South Africa’s rich are paying R10.6 million for EU citizenship via Malta
- Record numbers of South Africans are either leaving the country or lining up "Plan B" passports.
- The rich have an easy option for residency or even citizenship in Malta.
- Here is what they are paying, in rand terms, for those passports.
- For more stories go to www.businessinsider.co.za.
Rich South Africans are securing "Plan B" passports in record numbers, and many are choosing to pay millions to the government of the tiny island state of Malta in order to secure a possible future abroad.
Just how many South Africans are emigrating – or making plans to do so – is not clear, but several indicators show a sharp increase in everything from farmers leaving for Canada to middle-class skilled South Africans heading abroad.
Private schooling company Advtech says that by March this year, nearly 1,000 learners left the organisation’s schools due to emigration reasons. And according to United Kingdom visa company MoveUp, there was a 22% increase in emigration to the UK in the last two years, with 2018 serving a record breaking year for emigrations.
Emigration options for South Africans are fairly limited, though. Most countries require special skills applied towards applications for specific jobs, or for the applicants to dig deep into ancestral histories.
But when it comes to Malta, the applicants only need to provide cash, lots of it. Unlike ancestral visas, the process of obtaining Maltese residency or citizenship via investment is relatively quick, and awarded largely without prejudice after a due diligence process.
And this is the route many high-net-worth South Africans appear to be following.
See also: South African farmers are moving to Canada – and immigration consultants are seeing a ‘massive’ spike in business owners keen to leave
The Maltese government offers both residency and citizenship programmes, which require applicants to spend and invest millions. Each offer the right to live and work in Malta, easy access into the Schengen Zone as a traveller, and in the case of citizenship, it’s also possible to live and work anywhere in the European Union.
According to residence and citizenship company LIO Global, the application process is relatively straightforward - but it requires applicants to invest a significant amount of cash, or purchase or rent properties in order to obtain residency.
Citizenship requires both cash investments and a property purchase or rental, and a significantly higher non-refundable “donation” to the Maltese government.
Here's what South Africans pay, in rand equivalent terms, for residency or citizenship in Malta:
The cheap route: R490,000 excluding investments starting at R4.1 million.
The cheapest way to get a Maltese passport is to purchase residency, though even this doesn’t come cheap.
In order to get a Maltese passport via the Malta Residency and Visa Program, South Africans need to pay a non-refundable deposit of approximately R90,000 before anything is confirmed.
If successful, the applicant must then pay an additional flat fee of approximately R400,000.
The direct investment route requires applicants to put at least R4.1 million into government bonds, and leave it untouched for a minimum of five years.
Another way to gain Maltese residency is to purchase or rent property, either in Malta or on the island of Gozo.
In order to qualify, purchased property must have a minimum value of around R5.2 million. The minimum property price in Gozo is slightly less - there, applicants will need to spend a minimum R4.4 million.
If renting, applicants must commit to an annual rental in Malta worth approximately R200,000. In Gozo, the annual rental amount must be approximately R165,000.
Residency status doesn’t require applicants to remain in Malta, and the entire process can be completed in just two physical trips, one to sign the application in the presence of a commissionaire of oaths, and another to submit the residency permit. After this, and the financial commitments, the applicant can enjoy all the benefits from abroad.
The process is also relatively quick - the Maltese government typically turns these applications around in under six months.
The expensive route: R10.6 million rand excluding investments starting at R2.5 million.
After the success of the residency programme, the Maltese government added a way to purchase citizenship, under the Individual Investor Program.
This comes with the added benefit of European citizenship, which means successful applicants can live, work or travel to any countries in the European Union.
As both Malta and South Africa allow for dual citizenship, this programme means South Africans can retain their South African citizenship, too.
Maltese citizenship comes at a significant price, though.
Applicants who pass the due diligence process must make a contribution totally R10.6 million to the country’s National Development Fund.
Spouses and children under 18 who wish to join must pay an additional R408,000 each. And unmarried, financially dependent children between the age of 18 and 26 are also welcome - at a cost of R816,000 each.
See also: Bruce Whitfield – South Africa is facing a middle-class emigration wave – and there isn't time to play nice with Cosatu anymore
The programme also requires a five year financial investment of approximately R2.5 million, which is returnable.
Applicants must satisfy some degree of legal residency, and purchase or rent property. If purchasing a property, the applicant must spend at least R5.7 million, and hold onto it for five years.
The applicant can also rent a property for a minimum of five years, instead of buying. This must have a minimum annual value of at least R260,000.
Neither of these properties can be rented out during the five year period.
The application process for citizenship takes approximately one year to finalise. Once approved, applicants must make at least two visits to Malta - including a stay of between two and three weeks during the first year.
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