A number of citizenship applications have already been approved and applicants may be able to get their passports within a few months, since they have been resident in Malta for some time, according to Identity Malta CEO Jonathan Cardona.

The residency clause was added to the Individual Investor Programme as one of the changes made to the original scheme, along with the requirement to invest in and to either rent or buy a property.

Mr Cardona admitted that the definition of residency was “grey” but Identity Malta believes that the spirit of the clause is the important thing.

“Strictly speaking, all the client needs to do is come to have their biometrics taken at the beginning of the process and then to take the oath of allegiance at the end.

“But we want them to forge links with the island so we give each one a confidential list of minimum requirements and ask them to tell us how they intend to exceed these. So we would check whether they get a local mobile phone, a car, membership of a local club or professional body and so on. And we would also consider any involvement in philanthropy, for example,” he said.

The successful applicants will eventually be included in the annual list published in the Government Gazette, but the fact that they got their citizenship through the IIP will not be.

Not all has been smooth, however. Mr Cardona is currently meeting real estate agents and Henley Estates in an attempt to find a commission formula which works for both sides.

Henley Estates are asking for 80 per cent of the commission on sales resulting from their referrals of clients of the citizenship scheme, with 60 per cent going to the chain of entities leading to Henley and Partners, as well as to Henley and Partners itself. They also want a high commission on rentals.

However, the real estate agents in Malta believe that their cost structure means this level of commission would not be sustainable.

In the meantime, Identity Malta is processing more of the 150 companies that applied to become agents for the scheme. The list now stands at 33 approved, and Mr Cardona anticipates that around 50 will eventually make it through. Things have changed considerably since the Individual Investor Programme was launched giving Henley and Partners near omnipotent powers.

Although they are still officially the ‘concessionaire’, the way the agents structure has been set up under the control of Identity Malta means that Henley and Partners are now just ‘the first among equals’.

Approved agents can also market the scheme themselves, albeit under very strict guidelines imposed by Identity Malta.

Identity Malta, which currently has three staff working exclusively in the IIP, is also responsible for the due diligence, which will be done through a number of external experts, its own searches using specialised software, and Interpol searches through the police network.

“The due diligence is a very important part of the process as it is the way to ensure that the wrong people do not slip through. There are so many people who acquire citizenship in Malta – through marriage – who do not go through any due diligence at all. But with this scheme, we know that we have to be very careful,” he said.

The definition of residency was ‘grey’ but... the spirit is the important thing

The fee structure has also been changed in favour of Identity Malta. The €10,000 application fee goes to Identity Malta, as does the €7,500 average fee for the due diligence. Henley and Partners and the accredited agents can then charge whatever fees they want for their role in the process.

Henley and Partners, as the scheme stood officially, were charging €70,000, of which half would be shared with their own introducers. Mr Cardona said that the fees were left up to the approved agents, with some charging more and others less.

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