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Malta Offers Citizenship and All Its Perks for a Price -by Jenny Anderson

As wealthy foreigners rush to get citizenship in Malta under a new program, the residency requirement is taking many forms.

Russians rent high-end villas, then stay in five-star hotels when they visit.

An American financier plans to live in Switzerland but occasionally vacation in Malta.

One Vietnamese businessman, eager to start the clock ticking on the 12-month timetable for residency, sent the necessary paperwork on his private jet to expedite renting a property he had never seen.

“They come twice, once to get a residency card and once to get a passport,” said Mark George Hyzler, an immigration lawyer at a firm here.

Malta’s citizenship program, which offers a passport to those willing to pay 1.2 million euros, about $1.3 million, has been controversial since it was introduced more than a year ago. But the residency requirements, meant to make the program more palatable, are only increasing the consternation among critics, who say the program has resulted in the sale of citizenship to the global 0.1 percent.

The citizenship program also reflects Malta’s present. Malta, which covers 122 square miles and is about 50 miles south of Sicily, has few natural resources and a population of just 424,000, about half that of South Dakota. Malta counts on the reliable sun and shimmering blue sea to attract tourists. Beyond that, it has had to be creative to keep the country’s coffers filled.

The tax system, in particular, has been a boon. Some foreign companies can be structured to pay 5 percent in corporate taxes. Malta also has double taxation treaties with 65 countries, allowing individuals and businesses to avoid being taxed in two places.

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