Now, for a mere €650,000 (~$880,000US), you can buy citizenship in Malta. It’s a beautiful Mediterranean island now known to many as one of the settings of HBO’s epic Game of Thrones series.

Initially, it would be a private sale, with people buying citizenship having their names withheld. After an outcry from the opposition party, the government agreed to publish the names of those who purchased Maltese citizenship.

I’ve written about Malta before because my wife and I investigated moving there. The climate is lovely, most people speak English, and the prices are low. Is buying citizenship a realistic option? I don’t think so.

The negatives

The Nationalist Party will revoke the citizenship of people buying who bought it. The Maltese Labour Party argues that selling citizenship is an excellent way to raise money for the country and attract “high value” immigrants. While initial estimates suggest that the first year of this program would raise €30 million for the island, it’s not clear that this will necessarily work. There is no requirement to be a resident or even invest in the island.

The question of buying citizenship

There’s also the question of what citizenship means. Is the right of citizenship something one should be able to buy or does culture matter? I plan to apply for French citizenship as soon as I’m eligible. I live in France, my wife is French, our daughter is French-American, I speak French, and US and French cultural values are (on paper) broadly similar. But does having that passport make me French?

It’s also worth noting that the Maltese government targets wealthy Russian and Chinese citizens. On the one hand, this makes sense because these citizens often find themselves in the crosshairs of their government’s ire. However, and not to put too fine a point on it, many other European countries may not be happy with this. Malta is part of the Schengen area, giving its citizens the right to live and work in 28 different countries. The spectre of the “Russian Oligarch” or Chinese criminals is famous in the news, and it’s impossible to ignore the potentially racist overtones of some objections. However, the Maltese government promises to carefully screen all candidates.

As for myself, I continue to hold that people should be free to move to countries that they feel might be a better fit for their values. However, I realise that this will not happen, and there are convenient reasons why it can’t. I also confess that offering citizenship to the rich is disturbing.

Fortunately, if you want to move to Malta, you can put aside those concerns and take advantage of several less costly routes. Then if you wish for Maltese citizenship, you merely need to wait five years to apply for naturalisation. That should give you plenty of time to integrate into the culture.

How do you feel about citizenship? Should it be for sale?