The Mediterranean island nation and EU member had initially planned to sell passports to wealthy buyers for 650,000 euros ($875,000).
In order to boost revenue and investment, Maltese lawmakers approved a measure that would allow the country to sell passports for 650,000 euros. The passports would effectively make the buyer an EU citizen, who can work, live and travel freely through the bloc's 28 member states.
After an outcry over the details of the earlier measure, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Nov. 19 that plans to sell the passports had been put on hold. On Dec. 23, he announced a revised plan that would charge applicants 1.15 million euros ($1.57 million), but that wouldn't have a residency requirement.
The new plan also requires applicants to invest 350,000 euros in property and buy 150,000 euros worth of bonds or shares for at least 5 years. The process would take 6 months to 2 years. Muscat's opponents, the National Party, said they'd try to block the measure in parliament in January, though they don't have enough votes.
Initially, some critics complained about a component of the original measure that would keep the names of applicants confidential, possibly appealing to those with illicit plans, such as terrorists. Lawmakers later backpedaled and said the names would be published.
The new law was intended to draw "high-value" residents who have the resources to invest in the country, Muscat said. Initially, around 300 people were expected to apply to purchase a Maltese passport every year. At first, applicants were not be required to invest in the country or own land there.
The European Commission allows member states such as Malta to set their own rules for who receives nationality. Under EU rules, the sale of citizenship is legal.
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