Living In Malta – The Expat’s Guide
A detailed guide to living in Malta for expats: cost of living, taxation, housing, healthcare, etc.
Malta is all about history, long hot summers, being outdoors, stunning beaches and low-tax living. You could call it a tax haven and wouldn’t be too wrong. This is exactly why Malta is a popular destination for global expats and businesses.
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Malta is tiny. It is made up of three islands which put together make the smallest EU member state. It’s also one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
It features an amazingly beautiful coastline and stunning scenery. With its warm climate, numerous sandy beaches and three UNESCO World Heritage Sites (including the ancient Megalithic Temples), Malta offers the perfect home for those who wish to retire to the Mediterranean region.
In 2015 Malta topped the Telegraph’s list of 10 best countries for Britons retiring abroad.
The fact that Malta is so popular with expats and retirees, especially Britons, doesn’t come as a surprise considering the country’s beautiful climate, its historic connections with the UK, Malta’s linguistic makeup and its proximity to the continent.
There are currently around twelve thousand British nationals residing in Malta, as ordinary residents or as beneficiaries under tax or retirement schemes.
Malta’s climate is splendid: the country boasts more than 3,100 hours of sunshine a year with an average temperature of 19C. Summers are hot and dry, autumns, warm and short, and winters, quite mild. Daytime temperatures rarely fall below 10ºC and summer temperatures are usually above 30ºC.
English is widely spoken on the Maltese Islands. Maltese and English are both official languages of the country, with Maltese being the national language as well. It is estimated that about 88 percent of the population can speak English. Together with Arriva buses and three-pin plugs, it makes life there much easier for British expats.
Malta is easily accessible from any major British airport, be it London, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Cardiff, etc. Flights are offered by a vast number of airlines including British Airways, Ryanair, Air Malta, Easyjet, etc., which keeps prices competitive.
It usually takes just over three hours to get to Malta International Airport. It’s the only airport in Malta and serves all of the Maltese Islands. The airport is located on the main island of Malta, between Luqa and Gudja.
There are various dedicated bus services that connect the airport to the main cities and towns of the island. Taxis and hire cars are also available from the arrivals terminal, which makes it generally easy to access the main locations of Malta.
The island of Gozo can be accessed from the Circewwa Harbour, Malta’s most northern point, via a regular ferry. The trip takes just half an hour and is a pleasure in itself.
Malta is in the Central European time zone, which is one hour ahead of the UK.
The post Brexit status of British expats in Malta is still uncertain.
There are two possible scenarios. If British expats are treated like non-EU nationals, those British citizens who presently benefit from various residency programmes for EU/EEA citizens would be disqualified from them. The second possible scenario is that Malta and the UK reach an agreement so that British expats would continue to benefit under the EU programmes.
There’s a hope that considering close ties between the two countries, the Maltese Government will enter into an agreement with the UK to retain residency and expat rights.
In the meantime, check out Expatra’s Living In Europe After Brexit Guide – it provides essential facts and links to official resources that have up-to-date Brexit related information for Britons living in European countries or considering moving to the EU.
Those EU/EEA/Swiss nationals who are in receipt of a pension and wish to retire to Malta can receive special tax status through the Malta Retirement Programme, which allows them to keep 85% of their pension.
At the moment it’s unclear whether Britons retiring to Malta can qualify for this programme.
Applicants need to meet the following requirements:
Applicants would need to apply for a residence card on the basis of their retirement in Malta.
Applications for special tax status may only be submitted through an Authorised Registered Mandatory.
If you are not receiving a pension, but have other sources of income instead, you can still retire to Malta under the Residence Scheme.
The Residence Scheme provides special tax status to EU/EEA/Swiss nationals wishing to gain residence in Malta under certain conditions:
The tax rate under this scheme is also 15% of foreign income remitted to Malta with the minimum annual tax of €15,000. A one-time registration fee amounting to €6,000 is levied by the Malta Government.
After being granted special tax status, you can proceed to apply for a residence card.
An application under this programme may also only be submitted through an Authorised Registered Mandatory.
Banking services are offered in Maltese and English.
There is at least one bank located in every village in Malta, with major banking centres in Sliema, Birkirkara, and Valletta.
The three main banks operating in Malta are HSBC, Bank Of Valletta (BOV) and APS Bank. There are branches of other foreign banks on the island like Lombard, Banif and so on.
If you wish to open a bank account in Malta, use the bank’s New Accounts department, which can be found in almost every branch.
You will generally have to provide details of your current home-based bank account in the UK so that your new bank can contact them and ask for a bank reference. As soon as your bank reference is received and the bank has done internationally required ‘know your client’ due diligence checks, your account will be operative.
Depending on your circumstances you might want to keep your UK bank account open. In some cases, it might also make sense to open an international bank account.
When considering moving abroad, sorting out your money matters (income, investments, pensions, taxes, etc.) is a priority. One of the most important things to do is to seek professional advice from a tax specialist and an international financial advisor who can give you a solution personally tailored to your needs and circumstances.
Malta generally offers expats favourable tax treatment. The country is trying to attract high net-worth individuals; hence its Retirement Programme and Residence Scheme, which give expats an opportunity to pay just a flat rate of 15% tax on any income they remit to Malta.
Under the Double Taxation Relief (Taxes on Income) (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) Order, 1995 (Articles 18 and 19(2)), UK citizens receiving a pension in the UK who take up permanent residence in Malta can have their pensions remitted to them in Malta free of any UK income tax.
It means that your UK pension can be remitted to Malta without being taxed in the UK, and only be taxed in Malta at a rate of 15%, provided that you hold a Maltese Permanent Residence Permit.
Unfortunately, this scheme is not available for UK civil service pensions and similar state pensions.
Income in Malta is taxable only to the extent that it is remitted to the country, where the top tax rate at the highest margin is 35%, while the capital and overseas capital gains can be remitted tax-free.
There is no minimum income level required, so if you have capital, it is possible to live entirely off capital, tax-free. It is important to seek professional advice to be sure that you stay tax compliant.
Conveniently for retirees and expats, Malta has neither wealth nor inheritance taxes, nor annual property taxes.
When you de-register in your home country as a tax resident and become an expat, advice from an international financial advisor can sometimes make a difference to your financial affairs.
Your financial advisor can find and suggest better investment structures and vehicles for your investments. They can also advise whether your pension could potentially be received tax-free if you move it to a QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme).
In general, it is less expensive to live in Malta compared to large cities in Europe or the UK. The cost of living in Malta is significantly lower than in European capitals like London or Berlin, but so are the average incomes.
So if you are an expat in Malta drawing your income from abroad, that can work well for you. However, if you plan on taking up some form of local employment to receive an income boost, you may feel the cost of living is pretty high.
It is highly recommended that you rent a property first to get to know the entire nation. Buying property is costly, so you’d better be absolutely sure of the area you are buying in before committing yourself and spending the cash.
Renting offers you so much more for your money in Malta than in the UK: it is possible to rent a modern furnished one to three-bedroom property in Malta with a little garden or a courtyard for significantly less than a similar property in the UK.
As usual, rental prices differ from area to area. If you look for accommodations in areas in the hub of the island where there’s active nightlife, you will have to pay more than elsewhere.
However, apartments in regular complexes aren’t too expensive, if you don’t expect anything extremely luxurious of course. There is a lot on offer for even lower prices if you look outside city centres or on Gozo.
Utilities are also less expensive.
The cheapest food shopping comes from buying the local produce in the supermarkets or from roadside markets or farmers’ markets.
Imported brands are slightly more expensive, as are the costs in the smaller grocery stores. Household and personal care items are more expensive than in the UK due to the fact that they are all imported.
Eating out in Malta is slightly cheaper than in the UK. Takeaways like pastizzi are very cheap, as is most snacking at regular, local cafes.
Entertainment in Malta is not expensive on the whole. If you are a lover of historic sites, which Malta has in abundance, it is worth getting a Heritage Malta Multipass.
Private heritage organisation Fondajjoni Wirt Artna that runs the saluting battery, Fort Rinella, the War Rooms and other sites of interest, offers membership, which allows you to visit the sites regularly for a much cheaper price than the one-off entrance fee.
Cinema tickets are very cheap compared to the UK.
Theatre tickets or entry to various shows can be more expensive, and the choice is not always great.
Finally, Malta is of course blessed with countless beaches where you can spend your time at no cost at all.
As usual, when you move to a new country, common advice is – rent a property for at least 6 months, get to know the country, the area, the property market and how things work in your new country of residence.
Renting in Malta is a simple process. Foreigners can rent a property with no restrictions.
You will find that most properties in Malta are rented fully furnished. Don’t be surprised to see your rented place coming equipped with dishes, cutlery, cookware and even rubbish bins. TVs and electronics might also be included.
Short-term rentals (6 months or less) are usually more expensive than long-term rentals (6 months or more).
When you have found a property you like, make sure that your financial obligations, landlord’s financial responsibilities and any future rent increase are clearly stated in the contract.
A very useful tip: utility rates in Malta depend on how many residents/non-residents are registered in the property and the registration type of the property.
Ask your landlord to verify the registration type of your property in writing. You don’t want to end up living in a converted office which has lower standards and higher utility rates.
You can also register the utilities of the property in your name if possible. To register utilities in your name you must have a Maltese ID card.
Once you’ve been through this, you will find how much more you understand about the local property market and how things work when it comes to housing. You will be more confident when the time comes to buy your own dream house.
Healthcare can have a great impact on the quality of expat life. It is very important to know what kind of healthcare is available in your new country. In Malta, the healthcare system offers both private and public services, both of which are generally of a good standard.
Malta is quite proud of its healthcare system. The quality of healthcare is generally good, and the cost of insurance is much less than in many other parts of the world.
Private healthcare is popular with many Maltese citizens even though they qualify for free state healthcare. Those who can pay for private treatment do so because, as with anywhere else in the world, the private hospitals in Malta offer a better range of services.
Malta has one main public hospital, Mater Dei, located in Msida. It is a general teaching hospital offering hospital and specialist services.
The hospital is relatively new; it opened in 2007, replacing the old public hospital St Luke’s. Mater Dei has 825 beds and 25 operating theatres.
There are eight public health centres in Malta and Gozo, which provide general practitioner and nursing services, as well as specialised health services such as immunisation, speech and language therapy, antenatal and postnatal clinics, and wound clinics.
There are also a number of private hospitals and clinics, which offer services by general practitioners, specialist doctors and dentists.
All EU nationals who are resident in Malta and hold an EU health insurance card (EHIC) are eligible to receive free medical treatment from government-funded hospitals and clinics.
You can apply for or renew an EHIC using the official EHIC online application form. This is free of charge.
If you reside in Malta and are in receipt of a state UK pension, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK. For this, you need to get an S1 (E121) form before moving to Malta. This, however, might change when the Brexit transition period is over.
You can apply for your S1 form via the International Pension Centre on 0191 218 7777.
When you arrive in Malta, register your S1 form with the Maltese Ministry of Health Entitlement Unit, which will issue you with a certificate of entitlement. You will need to show this form when seeking treatment in public health facilities.
Once you have registered your S1 in Malta, you will be entitled to apply for and use a UK-issued EHIC to access state-funded necessary medical treatment when you visit other EEA countries outside Malta, including when you return to the UK.
If you prefer to receive private treatment, as many expats do, you have to think about buying health insurance or using the pay-as-you-go option (self-funding).
Self-funding, i.e. paying as you go, is only worth considering if you are absolutely sure that the risk of something bad happening to your health is minimal. In such cases, self-funding is a good way to avoid paying for insurer profit, insurance taxes and administrative costs.
Another solution may be to buy health insurance and have high excesses to be insured against the most expensive misfortunes only and pay out of your own pocket for minor treatments.
In this case, your monthly insurance premiums can be quite low and you will have peace of mind knowing that you are covered in case of critical emergency.
Taking out an international health policy has its advantages: it covers you in as many countries as you wish to travel to, so you are free to travel without taking out new health cover for every country you want to visit.
When taking medical policies with international reach, think carefully about specific countries or regions you want to include in the areas of coverage.
The cost of your premium is usually calculated based on the cost of healthcare in each region that you chose to be covered in. By excluding the regions that you aren’t likely to travel to you may bring down your premium. If you’re not going to visit America this will reduce your premiums considerably.
You have an option to buy international health insurance through companies such as Bupa or Cigna, or choose one of the local insurers offering a wide range of policies to meet your individual needs, including benefits such as dental, inpatient, outpatient, maternity, specialist consultations, and many others.
On the whole, Malta is a very beautiful place to retire to and has a lot to offer those who choose it as their home.
It has a lovely Mediterranean climate, favourable tax regime, no language barrier, short flight times to the UK with plenty of airlines to choose from, a moderate cost of living, splendid beaches and historic sites and very low crime rates. It is also quite easy to acquire property in Malta too.
The island offers a chance of a quiet and tranquil life, and if that’s what you seek, it can be an ideal nation to closely consider.