Living in Malta, A Guide for Expats

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Expats can find the Mediterranean island of Malta about 50 miles to the south of Sicily. This island paradise is hugely popular for expats living, as a small, peaceful and beautiful archipelago with outstanding healthcare, tourist resorts and some of the best diving in the world.

You’ll find a contrast between the busy capital of Valletta, packed with heritage, shopping and excellent restaurants, and the quieter rustic islands such as Gozo.

Rural life doesn’t get much better, with an abundance of coastal walkways and tranquil landscapes. Offset by medieval cities lined with flagstone streets, Malta is truly a gem and delivers quality living in spades.

While there are only around 5,000 British expats living in Malta, the capital is a multicultural city home to people from around the world, often working in the growing financial district.

One of the most significant plus points for UK nationals is that almost everybody on the island speaks English, and the sunny, mild climate year-round doesn’t hurt either.

If you’re thinking of moving to Malta and joining the half a million residents who call it home, let’s look into what it’s like to live there, and all the essential information for expats.

Living In Malta, The Best Places

We’ll start with the best places to live in Malta. This decision is likely to be guided by your circumstances. If you’re moving to take up employment or start a business, you will inevitably need to be within a comfortable commute of one of the larger cities.

Schooling is also a vital factor, and some of the smaller islands may have fewer family amenities than you’ll find in the more populated regions.

Some of the most popular places to live in Malta for expats include:

  • Valletta, the capital and government seat, and Floriana nearby. Both of these walled towns are very small and have a population of just a few thousand people. Expats working in these two harbour regions often live in the surrounding municipalities or choose the harbour at Valletta to set down their roots.
  • Birgu, Cospicua and Senglea are also medieval walled towns and known as the Three Cities. These areas are all on the main island, and expats often find newer developments nearby that are more affordable than the historic old towns. This southern harbour district is excellent for families, being home to De La Salle College and St Edwards College, a renowned international school. 
  • Many of the residential suburbs are away from the cities and in the northern harbour district. Oceanside properties and new developments in Sliema, St Julian’s and Paceville are destinations of choice for expats and offer excellent nightlife and restaurants.
  • Gozo is undergoing significant regeneration and is an up and coming place to live in Malta. The second island is quieter, more rural, and home to some of the oldest temples on the planet – alongside world-class diving. Ferries run every 45 minutes between Gozo and the main island. Many retirees choose Gozo since the cost of living is lower, and the pace of life is relaxed.

The Lifestyle In Malta For Expats

Malta is a welcoming destination for expats, and as well as the British community is home to around 4,000 Australian expats and 2,000 Canadians. The majority of Maltese residents speak English, and so it’s relatively easy to get around.

Expat clubs are numerous, and often located in the most popular regions.

You will find organisations such as:

  • Social groups and dinner clubs.
  • Rambling societies.
  • Running clubs and sports groups.
  • Horse riding associations.
  • Reading groups.

It’s always advisable to keep an open mind and immerse yourself in the local culture, although having fellow expats to ask for advice is handy. Football is a big deal, so if you’re keen to make new friends, seek out a sports bar next time a big game is showing (be sure to know which team is supported locally).

While Malta has seven islands in total, only three are inhabited. That means that the main residential areas can be relatively densely populated.

Mediterranean food is an integral part of local life, and the Maltese population is amongst the top five overweight people in the world.

Many locals rely on cars to get about rather than walking or cycling in through the gorgeous landscapes. There are more cars per capita than any other nation, 

As a traditionally catholic island, Malta is often thought of as conservative. Younger generations, however, embrace the nightlife, with thriving bars and restaurants a hotspot for socialising in both expat and local social circles.

You might also find that there isn’t a great deal of structure, and for British nationals, things can feel a little disorganised.

Once you get used to the way things work, you’ll also find that Maltese people are warm, friendly, and welcome foreign nationals to their islands with open arms.

Employment And Finding Work In Malta

Unemployment in Malta is low, and was around 3.37% in 2020, even with the global pandemic’s impact. 

Indeed, the archipelago remains stable the vast majority of the time.  The recession in the late 2000s did not significantly impact jobs for the 500,000 or so residents.

As a popular destination for expats, and boasting attractive tax rates for individuals, succession planning and businesses, Malta is in demand for companies. Therefore, you will find plenty of work opportunities and lots of entrepreneurial enterprises.

Office space is at a premium given the island’s compact size and can be prohibitively expensive around the more lucrative coastal areas.

The core industries are in:

  • Tourism
  • Gaming and gambling
  • Finance
  • Information Technology

If you’re moving to Malta to take up a role, or are looking for employment, you will need to apply for a work permit.

There are strict rules whereby employers must sponsor an application, and prove that, if they are employing a foreign national, they have attempted to fill that vacancy from the local workforce or European applicants, before extending an offer to a non-EU citizen.

Work permit applications, for a Single Permit, cost €280.50 (£249). This permit has several requirements, such as having private medical insurance, having a verified job offer, and demonstrating at least three years of professional experience.

The majority of expats with successful work permit applications work in a core area of skills shortages. Malta also offers exemptions for professionals covered by the Key Employee Initiative, including:

  • Highly skilled technical or managerial applicants with a salary of at least €30,000 a year (£26,660), with a verified employment offer.
  • Healthcare professionals, including chemists, doctors, nurses, vets and care workers.
  • Technical professionals, such as architects, electrical engineers and aviation engineers.
  • Gaming professionals, including programmers, IT consultants, hardware and software engineers and systems analysts.
  • Finance professionals such as accountants, tax advisers, and auditors.

Malta also has several job websites where you can search for vacancies according to the area you wish to live, your qualifications, and the industry you’d like to work in.

  • JobsPlus is the Maltese Public Employment Service, previously known as the Employment and Training Corporation.
  • Times of Malta publishes daily vacancies, often part-time positions.
  • CareerJet collates postings from other jobs sites in one place.
  • MaltaJobPort is ideal for expats looking for work in the technology industry.
  • KeepMePosted is one of the most popular employment portals in Malta.

Education in Malta for UK Expat Families

Schooling in Malta works similarly to the UK, with a school year beginning in September and ending in June. Education is mandatory for children from age four to 16, and there is a range of public and private schools to choose from.

Most state schools are coeducational, although many private schools, or those associated with churches, are single-gender. 

Over 60% of Maltese residents send their children to public schools, where education standards are considered reasonably high, and tuition is free alongside school transport and books. Families do need to cover costs such as stationery and uniforms.

To register an expat child with a local school, you’ll usually need to attend an interview, provide documentation such as previous school records, and follow a medical check-up. 

Private schools in Malta are managed by the Ministry of Education, and offer exceptional tuition standards, albeit at a steep cost. Maltese private education is often thought to be the most expensive in Europe.

Competition for private school places can be stiff, and there is a massive demand for places. Therefore, expat parents are advised to apply as far in advance as possible and apply even years before their child is due to attend a particular school.

Fees vary considerably, but the average is around €4,000 a year (approx. £3,550).

Church schools are associated with the Catholic Church, and offer free education with standards in line with the local private schools. There is, therefore, also heavy competition for places, and parents will often be required to make a yearly donation to the church.

A further option is an international school, with high fees, and designed to cater to expat children and foreign nationals. The most popular international schools include:

  • Verdala International School
  • QSI International School of Malta
  • International Vocational College of Malta

There are also higher education opportunities, with the Maltese government offering funding support to encourage more residents to attend university.

  • The University of Malta is located in Msida and has around 11,000 students.
  • The Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology has campuses across Malta and Gozo.

Maltese Taxes For Expats

Malta is well known as a low-tax destination, and this can be a deciding factor for many expats looking for a more affordable cost of living.

Temporary residents are not required to pay local taxes, and permanent residents or tax residents, who have lived in the country for 183 days or more in a calendar year, are subject to taxes at the standard rates,

Your tax rate depends on whether you are married, and what type of employment you are in.

Taxes in Malta are managed by the Office for the Commissioner for Revenue, and rates for 2021 are as follows.

Income tax rates for single residents in Malta:

Tax Band €Tax Band £Tax Rate
Tax Band €Tax Band £Tax Rate
€9,101 – €14,500£8,081 – £12,88015%
€14,501 – €60,000£12,881 – £53,30025%
Over €60,001Over £53,30035%

Income tax rates for married residents in Malta:

Tax Band €Tax Band £Tax Rate
€0 – €12,700£0 – £11,2800%
€12,701 – €21,200£11,281 – £18,83015%
€21,201 – €60,000£18,831 – £53,30025%
Over €60,001Over £53,30035%

Income tax rates for residents with children in Malta:

Tax Band €Tax Band £Tax Rate
€0 – €10,500£0 – £9,3250%
€10,501 – €15,800£9,326 – £14,03015%
€15,801 – €60,000£14,031 – £53,50025%
Over €60,001Over £53,30035%

To register as a taxpayer, you first need to have your residence or work permit, and then complete a Taxpayer Registration Form and submit this to the Maltese Inland Revenue.

You are then issued with a tax number, which is essential to work on the island.

Other tax rates stand at average charges – corporation tax is 35%. However, there are rebate systems in place that make effective taxation rates significantly lower for businesses.

For example, the imputation credit system means that shareholders can claim back most of the tax paid on dividends, making the effective levies around five%.

Therefore, financial services are a core industry in Malta, with attractive rates making it a global hub for the gaming industry.

Healthcare And Insurance In Malta

Most expats must hold comprehensive health insurance through a private provider for at least one year to be granted a visa or work permit.

Citizens and permanent residents can access state healthcare either through the public insurance system or through private practitioners. They can also combine the two.

State services are paid for through national insurance and social security contributions, as in the UK, contributing to the basic healthcare insurance cover. However, if you do not work, or do not make contributions, you will need private insurance.

Some hospitals and facilities offer pay-as-you-go care services, which is popular with residents who do not hold suitable insurance.

There are eight health clinics across the islands, and if you need a hospital referral or specialist care, you need to book an appointment at your local centre first. These clinics also offer GP services and nursing.

Malta has two primary hospitals:

  • Mater Dei Hospital is in Msida near Valletta.
  • Gozo General Hospital is on Gozo island north of Malta.

Expats who pay social security contributions as a tax resident are permitted access to free healthcare services. To do so, you must register with the Malta Health Department Entitlement Unit, and provide details about your length of stay.

Public hospital waiting times can belong, and only emergency dental care is offered. Therefore, it is still advisable to have private cover should you need urgent treatment, or wish to avoid a lengthy wait.

Average costs of private health insurance in Malta are:

  • Basic cover with limited coverage and higher deductibles costs around €50 (£44) a month.
  • Pay-as-you-go services, such as a GP appointment, cost around €10 – €15 (£9 – £13).
  • Typical cover costs around €100 (£89) a month.
  • Private insurance for pre-existing chronic conditions can be as high as €1,000 (£890) monthly.

Many locals choose to purchase a top-up private insurance policy alongside their social security contributions to cover dental care and other urgent treatments.

Prescription medications are available from a GP and are usually very cost-effective to pay for out of pocket. A course of antibiotics, for example, costs around €15 (£13).

Driving In Malta For Expats

Most Maltese residents drive, since renting a vehicle is a low cost, and the public transport systems aren’t always reliable.

The island is only 28 kilometres long and 15 kilometres wide, although there can be heavy congestion and a lot of traffic since so many locals own a car. 

People drive on the left, and the road signs and roundabout systems are very similar to those in the UK. To drive, you must be at least 18, and wearing a seatbelt is compulsory.

Roads in Malta have improved substantially in recent years, although potholes and uneven surfaces remain common. You are required to give way to buses wherever you are on the island.

In Valletta, the capital, the roads are monitored by a CCTV system, which manages the volume of traffic and levies tax charges for parking. There are three different types of parking bay:

  • White parking spaces are available for public use for up to 24 hours.
  • Green parking spaces are reserved for residents.
  • Blue parking spaces are available from 8 am to 6 pm, and after that time are reserved for residents.

You can drive with a British license for up to one year from your date of entry, and then need to exchange your license for a Maltese one.

Applications must be made at the Driver Operator Licensing Units in Paola or Gozo. 

Living in Malta FAQ

Malta is one of the jewels of the Mediterranean for expats, who can enjoy great weather and low tax all just a stone’s throw from London by air.

If you are thinking about moving to Malta, here is some information as answers to the most asked questions from expats.

Which Language do Expats Need to Speak to Live in Malta?

Almost 90% of people in Malta speak English, and it is recognised as an official language and the primary language for businesses. 
 
The other official language is Maltese and Italian and French are also widely spoken.

Is Malta a Safe Place for Expats to Live?

Malta is considered a very safe place to live and has around 430 police officers for every 100,000 people – about double that in the US or Australia.
 
There is very little violent crime, and the most common criminal activity is petty theft, usually targeting tourists in Valletta.

What is the Weather Like for Expats in Malta?

The weather in Malta is one of the fundamental selling points, and the average daily temperature sits at around 23 °C.
 
Summertime can reach up to the low 30s, and so areas near the coast with a sea breeze are popular to detract a little from the humidity. There is also an average of 12 hours of sunshine every day throughout the summer.
 
Winters are cooler, although never freezing, and rains are common but usually fall for just an hour or two.

Can Expats Use Public Transport Instead of Driving in Malta?

Public transport in Malta is a little limited and primarily relies on buses, which can be very overcrowded.
 
The majority of residents choose to drive, adding to chaotic rush hours and heavily congested roads. Parking is also limited and can be a primary factor in deciding where to live.
 
Valletta is particularly difficult for parking and driving, with narrow old streets. Locals often prefer to live in the surrounding areas and commute into the city for work.

Do I Need a Visa to Move to Malta from the UK?

You do indeed. We have explored work visas, but other options include Permanent Residency permits, renewable every five years, or the Malta Global Residency Programme, with a minimum investment required.

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