The government sold about 2,500 passports to ‘new Maltese citizens’ in the four years since the controversial scheme was launched, statistics show.

The names of those who acquired a Maltese passport last year have yet to be published. However, Times of Malta is informed these are expected to be published in the coming days in the Government Gazette along with the rest of names of all other naturalised citizens who became Maltese nationals through the regular process.

The government last year published the Individual Investor Programme list, as obliged by law, on December 29, during the height of the Christmas holiday period.

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According to the latest statistics published by the scheme’s regulator, 833 foreigners passed the test and became Maltese citizens by June 2018. About 1,600 other individuals, dependents of the main applicants, were also given a Maltese passport after paying an additional €25,000 for each document.

It is estimated that for every main applicant there are an average of three dependents attached to the same application. The dependents eligible to buy Maltese citizenship according to law are spouses, children, parents and grandparents.

One can observe that applications are decreasing year after year and the excitement is over

Despite the high number of non-EU citizens who chose to acquire a Maltese passport, the numbers are still below the original targets set by the government.

In 2014, when the European Commission asked the government to self-impose a capping for the scheme to make it more politically acceptable to other EU member states, the government had agreed to set a maximum target of 1,800 main applications.

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Times of Malta that although the scheme proved to be popular for some time, interest was waning. “One can observe that applications are decreasing year after year and the excitement is over”, an agent who sells Maltese passports said.

“It was only natural that those who wanted to buy a passport have done so by now. At the same time, there are more other similar schemes nowadays that might also be a cheaper option,” another noted.

The latest regulator report also confirmed the trend that the ‘new Maltese citizens’ have no real intention of setting up home in Malta but only to use the island as a stepping stone to the rest of the EU. Statistics show that almost 90% of those acquiring a passport, choose to rent and not buy property on the island.

So far, only 105 approved applicants actually acquired a residence and the majority chose to rent.

According to the government’s scheme, passport buyers are obliged to lease a home for a maximum of five years. In case they buy, they have to acquire a property having a minimum value of €350,000.

The scheme also obliges ‘new Maltese citizens’ to make a one-time contribution to the government of €650,000 and to invest in listed stocks. Even in the latter case, the investment only needs to be held for a maximum of five years.