The number of refused applications for citizenship by naturalisation increased from 5% to 45% in a decade, according to data provided to Times of Malta.

People can apply for citizenship by naturalisation after having lived in Malta for 12 months immediately before applying and an aggregate of at least four years in the previous six years. They also need to be of “good character” and have “adequate knowledge of Maltese or English”.

Parents who were not Maltese at the time of their child’s birth and later acquired Maltese citizenship can apply on behalf of their children to be naturalised. Non-Maltese children of citizens of Malta, and people who left the island before 1964 are also eligible for naturalisation.

Times of Malta asked the home affairs ministry for the number of people who applied for, were granted and were refused citizenship through naturalisation between 2010 and 2024.

In all, up until February 2024, there were 14,945 applications for naturalisation. Throughout this same period, 8,502 applications were approved while 4,139 were refused.

Percentage of approved and refused applications by yearPercentage of approved and refused applications by year

The number of submitted applications increased gradually from 127 in 2010 to 494 in 2014. Applications more than tripled to 1,652 in 2015, spiking to 2,025 in 2016, with a downward trend being observed in 2017.

The numbers dipped at the height of COVID in 2021, when 806 applications were submitted. The numbers picked up again in the following two years, with 1,234 applications submitted in 2022 and 1,474 in 2023.

The proportion of accepted and refused applications grew closer during the pandemic.

Times of Malta calculated the percentage of accepted and refused applications out of the total submissions that received an answer each year. This is because decisions on applications could spill over multiple years. In fact, while 127 applications were submitted in 2010, the number of approved applications was 81 while there were five refused submissions. So, out of the 86 applications that received the green light or were refused in 2010, 5.8% were refused.

And while 494 applications were submitted in 2014, there were 83 approved and four refused submissions. Again, out of the 87 processed applications that year, 4.6% were refused.

The following year, however, 26.1% of the 667 applicants who were given a reply about their application were refused citizenship by naturalisation. This percentages spiked to 45.7% in 2020 and 45.4% in 2021.

In 2022 and 2023, it stood at 38.9% and 28.8% respectively.

In the first two months of this year, there were 334 applications, 113 approved submissions and 133 refused ones. This means that 54% of the ‘processed’ applications in January and February were refused.

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