In late 2013, parliament in Malta introduced a bill to amend the Citizenship Act to introduce the Individual Investor Programme, granting citizenship “by a certificate of naturalization to foreign individuals and families who contribute to the economic development of Malta.” The move quickly drew controversy, with the opposition Nationalist Party and Green Party offering strong criticism.
The European Commission and Members of the European Parliament also expressed concerns over the program, through which successful applicants would effectively become citizens of the European Union with the right to live and work in any of its member states.
In early 2014, the government announced that the implementation of the program would be indefinitely delayed in order to discuss amendments. The program was eventually launched after the government agreed to introduce a 12-month minimum residency requirement, for which the onus of proof was put on the applicant. The government also announced that the program would follow the world’s strictest due diligence standards. Successful applicants are required to make a non-refundable contribution of €650,000 to the National Development and Social Fund. In addition, they must purchase a property for at least €350,000 (or rent one for a minimum €16,000 per year) and invest €150,000 in government approved financial instruments. Thus the total investment requirement is €1.15 million, with additional fees for due diligence and processing applications of spouses and dependents.
In May 2015, the government revealed that there had been 573 main applications since the program opened, of which 56% were from Russia or former Soviet States. Of these 13 were confirmed to have already been granted citizenship.