Non-EU partners of Maltese nationals ‘face discrimination’ in residence permits

A Maltese man has flagged a discrepancy through which non-EU partners of Maltese nationals can obtain residence permits: 'It is discriminatory against my Colombian partner… just because I am Maltese'

Rudi Vella said that Malta’s residence permit system discriminates against his girlfriend
Rudi Vella said that Malta’s residence permit system discriminates against his girlfriend

A Maltese man has flagged to Identity Malta a discrepancy in the system through which non-EU partners of Maltese nationals can obtain residence permits, which he warned is discriminatory against his Colombian partner… just because he happens to be Maltese.  

Speaking to MaltaToday, Rudi Vella questioned why his Colombian girlfriend is being made to jump through hoops of red tape to be able to work in Malta that non-EU partners of European citizens who immigrate to Malta get to avoid. 

The problem boils down to an EU directive that regulates freedom of movement of EU citizens and their partners across the union. It states that the partners and family members of EU nationals who are living in another EU country can apply for a residence permit that automatically includes the right to work in that country. They can continue enjoying these rights in the host country even after their partner has died or immigrated.

However, the snag is that non-EU partners of Europeans who are residing in their home countries cannot make use of this directive, but must instead rely on national law. Therefore, whereas partners of EU nationals can obtain a five-year residence permit at no cost, partners of Maltese nationals are only eligible for a six-month or one-year permit, with each renewal costing €27.50. 

More crucially, Maltese law does not automatically grant residence permit holders access to the labour market, meaning that third country nationals who want a job must go through the bureaucratic process of obtaining a work permit.

Vella said that the current system is severely hindering his girlfriend’s attempts to find a job. 

“She recently found a job at an NGO, but when she told them that she needed to apply for a work permit, they sent her a letter of rejection,” he said. 

He said he has contacted Identity Malta to point this discrepancy out and spoken to several of their senior management staff, but that there doesn’t seem to be a political will to change the law. 

“This system is completely unfair. An Italian man who hasn’t paid any taxes to Malta can just bring his Colombian girlfriend over to work without any problems, while mine has to jump through all these hoops,” Vella said. “As the EU directive stands, my girlfriend will be granted full family member rights if I immigrate to another EU country, but she is unable to qualify for them in Malta.”

Cumbersome process

The process of obtaining a work permit in Malta is certainly cumbersome, as the country’s employment laws require that employers hire non-EU nationals only as a last resort.

Therefore, employers who want to hire a third country national must fill out a form to Identity Malta, complete with documentary evidence including the work contract, describing the job, detailing the minimum qualifications and experience required to fill it out, and explaining why the position is necessary to the company. 

They must also provide an account of their failed efforts to recruit a Maltese, EEA or Swiss national, including at least two adverts for the job in local media or a private recruitment agency. If the job was advertised on the state employment agency JobsPlus, then the employer must list all the people who had applied for the job and explain why each one of them had been turned down in favour of the third country national. The employer must also indicate to Identity Malta how s/he intends to train a Maltese worker to fill out this position in the future. 

The third country national must also send in a full copy of their passport, a signed CV, a copy of a comprehensive health insurance policy, a copy of the lease or purchase agreement of property, and a list of qualifications that make them fit for the job together with recognition from the Malta Qualifications Recognition and Information Centre. 

If the applicant is not suitably qualified for the job, then they require at least three years of experience in a similar position – that must be proved by sending Identity Malta reference letters including the contact details of their former employers.

Moreover, the work permit must be constantly renewed, at a cost of €280.50 a year.

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