Malta has kept its spot as the world’s eighth most powerful passport in the world, according to the 2023 Henley passport index, produced by Henley and Partners. Passports are ranked according to the number of countries they can access without applying for a visa before arriving.
A Maltese passport gives holders the right to access 185 countries without a visa, or with a visa on arrival. This is just eight countries shy of holding the same position as Japan which ranks first, with 193 countries. Singapore and Korea come in second with 192 countries, followed by Germany and Spain with 190 countries in third place.
Malta shares the eighth position with Australia, Canada, and Greece.
The bottom three countries have remained unchanged, with Afghanistan coming in last with access to 27 countries, followed by Iraq to 29 and Syria to 30 countries.
The index ranking is based on data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Henley and Partners’ team then enhances the data with their own research.
Some countries such as Malta operate citizenship-by-investment schemes (and similarly for residency). Malta allows prospective passport holders to receive Maltese citizenship following an investment of €600,000 with a residency period of three years, or €750,000 with a residency period of one year. They are also required to purchase property valued at a minimum of €700,000 or rent at €16,000 for at least five years. Lastly, they’re also required to fulfil a donation of at least €10,000 to a registered local philanthropic, cultural, sport, scientific, animal welfare or artistic NGO.
Commenting on Malta, Dr Juerg Steffen, CEO of Henley & Partners, pointed out that “In the case of Malta, its investment migration offering provides access to over 80 per cent of the world visa-free as well as nearly 70 per cent of global GDP. For investors from countries with poor visa-free access, the global mobility and economic advantages and opportunities associated with acquiring a more powerful passport are indisputable.”
The scheme has not been without its controversies. Initially, Malta had signed a 10-year contract with Henley and Partners which granted them four per cent of every contribution fee paid by successful citizenship applicants, in exchange for marketing and processing applications.
However, the contract was rescinded when the original “Individual Investor Programme” ended prematurely following pressure from the EU Commission, which criticised the scheme for being incompatible with the European Union’s principles, since Maltese citizenship also grants individuals EU citizenship.
Since then, Malta has initiated a new scheme called the Exceptional Investor Programme which includes enhanced residency requirements, while emphasising that citizenship is a national competence. However, this was not enough for the EU Commission, which has since then referred Malta to the European Court of Justice in September 2022.
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