Maltese Parliament has approved a controversial law to attract high net worth individuals to the island by selling passports for €650,000 (£546,000).

According to the new rules, investors who make a minimum contribution of €650,000, provided they meet due diligence criteria and pass a criminal background check, will be granted Maltese citizenship.

Under the new law, spouses and minor children may also become citizens, for an additional €25,000 each.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the scheme is expected to bring €30 million in the first year. The move is expected to attract up to 300 people a year and is already understood to have had 45 potential applicants.

The scheme would give applicants full voting rights on the island and the right to travel and settle freely within the European Union apart from removing a previous legal requirement to publish the names of all naturalized citizens in the Government gazette.

However, the opposition Nationalist Party has opposed the scheme complaining that it is not linked to residence or investment.

The Individual Investor Programme (IIP) was introduced by the Maltese Government in a bid to generating extra revenue and lure private wealth to their shores.

Unlike Malta’s own Global Residence Programme and other European residency schemes, the IIP does not require investors to purchase a property or even reside in Malta.

Malta’s citizenship scheme will be administered by Henley & Partners, an international residency and citizenship specialist.