the legislation by 2020, to make it even more exclusive than ever before. The response to the public consultation received showed us that the industry required further changes and clarifications in the legislation, and a revision of the programme to remain at the forefront of CBI systems, and equally carry out rigorous checks. The programme will stay forward-thinking and maintain its flexibility to continue attracting successful individuals who can contribute to the country, while also having in place the necessary safeguards that would counter any potential risks.
What sets Malta apart from other jurisdictions?
JC: The Maltese islands are steeped in tradition and rich in culture, with a strong history of outreach and trade that has seen it shift from a strategic stronghold to an independent state. It is also a member of the Commonwealth, one of only three Commonwealth member countries located in Europe, and is a member of the European Union.
Malta is one of the smallest EU member states; it has remained very stable, and has been recognised as a rising star for weathering global financial turmoil to become one of Europe’s fastest growing economies. In fact, Malta has a growing reputation for being one of the best countries to do business with, and this stems from our competitive tax regime and well-developed legal system. This also includes having low operating costs, as well as a highly skilled yet versatile workforce that speaks proficient English.
Nonetheless, Malta’s robust economic performance can also be attributed to the government’s pro-business stance as it seeks to further foster favourable conditions in attracting foreign direct investment to its shores. Over the past decades, the Maltese economy, backed by the necessary legislation, has diversified well in the high-end manufacturing and services industry, establishing itself as a sound financial jurisdiction, a popular tourist destination and a hub for the ICT and gaming industries. We have engaged in various new economic niches, and are now working to expand our potential to become a leader in digital technology and related innovation. We are already among the first to push forward a regulatory framework for blockchain technology and are currently exploring artificial intelligence as a new economic niche.
Most certainly, the government’s growth-friendly measures, coupled with its sound fiscal policy, has enticed HNWIs not only to obtain the Maltese citizenship but also to invest and develop their business in Malta.
In practical terms what resources must an applicant commit?
JC: High-net-worth individuals who are interested in obtaining the Maltese citizenship must commit the following contributions and investments. The main applicant has to make a contribution of €650,000 to the Maltese Government, lease a property for a minimum value of €16,000 per annum, or purchase a property for a minimum value of €350,000, and acquire €150,000 worth of stocks, bonds, debentures, special purpose vehicles or other investment vehicles. Moreover, dependants of the applicant must also pay a contribution, between €25,000 to €50,000, which fees depend on the criteria.
Applicants must also establish links with the community to attest the individual’s relationship with the country, which in turn bring with them other varied forms of resources such as business connections, contact with societies and other
What message do you have for those considering making an application?
JC: Experience has shown that most of our applicants are not headline grabbers or well-known people. Most of the time they would fit the profile of being hardworking, self-made individuals, who have a strong global network. Moreover, we would like to extend the opportunity to the growing number of families who are looking at investment migration in order to broaden their horizons to build a better life and become part of a welcoming community, which they can choose to call home.
We believe that these prospective citizens want to associate themselves only with the best performing countries, and that is exactly what Malta can offer. Our safety, friendliness, outstanding healthcare system, highly educated workforce, freedom of movement, stable economy, as well as our history and culture, are just few of the things that makes the Maltese islands so attractive.