Malta's New Plan to Sell Citizenship Is a Great Idea

A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 14 2013 12:28 PM

Malta's Plan to Sell Citizenship Is a Great Idea

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A boat of the Armed Forces of Malta makes its way into Hay Wharf with migrants on board on Oct. 17, 2013 in Valetta, Malta.

Photo by Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images

The small island state of Malta has a cool new plan to sell work and residency permits for €650,000 a pop.

As I've written before, when St Kitts was in the news for doing it I think this is a pretty great idea that America should consider imitating.

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Now in the Maltese case, there are various complications related to the European Union and I think there's some chance that's going to lead to secondary political and diplomatic issues for Malta. But the basic merits of it as a solution for the United States seem pretty straightforward to me. There is a large amount of demand to live and work in the United States is high. It is so high, that large numbers of people attempt to do it without legal authority. In most situations, when you have this kind of mismatch between supply and demand is to raise prices. Selling work and residency permits would raise a bunch of money. It would also probably "improve" the mix of immigrants from an economic point of view by biasing the mix of immigrants toward those people whose skills are most needed. My hope would be that for both of those reasons that in the medium-term an auctioned permits dynamic would also increase political support for offering more permits.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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