The concept of ordinary residence, although not legalistic is not as challenging as domicile. Also, the term is not defined in our law and lends its definition from British judgements. In fact it has been stated that a person is ordinary resident in a country by taking into account the duration of the individual’s presence in the country, frequency, regularity and nature of visits to the country, as well as business and family ties.
A European Union citizen has the right to enter, remain and reside in Malta, however when an individual intends to reside in Malta for a period longer than three (3) months, he is obliged to apply for an e-Residence card with the Department for Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs. Prior to applying to the Department for Citizenship and Expatriate Affairs however, the applicant should consider leasing / purchasing a property in Malta and after opening a bank account in Malta. This is done to enhance the link with the Maltese islands.
Being an Ordinary Resident
An individual holding a residence permit and qualifying as resident in Malta for Maltese income tax purposes, is subject to the normal income tax rules and rates applicable for every Maltese resident person. Therefore the applicant would need to submit a tax return on an annual basis.
Once the European Union national has lived in Malta for a continuous period of five (5) years he would then be entitled to apply for confirmation of permanent residence. For residence in Malta to be considered continuous, one must not have been absent from Malta for more than six (6) months each year in any given year of the said five-year period, and further must not have been absent from Malta for more than a total of ten (10) months throughout this five (5) year period.
The e-Residence Card
The e-Residence Card system was introduced as from January 2013 and can be obtained by both EU/EEA/Swiss nationals and non-EU/EEA/ Swiss nationals who wish to reside in Malta. This card serves a dual purpose, namely as an identification document and also as a residency permit. This e-Residence card will be evidence of the individual’s decision to reside in Malta. Any individual, who is not a Maltese citizen, should apply for the e-residence card if he intends to reside in Malta for a period longer than ninety (90) days.
Advantages of the e-Residence Card
Primarily, the main advantage of possessing an e-Residence card, for non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals, is that one will not need to apply for a Visa to travel within the Schengen area as the individual would be considered as a resident in a European Union country. The e-Residence card will be the ticket to travel without any difficulty to essentially twenty-six (26) European countries, including Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and the Nordic countries, that have mutually decided to eliminate passport and immigration controls at their joint borders and thus also avoiding long lines at control points.
The requirements of the e-Residence card application mostly depend on the individual’s nationality, residence status and the underlying reason for being in Malta, such as employment or study.