The European Commission is demanding that the Maltese government scraps its ‘Golden Passport’ program for wealthy expats, and if it does not comply, it risks going to the EU’s Court of Justice. Officials in Malta now have two months to respond to the demand from Brussels. The scheme that permits non-European expats to effectively purchase a Maltese passport, and therefore EU citizenship, through investments if they meet specific requirements, is a “breach of EU law,” according to the Commission. It “infringes the very status of citizenship of the Union as laid down in the (EU) treaties,” it adds in a statement. The Commission has called on all other member states that operate such similar programmes to abandon them with immediate effect. It notes: “The Commission considers that the granting of EU citizenship in return for pre-determined payments or investments, without any genuine link to the Member State concerned, is in breach of EU law.” The move comes amid concerns that people hit by European Union sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may be holders of EU golden visas or passports. “Some Russian or Belarusian nationals who are subject to sanctions or are significantly supporting the war in Ukraine might have acquired EU citizenship or privileged access to the EU, including to travel freely in the Schengen area, under these schemes,” the European Commission has previously said. Currently only Malta, Cyprus, Ireland and Bulgaria have such schemes and they have all committed to ending them in the near future. Bulgaria’s parliament has recently voted to end its programme.
Ireland’s golden visa is vulnerable to tax abuse, the EU has warned. The report of the European Parliament Research Service found out that Ireland’s Immigrant Investor Programme (IIP), run by the country’s Department of Justice, which administers the scheme through the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS), has specific vulnerabilities, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports. Through the IIP, internationals who have a minimum net worth of €2 million investment, and at least €1 million available for acquisition for three years, are eligible to get residency in Ireland, provided they meet some requirements.