Refugee Status


The 1951 Geneva Convention defines a refugee as any person who

owing to wellfounded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

Malta has transposed this definition into its Refugees Act of 2001.

According to the Procedural Standards for Granting And Withdrawing International Protection Regulations a refugee enjoys the following rights and entitlements:

  • To remain in Malta with freedom of movement and to be granted, as soon as possible, personal documents, including a residence permit for a period of three years, which shall be renewable
  • To be given a Convention Travel Document entitling him to leave and return to Malta without the need of a visa (unless he is in custody awaiting judicial proceedings for the commission of a criminal offence, or is serving a term of imprisonment)
  • To have access to employment, social welfare, appropriate accommodation, integration programs, state education and training, and to receive state medical care
  • Family members of a person granted refugee status, if they are in Malta at the time of the decision or if they join him in Malta, enjoy the same rights and benefits as the refugee so that family unity may be maintained.
  • Persons granted the  status  of  refugee and who are considered as vulnerable persons shall, as far as possible, be provided with adequate health care

For more information refer to the Refugees Act and relevant subsidiary legislation.  


  • Persons who are awarded refugee status are entitled to receive State medical care (free of charge).
  • Family members of a person granted refugee status, if they are in Malta at the time of the decision or if they join him in Malta, enjoy the same rights and benefits as the refugee so that family unity may be maintained.
  • Patients suffering from a chronic disease/s (such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma) are entitled to free medicinal treatment.  A consultant within the Government Health Service can apply for a Schedule ​V (Yellow) Card for the patient, listing the medicines required by the patient.

Further details:

  • Patients with limited means are eligible for the Schedule II (Pink) Card. Pink card holders are entitled to a limited number of medicinal products. This card entitles patients to free medicines, dental services, spectacles, telecare, handyman services, phone line subsidy, and foot insoles.

Further details:



  • Must have an employment licence (also known as a work permit) to legally work in Malta.
  • The employment licence is issued in the person’s own name (i.e. one does not have to rely on an employer to apply for one’s work permit) by Jobsplus (the public employment service). Further details:
  • All employment licences are, in general, issued for a maximum duration of one year.
  • The application is first considered from a labour market perspective
  • Application fees:
    • New application fee: Payable on issue € 58
    • Renewal fee: Payable on issue € 34
  • There are no restrictions on the type of work undertaken.
  • When starting employment, the employer is to advise Jobsplus of such employment by sending an Engagement Form containing the actual date of commencement of employment. When employment is terminated or when an employee’s employment status is changed, the employer is to advise Jobsplus by sending a Declaration of Termination of Employment form.
  • If unemployed, can register with Jobsplus as a jobseeker. An employment advisor is subsequently assigned to provide support and guidance in the quest for work and training opportunities.  Registrants may be entitled to social benefits and/or National Insurance contributions from the Department of Social Security.
  • Require an employment licence to work as self-employed.
  • Compliance with social security, income tax and employment conditions regulations must be ensured.
  • Any worker in Malta has the right to join a trade union.
  • The Employment and Industrial Relations Act applies to all foreign nationals engaging in employment in Malta.
  • Employers should not engage foreign nationals on conditions of work, (ie wages/salaries, hours of work etc) which are less favourable than those established for work of the same character or nature by national laws and regulations.
  • Any employee who believes that his or her rights have been breached in any way may seek recourse at the Department for Industrial and Employment Relations at Melita Street, Valletta. Further details:


Social welfare

  • Entitled to the same benefits as Maltese nationals on the same terms (including, for example, Children’s Allowance, Unemployment Benefit, Injury Benefit, etc). Visit for information on the available benefits.
  • The Foundation for Social Welfare Services provides social welfare services, in particular in relation to family welfare, alcohol and substance abuse, and other social welfare support. Visit for further information.


  • Education is compulsory for children aged between 5 and 16 years.
  • Persons with refugee status may access compulsory, further and higher education in Maltese state educational institutions and apply for an exemption from fees at state educational institutions (covering compulsory education, vocational studies e.g. MCAST, tertiary studies e.g. University of Malta, and adult learning e.g. Lifelong Learning courses) at the Exemption Office within the Ministry for Education and Employment. Visit for further information.
  • The Migrant Learners Unit caters to the needs of newcomers to the Maltese education system. Visit for further information.


  • Accommodation in an open centre is usually provided for up to one year in total (not one year from when one is granted refugee status). The duration of accommodation is specified in the service agreement with AWAS. If a person leaves the open centre to live in the community before s/he is due to leave, there is no guarantee that s/he will be allowed to return to accommodation in the open centre.
  • Entitled to schemes and services offered by the Housing Authority. Visit for further information.
  • One of the most practical forms of support offered by the Housing Authority is the Private Rent Housing Benefit Scheme (financial support towards rent payment for persons with limited income).

Family Reunification

  • A person with refugee status is entitled to apply for family reunification.
  • Eligible family members:
    • His spouse (who shall be twenty-one years of age or over)
    • His and his spouse’s unmarried minor children, including children adopted in a manner recognized by Maltese law;
    • His or his spouse’s unmarried minor children, including adopted children.
  • If the refugee is an unaccompanied minor, eligible family members are:
    • first-degree relatives in the direct ascending line
    • legal guardian or any other member of the family, where the refugee has no relatives in the direct ascending line or such relatives cannot be traced
  • The applicant for family reunification must be holding a residence permit valid for a minimum period of one year to apply.
  • The applicant must provide documents attesting to the family relationship, and must demonstrate that he has accommodation and stable and secure resources to support himself and his family members.
  • The refugee whose family relationship pre-dated their entry into Malta shall not be required to provide documentary evidence for accommodation, sickness insurance, and stable and regular resources.


  • According to law, a person who has resided in Malta for at least five years may apply for citizenship by naturalisation.
  • Applicants for citizenship:
    • must have an adequate knowledge of the Maltese or the English language;
    • must be of good character; and
    • would be a suitable citizen of Malta.
  • Decisions on citizenship applications are taken by the Minister responsible for citizenship. The Minister is not required to assign any reason for the grant or refusal of any application. The decision of the Minister is not subject to appeal or review in any court.
  • Children born in Malta are not granted Maltese citizenship (if at least one of the parents is not Maltese).

The above is a summary developed by UNHCR Malta. Relevant government authorities should be consulted for further details regarding rights and responsibilities.



1951 Geneva Convention

Refugees Act

Procedural Standards for Granting and Withdrawing International Protection Regulations

Health Entitlements:

Employment and Industrial Relations Act

Employment and Training Services Act


Department for Industrial and Employment Relations (DIER)

Social Security Act

Social Security Department

Foundation for Social Welfare Services

Education Act

Ministry for Education and Employment

Migrant Learners’ Unit

Exemptions from Fees at State Educational Institutions

Housing Authority

Family Reunification Regulations


Maltese Citizenship Act

Identity Malta


Note: The information on this page was last updated on 24 August 2020.