As every Maltese and many foreigners know, one can buy a Maltese passport for approximately €1M. The residence permit issuance racket got it to the local and international news a couple of months ago. According to Times of Malta and MaltaToday, 54% of all those willing to call themselves Maltese are from Russia and former Soviet Union countries. These are the stories and figures that make it to news, but what is left behind are the stories of individuals having to combat with the bureaucratic authorities for their right to reside here.
The very unbiased fact is: it is ultra difficult to get Maltese residence permit if one decides to follow all the requirements and use no shortcuts. Even after 6 years of working and feeling at home in Malta, my right to reside (my whole peaceful life) in the country depends on a number of permits and decisions. And this is the story I would like to be heard and shared.
The right to reside in Malta is granted to a foreigner from a non-EU part of the world upon a few reasons, such as marriage/partnership/family reunion, work, study and economic self-sufficiency. For many, marriage is the easiest way to acquire the residence permit. It is also the quickest way to obtain the Maltese citizenship (takes as long as 5 years being married to a Maltese citizen). However, not everyone sees marriage as a fix of their financial or/and citizenship issues (not all marry for those reasons, to be fair), some go the hard way by finding a job and applying for a work permit. The most unpleasant side of applying for the work permit is the constant change of requirements. Year after another, attempts are made to MAKE IT LOOK like there is a transparent selection process through which only qualified individuals are able to apply. These requirements complicate lives only of those who follow them. Just as locks protect against honest people only, these requirements DO NOT STOP a massive flow of far-from-qualified ones.
Applying for permits is, with no exaggeration, a stressful business. Applicants often start queuing up outside Identity Malta office as early as 5.30am. Many have been here for a number of days but their applications were rejected so they try again and again. Many slip to desperation and disrespect by trying to skip the queue and push others to the side (and all humiliation that follows). That’s not all. The attitude of many officers lacks not only basic politeness but basic understanding of benevolence.
Once all the documents are verified, fingerprints – scanned, fees – paid and the application finally accepted, an applicant is expected to wait for at least 6-8 weeks for the residence permit to be issued. It means that for these 6-8 weeks a non-EU applicant cannot travel outside of Malta. The residence permit on employment grounds is issued for a period of one year (3 years for spouses/partners of Maltese/EU citizens), which implies that 11 months later the nightmare has to be repeated. Some unforeseen situations might make your life even more difficult. One example is my stolen, still valid ID card/residence permit, took 3 months to be reprinted, and, correct, for all these months I could not travel. A couple of times I received a formal letter telling me to leave the country within 10 days, with no explanation. Apparently (and thankfully), both times it was somebody’s mistake.
The long-term residence is one way to improve the situation. Yet do not imagine it is an easy path. The requirements include having at least 80% score in Maltese language level 2 (how many Maltese can brag about such a score?), a course on Maltese history (fair enough) and a course on living and working in Malta, all completed at least a year before the application. Add to it a good chance that, by the time an applicant has everything in hand, the requirements will change again.
No, do not take me wrong, I am not complaining nor I am exaggerating. I consider myself lucky for arriving here on a plane, not on an overcrowded boat. It is just a routine struggle the description of which was, in fact, smoothed. I have been living here for 6 years, I understand Maltese and able to communicate in it, have a great interest in local customs and respect the local lifestyle (and I am not the only foreign resident like this). Isn’t it justified to say I deserve my right to live here? I have become Mediterranean and I love every day under this bright sun. Yet termination of the employment contract can be enough to end my residence here. Now admit, it is not right and it is human-unfriendly. Unfortunately, that’s the world we created and are living in, the world that is so immersed in global scale events that gives no importance to lives of single individuals.
With no unnecessary moralizing, one final suggestion: before complaining about many outsiders of whichever origin and skin colour poring into the country, imagine the procedures they have to pass. Respect their courage and dedication to go that hard way to improve their lives. Please share this story.