The Schengen Area is an area made up of 26 European countries who decided to abolish internal border controls and strengthen common external borders. The Schengen Area has a common visa policy and functions as one jurisdiction for travel purposes. Common rules and procedures are applied to border controls and short stay visas. Simultaneously, cooperation and coordination between Police services and judicial authorities guarantee security, supported by the Schengen Information System (SIS) which is a common database shared by countries forming part of the Schengen Area.
The Schengen Area is distinct from the European Union (EU) and in fact, there are countries who are part of the EU but not in the Schengen Area and there are countries which are not members of the EU but part of the Schengen Area.
The Schengen Countries
Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein are members of the Schengen Area but not members of the European Union. On the other hand, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus are EU members but not yet part of the Schengen Area.
The 26 Schengen countries in alphabetical order are Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Malta and the Schengen Area
Malta joined the Schengen Area in 2007, three years after joining the European Union in 2004. On signing the Schengen Agreement, Maltese citizens or residents holding a Maltese residency card became no longer subject to border checks within the Schengen Area. Malta’s entry into the Schengen Area thus facilitated travel for citizens and residents of Malta especially coupled with the fact that most countries in the Schengen Area also adopted the Euro currency.
In a nutshell, the Schengen Area can be described as an area made up of 26 European countries which follow common rules in terms of police cooperation, strengthening of external borders and removing internal borders thus facilitating freedom of movement for its citizens and residents.
Malta Central Visa Unit
The Government entity in Malta, responsible for overseeing the Schengen Code and the national visa policies is the Central Visa Unit. The responsibility of issuing visas is shared also with the Maltese Embassies and Consulates outside of Malta. There are mainly 2 categories of visas which Malta issues:
- Schengen Visa: This visa, also known as a short stay visa, is issued for a period not exceeding 90 days and is regulated by the EU’s common provisions.
- National Type D Visa: This visa, also known as long stay visa, is issued for a period exceeding 90 days but not more than 365 days.
The Visa code establishes the conditions and procedure for issuing a short stay visa. Thus, any visa application to enter Malta for a short stay must conform with all the requirements in the Visa Code.
The Malta Permanent Residence Programme & Schengen Access
By virtue of the Schengen Agreement, the rights granted to nationals of countries within the Schengen Area are also extended to residents holding a visa or a residence card issued by a Schengen member state. Thus, a valid residence permit together with a travel document can be a substitute for a visa and a third country national presenting his own passport together with a Schengen issued residence permit is allowed to enter the Schengen zone for 90 days in a 180-day period.
The benefits of holding a Maltese residence card thus can be as simple as travelling to France for holidays with one’s family without the need of applying for a visa, paying fees, and waiting for the bureaucratic process to be completed. The benefits of a residence permit issued by a Schengen country are endless and significantly enhance one’s ability to move in the Schengen Area for any tourist or business-related travel.
Malta Permanent Residence Programme (MPRP) – For Non-EU Nationals
Non-EU nationals can benefit from Malta’s Permanent Residence Programme (MPRP) which is a residence by investment programme granting a Schengen Residence card and thus giving the ability of visa-free travel within the Schengen Area. The MPRP is a residence programme based on an investment in property and a donation to the Government of Malta and to charity. It grants permanent residence within 4-6 months of submitting an application. Beneficiaries of such a programme enjoy the right to reside permanently in Malta and enjoy visa-free travel within the Schengen Area for 90 out of 180 days.
The main requirements include:
• Making a non-refundable contribution to the Government of €68,000 if purchasing real estate or €98,000 if renting a property, and
• Making a non-refundable donation of €2,000 to a charitable organisation, and
• Renting or Purchasing a property in Malta.
Applications under the MPRP are only to be submitted through a licenced agent. Our firm holds licence number AKM-ACCA-21 and can assist applicants to successfully apply for permanent residence under the MPRP.