European Residency Options for Americans in 2024

In recent years, Americans have spent more time in Europe, expanding their businesses outside the US, acquiring holiday homes or yachts in the Mediterranean, and opening their children to European colleges and universities, the European job market or European sports clubs. To achieve this, Americans seek to revive their American ancestral roots or explore opportunities for European residency or citizenship by investment routes. Malta ticks all the right boxes as an entry point to Europe and discretely comes out on top.

Reasons why Americans seek European Residency

Americans seek European residency and eventually citizenship for a number of reasons.  A second residency in Europe grants an American citizen the right to relocate, live, study, work, invest, do business, and retire in Europe.  For children, this is a steppingstone to the European job market, to European schools, colleges and universities, as well as European sports clubs. High net worth Americans may also legally build a base for the management of their non-US assets.

So what is European Residency?

It is important to make a distinction between residency and citizenship. When we refer to European Citizenship, we refer to a passport issued by one of the 27 member states of the European Union.  Nationality of any one of the member states in the EU, grants the right to live, work and study in all the EU member states.  ‘European Citizenship’ translates into the enjoyment of rights enshrined by the treaties establishing the European Union, including the freedom of movement of persons, goods and capital and the freedom of establishment.

On the other hand, European Residence gives the right to reside indefinitely in the country in which the investor decides to invest in, and also gives the right to travel within the Schengen Area without a visa. Holders of a residence permit issued by a member of the Schengen Area allows its holder the right to also stay in the Schengen Area for 90 days in a six-month period.

Routes to European Residence or Citizenship for American Investors & Entrepreneurs

While some Americans are blessed with European ancestry that may, in some cases entitle them to claim their ancestral European citizenship through descent, eligibility is often limited, the process bureaucratic and this route to European citizenship is often difficult due to burdensome process of sourcing old birth certificates.  A more preferred route for investors or business families is to acquire residence or citizenship by investment in a European country that allows a route to naturalisation as a citizen of that country, by investment.

Malta, a Mediterranean island state in the EU enjoying a family-friendly, safe environment and the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, has 2 separate investment migration programmes: Malta Permanent Residence Programme and Malta Citizenship by Direct Investment.

Malta maintains a robust due diligence process to ensure that only fit and proper investor families are offered the privilege of obtaining residency or citizenship.

Malta Permanent Residence Programme

Malta’s residence by investment Programme, formally known as the Malta Permanent Residence Programme grants applicants and eligible family members the right to live indefinitely in Malta and the right to travel within the Schengen Area without a visa. In order to be eligible, applicants must show that they have in their possession, capital of not less than €500,000, out of which €150,000 must be in the form of liquid financial assets such as bank account balance or funds invested in securities.

The process from submission until approval takes around six months and the investment is only required to be made, once a letter of approval is issued by the Residency Malta Agency. Applicants are to undergo a due diligence test, after which they will be required to fulfil the qualifying investments which include:

  • The rental or purchase of property in Malta.
  • A donation to a charity or a philanthropic organisation of €2,000, and
  • A government contribution and administrative fee of €98,000 if renting a property or €68,000 if purchasing a property.

Malta Citizenship for Investors

Under Malta’s Rules for Naturalisation by Direct Investment, the privilege of naturalising as a Maltese citizen is only extended to an American family upon successfully completing all the eligibility requirements.  These include evidence of personal, social, and commercial integration during the 3 or 1-year legal residency period.  It is only upon receiving the last approval that the investor must make the one-time non-refundable direct investment (€600,000 – €750,000) to the Government (these funds are managed and deployed in projects of national importance for the social and economic development of Malta).

There are three main requirements to apply for Maltese Citizenship by Investment:

  1. A contribution of €600,000, or €750,000 to reduce the time-to-citizenship from three to one year. A contribution of €50,000 applies to include additional family members, and
  2. The purchase or rental of a residential Property in Malta at a minimum value of €700,000 (if purchasing) or €16,000 per year (if renting) for a minimum of 5 years.
  3. A donation of €10,000 to a local charity/philanthropic organisation

Cyprus, an island member state used to allow investors to naturalise through the purchase of a portfolio of €2.5 million in real estate.  Unfortunately, this programme closed in 2020. Cyprus still offers a residence by investment programme, but this only grants the rights to reside in Cyprus. A Cypriot residence card doesn’t allow visa-free access to the Schengen Area since the country is not a signatory to the Schengen Agreement.

Portugal grants a ‘Golden Visa’ that is legally a temporary residency renewable every two years, subject to demonstrating a minimum physical stay of 7 days in the first year and 14 days in subsequent years.  For American families who settle in Portugal, demonstrate integration in Portugal and pass the Portuguese language test, this opens the opportunity of applying to Portuguese long-term residence and eventually citizenship.  Citizenship is not an automatic right though and is subject to these integration and language requirements which not all American families are able to meet, hence the popularity of the Malta route that is shorter and better defined.

Malta: Legal and Tax Considerations

English is an official language in Malta and also the language of education, business and finance. Malta does not impose any language tests in its investor routes to residence or citizenship.  Unlike many other European countries, Malta does not apply worldwide taxation to persons resident in Malta for tax purposes.  Malta does not have any wealth taxes, property taxes, inheritance taxes or entry/exit taxes.  Business taxation, referred to as corporate income tax is effectively 5% for Maltese companies owned by foreign shareholders despite their new Maltese citizenship.

European Residence & Citizenship Lawyers

Our European immigration lawyers advise on the various immigration routes in Europe.  We dedicate personal attention to each client and oversee each immigration case individually.  We help our clients assess which European citizenship route best suits their objectives and whether they qualify for relevant laws.  As Maltese residence and citizenship agents with extensive experience of Maltese citizenship and investor immigration programmes, we offer a holistic coverage of all immigration and relocation and all relevant tax and legal services.

ACC Immigration Advisors (Malta company registration number C-44042) is duly authorised to act as a licensed Malta citizenship agent and holds licence number AKM-ACCA.

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