Uncertainty For Malta As US Bill Seeks To Ban Countries Which Sell Citizenship From Visa Waiver Programme

Of note:

Two US Congressmen, from both sides of the American political fence, have presented a bill to exclude countries which sell citizenship from its visa waiver program.

This bill could have serious implications for Malta, which is one of 40 countries that benefit from the program, which allows people to travel to the US for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

Republican Congressman Burgess Owens and Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen have now presented the ‘No Travel for Traffickers Act’, which would revoke a country’s eligibility for the US Visa Waiver Programme if they participate in citizenship-by-investment schemes.

The Act would also direct the US executive to cooperate with the EU and the UK to eliminate Schengen area visa-free travel for countries that sell passports and prohibit US public funds to vet ‘golden passport’ applicants.

“Also known as ‘golden passports’, these schemes require little vetting and are notoriously abused by human traffickers, international criminals, and corrupt oligarchs,” the Congressmen said. “Russia is one of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to using these golden passport schemes as a back door into other countries.”

Rep. Owens said the Act signals a critical step “in our efforts to isolate bad actors around the globe”, while Rep. Cohen warned citizenship-by-investment schemes allow traffickers to escape accountability for their crimes. 

Malta launched its original citizenship-by-investment scheme in 2013 but revamped it in 2020, only allowing applicants to apply for citizenship after one year of residence in the country against a €750,000 fee, or after three years if they pay €600,000.

The government has insisted due diligence procedures to vet applicants are among the strictest in the world.

It is facing renewed international pressure to scrap the scheme, including by European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“We can no longer sell passports to Putin’s friends allowing them to circumvent our security. No more,” Metsola said this week.

Source: Uncertainty For Malta As US Bill Seeks To Ban Countries Which Sell Citizenship From Visa Waiver Programme

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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