Stunning relocation destination. Fabulous climate. Appealing tax landscape. Visa-free Schengen travel. Security. Family-friendly process. For those reasons and more, the Malta Residency and Visa Programme has proved hugely popular since its inception in 2015.

And now, recent changes mean the programme has become even more attractive.

There’s really no better time to invest in Malta and secure permanent residency for yourself and your family. So with that in mind, let’s look at the seven most common questions about the Maltese residency-by-investment programme.

1. What are the main benefits of the Malta residency programme? The Maltese residency-by-investment programme allows you and your family to live indefinitely in Malta. Nearly two million tourists last year clearly thought Malta was a pretty fantastic place to spend time – in fact, it was voted the 10th best place to retire this year by the Annual Global Retirement Index.

Even if you don’t choose to reside permanently on the islands, you secure a valuable safety net. Should you ever need to relocate, Malta will be waiting for you. The island enjoys a particularly low exposure to natural threats and a stable political environment – as safety nets go, Malta is definitely up there.

As a member of the 26-state Schengen area, Maltese residents also benefit from hassle-free travel across the group. This means you can travel to the likes of Germany, the Netherlands and Norway without a visa.

As a member of the 26-state Schengen area, Maltese residents also benefit from hassle-free travel across the group. This means you can travel to the likes of Germany, the Netherlands and Norway without a visa.

Your Maltese residency also opens up the possibility of citizenship-by-naturalisation further down the line. You could potentially obtain a work permit as well, and enjoy additional tax breaks through the Global Residence Programme.

Ultimately, the Maltese programme is about the offer of a different life. Whether you choose to take advantage now or not, Malta is a prosperous, safe and beautiful home-from-home, and it could be permanent should you so choose.

2. Am I eligible? Only third country nationals are eligible for the Maltese residency-by-investment programme. In other words, you’re not eligible if you’re a Swiss, Maltese, EU or EEA (European Economic Area) national.

Assuming you meet that criteria, there are a few other eligibility requirements. To maintain the respectability of the programme you must pass various due diligence checks. You should hold a clean criminal record from Malta, your home country, and any other country in which you’ve resided for over six months during the last 10 years.

You must be aged over 18 to apply, and prove you’ve got a regular and stable income. You’ll need to show annual income of EUR 100,000+ from outside Malta, or prove capital of EUR 500,000+. Finally, you’ll need a valid travel document and comprehensive health insurance.

One of the big advantages of the Maltese residency-by-investment programme is that it’s not a citizenship-by-investment programme. Citizenship-by-investment can sometimes raise eligibility issues, depending on your home country’s stance on dual citizenship. Residency-by-investment is free from these concerns. This makes the Maltese programme an especially good choice for investors who might not be eligible for alternative citizenship programmes.

3. How much does the Maltese Residency and Visa Programme cost? Your investment into Malta is structured in three parts. First you pay a EUR 30,000 non-refundable contribution fee, which as of July 2017 now covers the main applicant, spouse, and children. The figure of EUR 5,500 is due upfront, to kick off the application process. You can also now add other dependants – like your parents or grandparents – for an additional non-refundable EUR 5,000, payable when you submit your application.

Then you must make a qualifying investment into real estate. This can be through purchasing property worth a minimum of EUR 320,000, or EUR 270,000 in South Malta or Gozo. Alternatively, you can rent property to the tune of EUR 12,000 (EUR 10,000 in South Malta or Gozo) for five years. That’s an appealing investment opportunity in its own right, given Malta’s property market. Continuing from robust 5-10% property price growth throughout 2015, the Central Bank of Malta announced 8.7% improvements again on advertised property prices in Q2 2016.

Once you’ve paid the initial contribution fee and hold qualifying deeds, you must complete your total non-refundable contribution with the remaining EUR 24,500. You would then purchase government bonds worth EUR 250,000, which you must hold for five years (after which the money is returned to you).

4. What about the tax advantages to becoming a Maltese resident? Your tax situation depends on your residence and domicile status in Malta. You’re typically considered a resident if you spend more than 183 days in Malta annually. ‘Domicile’ as a term isn’t actually defined in Maltese income tax law but carries a greater implication of permanence. As such, you’re generally considered a non-domicile if you don’t intend to build a permanent home in Malta.

For non-domiciled residents, then, you only pay tax on Malta-sourced income and any income remitted to or received in Malta.

For non-domiciled residents, then, you only pay tax on Malta-sourced income and any income remitted to or received in Malta. If you’re neither resident nor domiciled in Malta you’re only taxed on Malta-sourced income. In either case, you’ll be exempt from foreign source capital gains even if you receive it in Malta.

Also, you potentially qualify for additional tax incentives granted under the Global Residence Programme. This allows you a beneficial 15% tax rate on foreign sourced income received in Malta, with potential relief from double taxation as well.

5. Can my family join me in Malta? The simple answer is yes. The Maltese residency-by-investment programme is considered very family-friendly, as you can easily include family members for little additional investment.

Since the 2017 changes, your initial EUR 30,000 investment includes the main applicant, your spouse, and your/their children. Previously, qualifying children had to be either under 18; any age with a physical or mental disability; or between 18 and 26 but unmarried and economically dependent. This latter requirement has now been lifted, so unmarried, dependent children of any age can be included in your application.

In addition, the old regulations meant qualifying children of 18-26 would lose their residency rights on their 27th birthday, or when they became economically active or got married. This is no longer the case, so the residency of your current dependent children won’t be threatened as their situation changes. They even have the possibility to add their spouse and direct dependants onto their own residency for only EUR 5,000 each.

6. Can I live in Malta indefinitely? Yes you can, since the 2017 changes. Previously some restrictions relating to your stay meant you had to spend either six consecutive months (or 10 months aggregate) outside Malta in any four year period. This is no longer the case, so you can stay permanently in Malta once you’re granted your Certificate of Residency. This also means you can apply for Long Term Residence status, with the eventual possibility of naturalisation as a Maltese citizen (and the relevant benefits, such as visa-free or visa-on-arrival travel to 165+ countries).

This means you have total freedom how you use your Maltese residency. Malta’s fantastic climate, relaxed atmosphere and convenient location means many investors do choose to relocate permanently but it’s really up to you – that’s the freedom your investment secures you.

Malta’s fantastic climate, relaxed atmosphere and convenient location means many investors do choose to relocate permanently but it’s really up to you – that’s the freedom your investment secures you.

7. How does Malta compare to other investment programmes? The Maltese programme has proved popular since its inception in 2015, but these 2017 changes will make it even more attractive. It’s fair to say Malta is one of the most competitive options in the global residency and citizenship-by-investment marketplace.

Financially, Malta is on a par with most of the other investment choices. At the higher end, you find Cyprus, which gains you straight European citizenship with a minimum investment of EUR 2m, in only three months. At a smaller financial commitment, you have options in the Caribbean. If you want to live in Europe though, Malta is a very competitive option.

In terms of reputation, Malta is again a solid choice. Thanks to its position within Europe, the programme enjoys a certain level of prestige. Malta also unlocks the lucrative Schengen area, so if you have trade concerns across Europe, then Maltese residency is certainly something to consider.

Assuming you’re set on Europe, the choice becomes one of haste vs financial output. Cyprus is an exceptionally fast way to secure full citizenship, but you certainly pay for the privilege. The Bulgarian programme sits in the middle, offering an attractive fast-track-to-citizenship option for investment of EUR 1m. Malta and Portugal are the best options if citizenship isn’t your immediate priority.

Then it just comes down to where you and your family want to spend time. Malta boasts a fantastic lifestyle and is known for its relocation credentials. Add the attractive property market, gorgeous beaches, rich culture and fabulous climate and Malta might just swing it.