Maltese nationals may in the future have to apply for a visa to the United States, as senators from the latter want to ban Malta from the US Visa Waiver Programme, citing the risks that the Maltese citizen-ship-by-invest poses for the US.
Currently, Malta is one of 40 countries in Europe that benefits from a program that allows people to travel to the US without having to obtain a visa, as long as they plan to stay in the country for 90 days or less.
Representatives of the US Congress, Burgess Owens (UT-04) and Steve Cohen (TN-09) on March 3 introduced the “Travel Ban for Traffickers” bill, bipartisan legislation that serves to revoke a country’s right to a US Visa Waiver Program if they participate in citizenship for investment practice of selling passports in exchange for economic investment.
Known as “golden passports,” these schemes are often criticised for their lack of transparency, enabling criminals to gain citizenship of one particular country and enjoy its benefits.
According to a press release issued on March 3 by a United States Congressman, Russians are amongst the most common beneficiaries of these schemes, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
Commenting on these schemes, Rep. Owens noted that the kingpins of human trafficking and other international criminal enterprises rely heavily on their passports’ purchasing power to travel freely around the world, to open bank accounts, or even to avoid liability.
“The No Travel for Traffickers Act addresses the severe security risks of golden passports, signalling a critical step in our efforts to isolate bad actors around the globe,” he pointed out in this regard.
The No Travel for Traffickers Act will include banning countries that sell passports from participating in the US visa waiver program and will also mandate that the Executive Branch publicly list all countries with investment citizenship or “Golden Passport” programs.
In addition, this program will lead the Executive Branch to work with the United Kingdom and the European Union to eliminate visa-free travel to the Schengen area for countries selling passports and to ban the use of US taxpayer funds to verify “golden passport” applicants so that taxpayer dollars are not used to enable these corrupt programs.
According to Rep.Cohen, many countries sell citizenship to traffickers through fake ‘investments’ such as real estate, which should be stopped. At the same time, this passport purchase gives them the right to travel the world and escape responsibility for their crimes.
“Congressmen Owens and Cohen are leading to protect our security by introducing bipartisan legislation to clamp down on the dangerous practise by some countries who sell their citizenship and passports. These so-called “golden passport” schemes are abused by criminals and traffickers from around the world, and this practice needs to come to an end,” Marshall Billingslea, former Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing at the US. The Department of the Treasury also added.
In this regard, European Union Parliament Members have called on member states to end such schemes by operating programs that give foreigners citizenship to invest in their territory.
Currently, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Malta are the only EU member states currently running schemes to issue passports to investors. While Bulgaria and Cyprus have already decided to end these schemes, Malta, on the other hand, has not yet given any indication of this.