The number of Britons applying for Maltese citizenship has risen sharply since the European Union referendum with almost five times as many people interested in acquiring the status. 

Last year, some 957 British people applied through the citizenship streams of registration and naturalisation, according to Identity Malta figures issued to Times of Malta.

That compares to 204 in 2015, the year before the referendum, which saw Britain vote to leave the EU.

Most of the citizenship applications were through registration, which refers to applicants married to Maltese citizens or proving their connection based on ancestral ties.

A minority applied through naturalisation, whereby applicants need to have been living in Malta for up at least four years, be able to speak one of the national languages and be a law-abiding citizen.

The strong historical link between Malta and the UK has meant a long tradition of British people settling in the islands.

Heather McNamara, who is originally from Middlesbrough and was married to a Maltese citizen, was among the 943 British people who were successful in their applications last year.

Ms McNamara, who has been living in Malta since 2010, said Brexit and the uncertainty which surrounded it was the reason she applied for Maltese citizenship sooner than planned.

“Brexit was going to have a big impact on what British nationals could and could not do. I had heard that Identity Malta was receiving a number of applications from British nationals, so I wanted to be in good time to apply while we were still in the EU,” she said.

The 42-year-old explained that she was able to prove her connection to Malta through her previous marriage to a Maltese citizen, whom she did not separate from. Within seven months, she became a Maltese citizen.

McNamara is also the mother to three children, Sam (22), Finn (16) and Lejla (13), the latter two were born and raised in Malta. She said that while her eldest was serving in the Royal Navy and had no intention of coming over to Malta, her youngest was worried about his future.

“Finn is worried about being able to study in the United Kingdom and then join the British Army. I’ve told him that his grandparents are British so it shouldn’t be a problem,” she said.

The United Kingdom started its withdrawal from the European Union on January 31 and is in a transition period that wraps up at the end of 2020.

The country had been part of the bloc for 47 years but voted to leave following a referendum on the UK’s membership back in June 2016.

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