Why the rich want a Maltese passport

Malta offers history, beaches and — to the rich — EU passports. Roman Abramovich settled for Israeli citizenship

Dominica is good, Portugal is better, but Malta is probably best of all — albeit expensive. The accessory that the world’s super-rich are after is not a private jet or trophy wife but a second passport.

An estimated 20,000 people a year are applying for second passports. The industry has grown hugely and is said to be increasing by 50 per cent a year. “The number of programmes on offer has grown exponentially,” said Paul Williams, chief executive of La Vida, an agency based in London that specialises in citizenship. “We are dealing with 15 programmes now. Seven years ago there were only two.” Christian Kälin, chairman of Henley & Partners, said: “If you have a yacht and two airplanes, the next thing to get is a Maltese passport; it’s the latest status symbol.”

In May Roman Abramovich was granted Israeli citizenship after facing unusually long delays in renewing his UK visa.

Applying for residency in return for investment was pioneered by Canada in the 1980s but it is only recently that countries have offered passports in return for large sums of money. Malta has accepted more than 1,000 new citizens since its scheme launched in 2014. Applicants have to buy or lease property, invest money and contribute to a development fund: Mr Williams estimates that the total package adds up to €1.25 million. The Caribbean programmes tend to be cheaper and offer visa-free travel to a wide range of countries.

It is the European programmes that are the more enticing, however, as they allow residency anywhere in the EU.

Dr Kälin said: “Wealthy individuals in particular are more cosmopolitan and transnational today than ever. As the world economy has become increasingly globalised, the need for greater visa-free access has grown steadily.”

The typical investor, according to Henley & Partners, is male, aged 45 to 65, married with children, and with an average investable income of at least €10 million. As Mr Williams put it: “When they spend a hundred thousand or a million, it is not their last. It is something they can afford to do.”

Cash for access
Malta — citizenship

Buy property worth €350,000, or lease for a rent of €16,000 a year. Invest €150,000 in approved financial instruments. Donate €650,000 to National Development and Social Fund. Spouses and children are €25,000 extra.
Dominica — citizenship

US $200,000 for applicant and spouse, investing in public or private-sector projects. 
US — residence

$1 million, or $500,000 if the investment is in certain high-unemployment or rural areas. Access to citizenship after five years’ residence.
UK — residence

£2 million. Applicants can stay for three years. Access to citizenship after five years, reduced to three years for a £5 million investment, and two years for £10 million.

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