Living In Malta – The Expat’s Guide

A detailed expat guide to moving to and settling down in Malta: the pros and cons, residency and taxes, healthcare and property, and many more.

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.

Living in Malta – overview

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.

Living in Malta - Beautiful landscaped gardens on a sunny summer day, Malta.
It’s worth spending a day in these wonderful gardens of Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar, Malta

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.

Travelling to and around Malta

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.

Residency in Malta for non-EU nationals

Malta joined the EU in 2003, meaning it’s part of the Schengen visa area. For EU nationals, this translates to easier travel and permanent residency.

But, for third-country citizens, the process is a bit harder. Since Brexit, the UK now counts as a third country, meaning it must follow these rules.

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Malta Permanent Residency Route

To obtain permanent residency status in Malta, you must live in the country legally for five years. After this point, you can apply to the Maltese immigration board for permanent status.

You must have the following information handy when you apply:

  • A copy of the passport used for your previous visa applications
  • List of dates showing your entry and exit from Malta
  • Proof of medical insurance
  • Five years’ worth of tax declarations confirming you earned at least the national minimum wage or are self-sufficient
  • Evidence of integration
  • A covering letter explaining your history in the country

Evidence of integration comes from two sources. The first is the I Belong course, issued by the Maltese Directorate of Human Rights and Integration. It includes the history of Malta and other important information.

You must show 100 hours of attendance on the course and an overall pass mark of 75%.

You also have to complete a Level 2 MFQ Maltese language course. The pass mark for this is slightly lower: 65%. Finally, you must have proof of payment where relevant, although the I Belong course is free.

If your application is successful, you then have to get a few more documents. These are a CEA Form L, the application for residence, and Form ID 1A to register for an ID. This is the only cost involved, which is €137.50. However, you also have to pay a residence permit fee, which is around €24 a year.

Living in Malta - Gozo island, medieval architecture of castle and boats on the harbour of Malta
Gozo island – the quietest and most tranquil retreat in Malta

Malta’s Retirement Programme

If you wish to retire to Malta you can receive special tax status through the Malta Retirement Programme, which will allow you to keep 85% of your pension income that you receive in Malta.

Applicants need to meet the following requirements:

  1. To purchase a property for a minimum of €275,000 or rent a property for a minimum of €9,600 per annum. If the property is situated in Gozo or in the South of Malta, the minimum purchase value is €220,000 and the minimum rental value is €8,750 per year
  2. To have adequate health insurance covering the EU territory
  3. To not spend more than 183 days in any one foreign jurisdiction in a year (i.e., to spend the majority of time in Malta)
  4. To satisfy a “fit and proper” test which assesses the applicants’ integrity, competence, and solvency
  5. Under this programme, a retiree will be charged a flat 15% rate of tax in respect of foreign income remitted to Malta. The minimum annual tax under this programme is €7,500, with an additional €500 per dependant. A one-time registration fee of €2,500 is levied by the Maltese Government

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.

The Residence Scheme

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:

  1. A governmental contribution of €68,000 with a property purchase from €300,000 in South Malta or Gozo or €350,000 in popular coastal resorts.
  2. Or a €98,000 donation, plus property rental of €10,000 in South Malta and Gozo, or €12,000 in the rest of the country. 
  3. To be in receipt of stable and regular financial income
  4. To hold adequate health insurance covering the EU territory
  5. To pass the “fit and proper” test
  6. Not to spend more than 183 days outside Malta

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.

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You can find additional information and professional advice on our Residency & Citizenship By Investment page.

Banking & bank accounts for expats living in Malta

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.

Malta taxation

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.

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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. 

Cost of living in Malta

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. 

Living in Malta: In Guardia re-enacting the inspection of the fort and its garrison by the Grand Bailiff of the Order of the Knights of St. John in Malta
In Guardia re-enacting the inspection of the fort and its garrison by the Grand Bailiff of the Order of the Knights of St. John in Birgu, Malta.

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.

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Finally, Malta is of course blessed with countless beaches where you can spend your time at no cost at all.

Property & housing in Malta

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.

Cozy streets of Maltese towns adorned with traditional houses
Cosy streets of Maltese towns adorned with traditional houses

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.

Living in Malta - traditional houses with colourful balconies
Colourful and bright bay windows and doors create a festive atmosphere even on a rare rainy day

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 that 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 in Malta

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.

Living in Malta - narrow Maltese streets
Malta’s cities are full of narrow streets and passages, calling you to come and explore

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.

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.

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There are also a number of private hospitals and clinics, which offer services by general practitioners, specialist doctors and dentists.

Popeye village, Il-Mellieha, Malta. This little village, also known as Sweethaven Village and Danish Village, is a film set purposely built village, now converted into a small attraction fun park.
Popeye village, Il-Mellieha, Malta. This little village, also known as Sweethaven Village and Danish Village, is a film set purposely built village, now converted into a small attraction fun park.

Getting an S1 (E121) form

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.

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.

Private health insurance and pay-as-you-go

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 a 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. 

Benefits of setting up a business in Malta

Setting up a business in Malta can have many benefits: Malta’s taxation policies guarantees up to 6/7 tax refunds to foreign shareholders (both residents and non-residents), full tax exemptions for holding companies and no withholding taxes or stamp duties in case of profit repatriation.

Company formation and maintenance costs are pretty low, so no wonder that the number of foreign investors setting up companies in Malta is growing every year.

 Setting up a business in Malta is generally straightforward and relatively fast. 

For opening a private Limited Liability Company, €1,165 of share capital deposit is required. For the public company, the minimum share capital is approximately €46,600.

Both types of companies must have at least two shareholders.

Corporate tax

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Malta rivals Cyprus as one of the best low-tax destinations for entrepreneurs and businesses inside the EU. These two sweet Mediterranean islands are competing hard with each other in a bid to attract more wealthy individuals and companies to their sun-lit shores.

In such a case, you would imagine that Malta’s corporate tax would be very low. Yet, it is not!

Companies registered in Malta are considered to be resident and domiciled in Malta, thus they are subject to tax on their worldwide income at 35%. 

At first glance, Malta’s corporate tax rate of 35% seems to be extortionate compared to Cyprus’ 12.5%. 

However, it’s not that straightforward. Various deductions and refunds are available, and here lies the secret of Malta’s attractiveness for investors – in certain cases, the refunds bring investors’ total tax liability to a mere 5% or sometimes even zero.

Tax refunds

Shareholders of a Maltese company receive dividends free of Maltese tax. Upon the receipt of dividends, the shareholders can claim a refund of all or part of the Malta tax paid by the company on the income distributed as dividends. 

It is possible for a shareholder of a Maltese company to claim a 6/7ths of the tax paid by the company in respect of trading income, and 5/7ths of the tax paid by the company on interest and royalties. The refund is reduced to 2/3rds where the distributing company claims double taxation relief. 

When they meet certain criteria, holding companies’ income is totally exempt from tax. 

Both resident and non-resident shareholders are entitled to claim tax refunds

As an example, a Maltese company declares profits of €100,000 on which it pays €35,000 of corporation tax, and distributes the rest €65,000 as dividends. The shareholders then claim a tax refund of 6/7th of the €35,000 tax paid, which amounts to €30,000 being refunded. Total tax paid is €5,000 (5%).

Tax refunds are Malta tax exempt and payable within a deadline of a few weeks.

Holding companies and participating exemption

Malta is fast becoming one of the best jurisdictions for forming a holding company. There is a reason why a growing number of multinational groups opt to set up their holding company in Malta – they are attracted by participating exemption which in a nutshell guarantees zero tax on dividends from such holdings and gains arising on the disposal of such holdings.

For a Maltese resident company to hold a “participating holding” in a company incorporated abroad, it must hold at least 10% of the equity shares in the non-resident company. If this condition is not met, there is a number of alternative tests to define whether the company is eligible for participating exemption.

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The holding companies that satisfy all the conditions and meet all the rules can enjoy 100% income tax relief both on the dividends derived from a participating holding and on any capital gains earned on the sale of shares.

Income tax

For non-domiciled residents of Malta income 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 capital and overseas capital gains can be remitted tax-free. There is no minimum income level required, so if you have capital, there is a possibility to live entirely off capital tax-free. 

It is important to seek professional advice to be sure that you stay tax compliant. 

In Malta the taxation of an individual’s income remitted into the country is progressive, the rates are from 0% to 35% depending on the income. 

You can be taxed as a single person, a married couple or a parent. Depending on your category there is a tax allowance of €9,100, €12,700 and €10,500 respectively. 

Above the tax allowance, the rates are 15%,25% and 35%.

Conveniently for expats, Malta has neither wealth nor inheritance taxes, nor annual property taxes.

Living in Malta – summary

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.

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  1. Update: Arriva is no longer operating buses (since 2015), Malta joined EU in 2004 not 2003 and those “countless beaches” are actually eight (8) and crowded. Last but not least – within the last few years property prices rose by 40% and to find a “quiet and tranquil life” you must spend a lot of money, since the majority of the Island is noisy, densely populated and stuck in traffic (statistically, almost every single resident has a car – toddlers and elders included).

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