expat network

The Attractions Of Malta

Malta, with its 300 days of sunshine, laid back lifestyle, and long and colourful history has proved a popular spot for both tourists and expats. The total population is around 450,000, but this includes around 60,000 foreign nationals, of which 7,000 hold a UK passport.

With its strategic position in the Mediterranean, it has long been the focus for many different powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Normans, Arabs, French and British. The island gained its independence from British rule in 1964, but the influences of Britain are strong, with traditional red phone and post boxes providing the outward evidence, and the British legal system and bureaucracy underpinning the governance of this island state.
The historical nature of Malta is reflected in the architecture and the fact that there are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Valletta is often described as like moving around a virtual museum.

Malta is a small island of only 316 sq km (30km long by 15km wide). This means that you are never far from the coast or indeed anywhere on the island. Life is slow-paced and relaxed, and the people are warm and welcoming. If you enjoy the beach and an outdoor lifestyle there are plenty of options. If you are used to the bustle of a large city or the life in a large country, however, there can be limited access to entertainment options and it is possible to feel a little claustrophobic.

Malta is a popular destination for retirement, but its membership of the EU, stable economy and low corporate tax regime increasingly attracts overseas companies looking to set up operations there. There are many foreign companies, particularly from Scandinavia and Germany, who have established themselves on the island. A particular focus is the arrival of gaming companies who look for people able to speak a range of mainly European languages to fulfil a range of roles.

English is an official language in Malta alongside Maltese and is widely spoken. As Maltese is a combination of Arabic and Italian, Italian is also spoken by many. This makes it easy for English-speaking expats to settle in and make their way through the bureaucracy.


Passport and visas

A visa is not required for stays of up to three months for EU nationals and those coming from visa-exempted countries. Visas available are single-entry visas (valid for one month), transit visas (24 hours) and multiple-entry visas (one year).

Any non-EU foreigner planning to work in Malta must have an employment licence (formerly known as work permits) issued by the Employment and Training Corporation. The licence is applied for by the employer meaning that you need to have an employer planning to hire you and you cannot apply and then seek a job. Employers must first open the job to Maltese nationals and citizens of the EU and only if they fail to find a suitable candidate after posting the vacancy on appropriate portals for an adequate period of time can they open the search to foreign nationals and apply for an employment licence. Most licences are for one year, although some three-year licences have been granted.

Malta has two options for residency available: ordinary residence and permanent residence. Ordinary residence is required for non-EU citizens who intend to live in Malta for more than three months. One option for ordinary residence is employment or self-employment, which requires approval of an employment licence. The other is economic self-sufficiency where you must demonstrate a minimum capital of €14,000 or annual income of €4,800 (€23,300 or €5,648 for married couples). Ordinary residence requires the applicant to physically live in Malta for a period of six months or more. You can apply for permanent residence after five years.

The Malta Individual Investor Programme gives the opportunity to gain citizenship by investment and requires a combination of a contribution to the Malta government, an investment in stocks/bonds and a purchase or rental of property in Malta. Overall an investment of around €800,000 is required plus a property purchase of €350,000 or a rental of €16,000 p.a.



There are many financial attractions, with no wealth, inheritance or gift taxes and various residence programmes for non-Maltese nationals, which include a maximum tax rate of 15%. It is also possible to take advantage of Malta’s ‘remittance basis’ of taxation, which means you only pay tax on income from outside Malta if it is brought in to Malta. Overseas income is not taxable if it is not brought into the country and overseas capital gains are not taxable even if remitted to Malta. With the right tax planning you can pay very little tax in Malta.

Pensions are taxable where you are tax resident. Blevins Franks advise that HMRC in the UK will check whether you are remitting the full amount to Malta so they are fully taxed there before they allow the UK pension providers to pay for these free of UK tax. They point out that an alternative is to transfer any UK schemes to a Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (ROPS), which overcomes the need to remit all of the income to Malta as a ROPS is not liable to any UK tax.



Although some expats send their children to local schools where education is primarily in Maltese, most attend one of the two international schools or one of the private schools which follow a British curriculum and where teaching is in English.



Malta’s state healthcare system is of a high standard (ranked recently as 5th in the world) and is available to all residents of Malta, including foreigners who have moved to Malta. EU citizens can get free healthcare with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). There is also a thriving private healthcare system and this can offer a wider range of services and shorter waiting times. Malta has a high reputation for plastic surgery and dental treatments and this reputation together with the lower cost than in many parts of Europe attract people travelling specially for these treatments.