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The Stringent Eligibility Criteria For Malta’s Citizenship For Exceptional Services by Direct Investment

 

The eligibility criteria for the recently announced legislation, the Granting of Citizenship for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (CDI), include several requirements for foreign nationals. As stipulated by Legal Notice 437 of 2020, the new regulations allow for, following a residence period, the granting of citizenship by naturalisation to foreign individuals and their families who contribute to the economic development of Malta and can prove they meet the stringent tests for eligibility.

These eligibility tests require the applicants to prove that they and their family members are ‘fit and proper’ to acquire Maltese Citizenship, demonstrate they are in good health, and that dependant family members are wholly supported by the main applicant. The main applicant must be at least 18 years of age to apply and be of good conduct. 

Fit and Proper

The assessment of whether an individual is fit and proper is based on a number of due diligence checks carried out by both the licensed agent and the Community Malta Agency (CMA), the responsible governing authority. 

A clean police conduct certificate is required from the countries where the applicants have resided for at least six months during the last 10 years and from every country of citizenship. Such certificates must be issued from the national law enforcement authority in charge of criminal records in that country. The certificate needs to report the status of the applicant’s criminal record and is required for applicants over 16 years of age. This is diligently verified by the authorities with international records as part of the verification process or eligibility assessment.

Applicants and any of their dependants are deemed not ‘fit and proper’ if:

  • Any members have been indicted of an offence before an International Criminal Court or have been arraigned at any time before such court;
  • Are listed with the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) or Europol;
  • Deemed to be involved in any activity which may cause disrepute to Malta;
  • Are listed in international sanctions that apply restrictive measures on them, that Malta follows; 
  • Is an actual or potential threat to the national security of Malta; and
  • Has been charged or found guilty of terrorism, money laundering, funding of terrorism, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Furthermore, applicants and their dependants must not have been charged or found guilty of crimes including, but not limited to, defilement of minors, rape, paedophilia, indecent violent assault, inducing underage persons to prostitution and abduction. 

Applicants are deemed ineligible to apply if any member of the application has been denied a visa to a country with whom Malta has visa-free travel arrangements and has subsequently not obtained a visa from that country. 

Good Health

Applicants and their dependant family members must demonstrate that they do not have a contagious disease or significant health condition. A declaration attesting to their good health must be certified by a competent medical body and state that they are not likely to become a burden on the Maltese public health system.

Financially Dependant Members

The spouse and children under 18 years of age may be included in the application as dependants.

In order for other family members to be included in an application for Citizenship for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment (CDI) they must demonstrate they rely financially on the main applicant, form part of the main applicant’s household and meet the criteria below. Such family members include: 

  • An unmarried, adult child of the main applicant or spouse who has attained the age of 18 but not yet 29 years at the time the eligibility for citizenship application is submitted;
  • A parent or grandparent of the main applicant or spouse who is at least 55 years of age at the time the eligibility for citizenship application is submitted; and
  • An adult child of the main applicant or spouse who is a qualified person with a disability as defined in the Equal Opportunities (person with Disability) Act.

The Granting of Citizenship for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment requires the applicant to reside in Malta for a period of three years, or by exception, one year. There are three main investment requirements that constitute the exceptional direct investment. These include: the purchase of residential real estate for a minimum of €700,000 euro or renting a property for €16,000 annually for a period of five years. Make a capital transfer of €600,000, or €750,000 in the case of a one year residency period, and €50,000 for each dependant. The third investment requirement is to donate €10,000 to a recognised charitable organisation approved by the Community Malta Agency.

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The post The Stringent Eligibility Criteria For Malta’s Citizenship For Exceptional Services by Direct Investment appeared first on Investment Migration Insider.

Eur. Commission Still Mum on MEIN and Malta’s Infringement Response, Muscat Says

 

The European Commission, which last year initiated infringement procedures against both Malta and Cyprus over their respective citizenship by investment programs (the MIIP and the Cyprus CIP, neither of which exist today), has so far not offered any comments on Malta’s official response to the infringement nor on its new MEIN policy.

“So far, the Commission has not officially corresponded with us again on either the new program or the former IIP,” Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship, Alex Muscat, told the Malta Independent this week.

When first launching the procedures, the Commission gave Malta and Cyprus two months to articulate an official response to the letters of formal notice. Unsatisfactory answers to such, the Commission clarified, would likely result in the issuance of a “Reasoned Opinion”, tantamount to a formal request to comply. Should Malta decline to comply, the Commission would retain the option to bring the matter to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and request that it impose financial penalties on the country.

Malta has signaled that, should the conflict reach the courts, it is prepared to make its case and defend the state’s sovereign prerogative to decide whom it naturalizes. According to Prof. Dimitry Kochenov, one of the world’s foremost experts on EU Citizenship Law, the question of who has competence on naturalization policy – the Commission or the individual member state – is cut-and-dry; in an October opinion piece in IMI, he argued that, should the matter go to court over the question of so-called “genuine links”, the Commission was likely to be “humiliated”. Muscat has also stated that the formal notice letter was “more political than legal” and that it had no basis in EU law.

The dispute is made all the more convoluted by Malta’s decision to replace its erstwhile MIIP with the new MEIN policy; the program in which the impasse was rooted no longer operates.

“We are no longer accepting new applications due to the decision we made,” said Muscat with reference to the MIIP. “Nowadays there are new residency rules. However, after we sent our reply to the Commission, it has so far not come back with its response or with information as to what it intends to do next.”

Muscat, who in an exclusive interview with IMI in December said he hoped for a “fair and rational approach” from the Commission regarding the new MEIN policy, remains steadfast in emphasizing that if and when a negative response is issued by the Commission, it would not have any bearing on his country’s autonomy on the question of naturalization of investors.

“These new rules are in place and are working, but we do not need approval from the European Commission because they are obviously of national competence,” added Muscat. “The Commission issued an infringement on what was the IIP, but today, the IIP is no longer in force, and we are no longer accepting applications.”

The same Muscat this week announced that Malta is opening a Nomad Residence Permit program.

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UPDATE: Malta Reverses Decision to End Publishing of CIP Applicant Names

UPDATE: A previous version of this article (remaining in italicized print below) reported on news that Malta would end its policy of publishing the names of naturalized citizens in its gazette. A few minutes ago, however, Malta’s Ministry of Home Affairs reached out to IMI informing us that it will roll back that provision following a consultation with stakeholders, one day after the change was first reported in Maltese media.

Parliamentary Secretary Alex Muscat, the Junior Minister for Citizenship, explained that “in view of the fact that this clause can be interpreted as casting some doubt on the great work done to enhance transparency, the government has listened and is taking note of the concerns raised and will remove it from the legal notice,” according to Times of Malta.

The formulation in the legal notice, he explained, had been intended for “very specific circumstances” but would now be removed as “another sign of transparency. All the changes that have been made have been prepared in a positive spirit of good governance and the strengthening of a program that has greatly benefited  the Maltese people.”

Original article:

Until now, Maltese law required the publishing of the names of new citizens once a year in a government gazette. Following the issuance of a legal notice on November 30th, however, the decision of whether to publish the names of new citizens or of individuals whose citizenship has been revoked will be at the absolute discretion of the Minister for Home Affairs.

What prompted the rule-change, according to the legal notice, was “reasons of security”, presumably referring to the risks posed by the publishing of sensitive personal data in connection with CIP-based naturalization. The change in policy is an unexpected turn of events, particularly in light of the bipartisan consensus in favor of continued publication that emerged in Malta some two years ago.

The news will be welcomed by investment migration practitioners and observers, who have long argued that such publication not only constitutes a violation of individual privacy rights – which are just as valid as, but conflict with, the interest of transparency – but could also potentially endanger the citizen’s personal safety.

In a 2019 article in IMI, three scholars of European law cautioned against ignoring the “possible steep negative consequences such publication could have for the new citizens, including potential interference with business or financial interests in the original or new state of nationality.” They also pointed out that though practices differed widely between countries, the overall trend in Europe was moving away from publication and toward privacy.

“This is great news,” said Arton Capital’s Philippe May. “The publication and gazetting of the names of new citizens prevents many applicants from countries that don’t allow dual citizenship from choosing certain programs. Now they can be exempted from public naming.”

Malta’s political opposition, on the contrary, expressed dismay at the decision. Karol Aquilina, the opposition’s spokesman on matters related to citizenship, called the change “unacceptable” and accused the government of wanting to add secrecy to the program, according to the Times of Malta.

In Cyprus, another country that, until recently, operated a CIP, Data Protection Commissioner Irini Loizidou has intervened on several occasions where MPs or members of the public have called for publication of naturalized investors’ names, as well as ordering the removal of articles that published names from a leaked list of CIP investors.

To be sure, though the Minister of Home Affairs will now have the discretion to exempt names from publishing, he may choose not to exercise – or to only occasionally exercise – that right. The default policy will still be to publish, and the Minister would have to actively intervene to prevent publication.

More Policy Updates

An unexpected turn of events in light of the bipartisan consensus in favor of continued publication that emerged in Malta some two years ago.

A transition period that will see the exclusion of metropolitan and coastal areas from the program will begin on July 1st next year.

Australia is bringing wide-ranging changes to its extremely popular BIIP, cutting five categories and raising capital requirements.

 

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Malta Moves to End Mandatory Publishing of Citizenship Applicant Names

Until now, Maltese law required the publishing of the names of new citizens once a year in a government gazette. Following the issuance of a legal notice on November 30th, however, the decision of whether to publish the names of new citizens or of individuals whose citizenship has been revoked will be at the absolute discretion of the Minister for Home Affairs.

What prompted the rule-change, according to the legal notice, was “reasons of security”, presumably referring to the risks posed by the publishing of sensitive personal data in connection with CIP-based naturalization. The change in policy is an unexpected turn of events, particularly in light of the bipartisan consensus in favor of continued publication that emerged in Malta some two years ago.

The news will be welcomed by investment migration practitioners and observers, who have long argued that such publication not only constitutes a violation of individual privacy rights – which are just as valid as, but conflict with, the interest of transparency – but could also potentially endanger the citizen’s personal safety.

In a 2019 article in IMI, three scholars of European law cautioned against ignoring the “possible steep negative consequences such publication could have for the new citizens, including potential interference with business or financial interests in the original or new state of nationality.” They also pointed out that though practices differed widely between countries, the overall trend in Europe was moving away from publication and toward privacy.

“This is great news,” said Arton Capital’s Philippe May. “The publication and gazetting of the names of new citizens prevents many applicants from countries that don’t allow dual citizenship from choosing certain programs. Now they can be exempted from public naming.”

Malta’s political opposition, on the contrary, expressed dismay at the decision. Karol Aquilina, the opposition’s spokesman on matters related to citizenship, called the change “unacceptable” and accused the government of wanting to add secrecy to the program, according to the Times of Malta.

In Cyprus, another country that, until recently, operated a CIP, Data Protection Commissioner Irini Loizidou has intervened on several occasions where MPs or members of the public have called for publication of naturalized investors’ names, as well as ordering the removal of articles that published names from a leaked list of CIP investors.

To be sure, though the Minister of Home Affairs will now have the discretion to exempt names from publishing, he may choose not to exercise – or to only occasionally exercise – that right. The default policy will still be to publish, and the Minister would have to actively intervene to prevent publication.

More Policy Updates

An unexpected turn of events in light of the bipartisan consensus in favor of continued publication that emerged in Malta some two years ago.

A transition period that will see the exclusion of metropolitan and coastal areas from the program will begin on July 1st next year.

Australia is bringing wide-ranging changes to its extremely popular BIIP, cutting five categories and raising capital requirements.

 

Our readers are the best-informed professionals in the investment migration industry.
Once a week, we’ll send you a curated newsletter with the week’s top stories.

Want updates every day?
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The post Malta Moves to End Mandatory Publishing of Citizenship Applicant Names appeared first on Investment Migration Insider.

Sec. Muscat Hopes for “Fair and Rational Approach From the Commission” on MEIN Policy

Malta’s Junior Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Alex Muscat, sits down for an exclusive interview with IMI to answer questions about the recently launched MEIN policy, which will offer exceptional investors a path to citizenship in Malta.

IMI: Though the new regulations effectively constitute a standardized, formulaic route toward naturalization through direct investment, official communications have conspicuously avoided referring to them as a “program”. Can you explain the rationale behind this?

Muscat: Some of the criticism that these initiatives have is that they may objectify a subject like citizenship. Our intentions are to formalise the concept as much as possible and focus on what really matters. The regulations we have launched are very sophisticated and the most rigorous in this sector.  Malta is not the only country to have such regulations and as a country, we have maintained continuous dialogue with European fora as well as all stakeholders involved in order to guarantee that we continue to provide the best standard in this sector.

IMI: You have been consistent in underlining that questions of naturalization, in line with long-established (and presumed-incontrovertible) European legal norms, unequivocally fall within the remit of member states rather than the institutions of the European Union. If infringement procedures over this dispute eventually reach the ECJ, which are the hypothetical scenarios that could play out?

Muscat: We don’t wish to speculate on such a delicate matter. We firmly believe in our arguments that Citizenship is a member state competence and a sovereign matter, and we will sustain our position in the interest of our country.

IMI: A few hundred carefully scrutinized investors a year were naturalized under Malta’s erstwhile IIP. The Commission argued that a non-negligible proportion of these constituted a security/corruption/money-laundering risk to the European Community. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of fraud-based naturalizations took place in the same period on the Southeastern periphery of the EU, and hundreds of thousands of legitimate (but far more lightly vetted) naturalizations take place under conventional routes (marriage, adoption, and so on) across the EU each year, without triggering infringement procedures. Is it not disingenuous for the Commission to focus so narrowly on the small, closely-watched trickle of CBI-naturalizations rather than the loosely-controlled flood of ordinary naturalizations (to say nothing of the fraudulent ones)? Are the ostensible motivations for this EU “concern” with CBI perhaps camouflaging some other, undeclared objective?

Muscat: Such initiatives attract attention as they deal with relatively high profile, high net worth families. They also generate a significant amount of economic activity. Adding this to a subject which many people are passionate about, that is Citizenship, is bound to become high on any agenda. There will be quarters with different motives where they feel the need to object to such opportunities. And to be perfectly clear, sector wide, there have been mishaps in the past where the undesirable individuals made through in certain countries. 

We believe that with proper mitigation factors, scrutiny, and due diligence, these initiatives can offer great opportunities to both the countries and families applying. We understand the European Commission’s position as a lot has been said and pressure has been mounted. Malta has always acted in good faith and we trust that the Commission understands this and is more than capable to differentiate between good and bad practices. 

We too are concerned about irregular granting of citizenship in other countries. Our argument has always been that anyone who is not fit and proper would think more than twice to apply under the Maltese regulations, as they know they would be thoroughly checked. It would be easier for the wrong sort of individuals to find other paths, which are lighter in regulation and not in the spotlight.

IMI: You’ve done away with the MIIP Agency in favor of a new one, the Community Malta Agency, which will oversee not only investor naturalizations but the issuance of citizenship under all categories. Can you explain what drove this decision and tell us who will be heading this new agency?

Muscat: Since the IIP is coming to an end, it is only natural that the Agency running the programme would be wound down with it. This was also an opportunity to bring the processes for all paths leading to Maltese citizenship under one roof. 

Our idea is to treat anyone who wishes to become a Maltese citizen equally, with no discrimination either way. This was the right time to move forward with this concept.

IMI: The MIIP was subject to the oversight of an independent regulator – the ORiip. The Community Malta Agency, on the other hand, will be supervised by the Citizenship Regulator. What differences in roles, practices, and responsibilities will there be between the Citizenship Regulator and ORiip, if any?

Muscat: The concept will be the same, and the functions of the regulator will remain as strong as ever. Through this office, we want to give the peace of mind that things are done properly in Malta, with the right balance of power and appropriate oversight.

IMI: This new set of regulations has gone a long way in addressing some of the key concerns the Commission has with the MIIP and appears to have a virtually unassailable legal, regulatory, and ethical foundation. Do you expect the Commission to laud these reforms or to remain opposed to any type of preferential naturalization of investors on an ideological basis?

Muscat: We have put a lot of thought into the new regulations and have indeed addressed many of the genuine concerns that were raised by various quarters. As I have stated earlier, we have always worked in good faith, and it is our principal ideology to always remain open minded for any sincere suggestions. 

We have also taken into account many of the recommendations put forward by the expert group the European Commission had organised on residence and citizenship regulations. What we wish from the Commission is to have the same rational and fair approach, and be able to read through the distortions that are intentionally circulated.

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Everything You Need to Know About the New Maltese Exceptional Investor Naturalization (MEIN) Regulations

See detailed application requirements, application forms, timelines, the code of ethics, the agent license application, and the regulation handbook.

As promised, Malta’s government yesterday published the regulations for its new expedited route to citizenship through investment. The policy’s formal name (note that official communications have studiously avoided referring to the policy as a “program”) is the rather clunky Maltese Citizenship by Naturalisation for Exceptional Services by Direct Investment. Not bound by the same circumscriptive limitations as officialdom, IMI will – for the sake of simplicity – henceforth refer to the policy as Maltese Exceptional Investor Naturalization (MEIN).

Under the MEIN policy, the number of citizenship certificates issued to principal applicants (i.e., excluding dependents) shall not exceed 400 a year and 1,500 for the duration of the policy.

The salient differences in policy between the MIIP and MEIN, which have not changed materially since first announced this summer, are summarized below, courtesy of Luke Frendo of Frendo Advisory:

  • Contribution
    The amount is either €600,000 or €750,000, depending on whether the standard (36 months) or expedited (12 months) residency route is chosen. For Dependents, the contribution is set at €50,000.
  • Donation
    A €10,000 compulsory donation to an NGO is introduced. Previously, this was generally done but at an amount of €5,000. 
  • Residential property
    Threshold for purchasing a property is increased to €700,000, while the threshold for rental remains unchanged at €16,000 per annum. This needs to be held for five years from the issuance of the certificate of citizenship.
  • Government bonds
    The requirement to invest in Government bonds is removed altogether. 
  • Due diligence fees
    There is a slight increase in the due diligence fees (to €15,000 for main applicant and €10,000 for dependents).
  • Maximum Age Threshold
    The maximum age threshold for dependents is increased from 27 to 29. Further, dependents who are deemed to meet the legal definition of disability can form part of a parent’s application, regardless of age. 
  • Application for residence
    All adult dependents need to apply for residence, not just the main applicant. The non-refundable pre-payment of the contribution at this stage, increased from €5,000 to €10,000. There is also a €5,000 fee for the main applicant. 

Procedural steps:

  • Application for residence; 
  • Submission of eligibility assessment (due diligence);
  • Approval in Principle à payment of contribution; 
  • Submission for naturalization for exceptional services by direct investment (that is, for citizenship);
  • Oath-swearing, within at most 6 months of approval/conferment of citizenship/issuance of passport(s).

Maltese law firm and RCBI specialists Chetcuti Cauchi Advocates have helpfully provided details on which categories of persons qualify as dependents:

An applicant applying under these regulations can include in a citizenship application the following dependents:

  • The spouse in a monogamous marriage or partner having the same or similar status. The term ‘spouse’ shall be construed as gender neutral
  • A child of the Main Applicant or the spouse under the age of eighteen (18)
  • An economically dependent and unmarried  child of the Main Applicant or the spouse who has not yet attained the age of twenty-nine (29), at the time when the citizenship application is accepted by the Agency
  • A child of the Main Applicant or the spouse, including an adopted child who at the time of the application has attained the age of eighteen (18) and is qualified as a person with a disability
  • An economically dependent parent or grandparent of the Main Applicant or the spouse above the age of 55

Chetcuti Cauchi has also outlined the grounds for ineligibility:

  • The person or any of the dependants is or was indicted of an offence before an International Criminal Court or has been arraigned at any time before an International Criminal Court, whether such person has been found guilty or otherwise
  • The person or any of the dependants are listed with INTERPOL or EUROPOL
  • The person or any of the dependants is an actual or potential threat to Malta’s national security, public policy or public health
  • The person or any of the dependants has been charged or found guilty of terrorism, money laundering, funding of terrorism, crimes against humanity, war crimes, defilement of minors, indecent assault and other serious crimes
  • The person or any of the dependants has been found guilty or suspected or has criminal charges brought against him for any criminal offence punishable with more than one (1) year imprisonment, other than an involuntary offence
  • The person or any of the dependants is or is likely to be involved in any activity which may cause disrepute to the Republic of Malta
  • The person or any of the dependants has been denied a visa to a country with whom Malta has visa-free travel arrangements with, and has not subsequently obtained a visa from that country
  • The person or any of the dependants is named or listed in international sanctions

If an applicant makes a false statement or otherwise omits material information, the application may be suspended and considered inadmissible. 

One agent previously licensed under the MIIP shared with IMI a number of key documents related to the MEIN policy, which readers may download below:

According to the agent license application form, the fee for successful license applications amounts to EUR 5,000, a fee that is payable upon renewal once a year.

“Harshly politicized”
In his foreword accompanying the MEIN policy documents, Secretary Muscat once more reiterated his unwavering commitment to retaining Maltese sovereignty on questions of naturalization and lamented the politicization of citizenship by investment:

“Despite the obvious economic benefits and the opportunity for better social development for Malta and for the Maltese, the Government has paid attention to the recommendations given by all the stakeholders involved and the EU Commission and availed itself of the constructive opinions of all those who provided them. The Government is acting in a rational manner because citizenship is, indeed, a matter that deserves to be treated without divisive blinkers. There is no political hue that should be attributed to it. Neither should such a fundamental concept: the attribution of citizenship, be up to any authority other than the Maltese to decide upon. Much to our disappointment, our initiatives have found themselves harshly politicised. The arguments being raised against the previous programme are largely political, with little to no legal substance to them.”

Muscat effectively dismissed the calls for a phase-out of citizenship by investment in Malta, instead pointing out that MEIN represents a refining of already-successful policies.

“We will not simply shelve initiatives that are proving to be beneficial to our society, but we will improve them. We have always displayed an attitude of dialogue on national and international levels, both with stakeholders and with the European Commission itself.”

Don’t call it a program
Despite the long-awaited publication of the new regulations, several program stakeholders have told IMI that authorities are requesting they refrain from marketing the MEIN policy. IMI understands that the decision to tell agents to keep a low marketing profile, as well as the conspicuous avoidance of the term “program”, is a reaction to previously published European Parliament reports that have criticized routes to EU naturalization in the guise of structured programs, all the while expressing no particular concern with more conventional routes to naturalization.

A few hundred carefully scrutinized investors a year were naturalized under Malta’s erstwhile IIP. The Commission argued that a non-negligible proportion of these constituted a security/corruption/money-laundering risk to the European Community. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of fraud-based naturalizations have taken place in the same period on the Southeastern periphery of the EU, and hundreds of thousands of legitimate but far more lightly vetted naturalizations take place under conventional routes (marriage, adoption, and so on) across the EU each year, without triggering infringement procedures. By not referring to MEIN as a program, Maltese authorities are, essentially, calling out European hypocrisy on the matter.

The European Commission’s opening of infringement procedures against Malta and Cyprus over their respective CIPs last month have been widely rejected as ultra vires by experts on EU law. Maltese authorities have consistently maintained that those procedures are politically motivated rather than grounded in legal concerns and that they are prepared to defend this position in an eventual case in the European Court of Jutice .

Know when to fold’em
Earlier this week, Paddy Blewer of Henley & Partners, the erstwhile concessionaire of the now-discontinued Malta IIP, told International Adviser that the “Commission’s move is a short-term political gamble with short/medium- and long-term risks. They clearly felt there was a window of opportunity to attack a policy that certain EU stakeholders do not like,” adding also that the Commission’s legal case was “remarkably weak” and that it raised “serious questions on the erosion of member state sovereignty vs centralization of power in Brussels.”

Employing a gambling-analogy, Blewer characterized the dispute as a game of “geopolitical poker,” in which the Commission appears to betting that Malta and Cyprus will be the first to blink.

“The Commission is a well-known successful player and pretends to be confident but they have a very weak hand. If Malta and Cyprus and other sovereign states call the Commission’s bluff on this case, Brussels might have to fold to avoid longer-term political damage.”

More Policy Updates

See requirements and forms, procedures, the code of conduct, the licensing requirements, the policy handbook, and analysis of the MEIN here.

Fees on adding dependents after-the-fact are sharply cut and even the future spouses and children of a dependent child may now be included.

No more physical presence requirements and the possibility to apply and invest through a company rather than as an individual.

 

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