Lisa Crawford has accused Identity Malta of giving out conflicting information.Lisa Crawford has accused Identity Malta of giving out conflicting information.

An American woman who has been living in Malta for years claims a bureaucratic mess at the government citizenship agency has turned her short-term residence application into a short notice eviction.

“After several attempts to apply and being told conflicting information by people at Identity Malta – first my application was being processed, then the status I was applying for no longer existed – I was eventually told I couldn’t apply and given a few weeks to pack up my stuff and get out of the country,” Lisa Crawford told The Sunday Times of Malta.

Ms Crawford will be leaving Malta this week for Rome, leaving behind her partner, her voluntary work, her friends and the life she has built in Malta over the past few years.

“I volunteered at the [US] embassy and with a local charity. I have a life here, you know? It’s just a shame that it’s come to this, and I wonder how many others might face the same situation,” she said.

Ms Crawford has been living in Malta under what is known as an economic self-sufficiency residence permit – a temporary document allowing non-EU citizens to live, but not work, in Malta. She renewed her status in 2015 and then tried to do so again last November.

Speaking in the Sliema apartment she rents with her partner, Ms Crawford explained how she had first been told by an agency clerk that the documents she was required to fill in for her application had changed. She was then told she could apply to renew her status using the same process she had originally used. At one point she was told the status no longer existed, and then that she was not eligible for renewal.

First my application was being processed, then the status I was applying for no longer existed

It was only when Ms Crawford insisted on speaking to a senior officer that she was told she could only apply for the Global Residence Programme – which requires €16,000 worth of tax payments annually. As a pensioner Ms Crawford is unable to afford it.  “I’m retired, so I certainly can’t apply for that – I’ve basically been kicked out of the country,” Ms Crawford said, adding that she was told she had a few weeks to leave at Christmas time.

A spokeswoman for Justice Minister Owen Bonnici, responsible for Identity Malta, said that the agency was still accepting applications for residence permits on the basis of economic self-sufficiency. “In fact there have not been any changes to the policies regulating the issuance of this type of temporary residence permit,” the spokeswoman said.

Asked about the type of permit, the spokeswoman said it was widely used by high-net-worth beneficiaries of local residence.

Third-country nationals who are not part of any of the schemes may still apply for a residence permit on the basis of economic self-sufficiency, yet they have to prove that they have significant social or economic links to Malta, the spokeswoman said.

Questions about how many people are currently living in Malta under this self-sufficiency status had not been replied to by the time of writing.

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