High-quality multicrystalline Upgraded Metallurgical Grade Silicon (UMG-Si) offers significant advantages over conventional polysilicon-based PV technology, associated to lower energy budget. The aim of this study is twofold: on the one hand, to ascertain the efficiency potential of solar cells based on this material in terms of carrier lifetime; and on the other hand, to explore the adoption of high-efficiency cell architectures by establishing an effective rear-side passivation scheme for the implementation of passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) devices. The carrier lifetime and the surface passivation efficacy are investigated for different passivating layer configurations after single and double P-diffusion gettering processes. Layer stacks consisting of Al2O3, SiOxNy and a-SiNx:H capping overlayers have been optimized, on industrial size, saw-damage-etched UMG wafers and results compared to those obtained using reference iodine-ethanol (IE) passivation. Diagnosis based on minority carrier lifetime and implied V-oc (iV(oc)) measurements helped monitor the impact of parameter optimization on wafer quality, particularly after firing processes. Carrier lifetimes over 600 mu s at Delta n = 10(15) cm(-3) injection level as well as up to 790 mu s locally have been measured in UMG-Si wafers passivated with IE after a Phosphorus Diffusion Gettering (PDG), demonstrating the suitability of the material for high-efficiency cell architectures. Values higher than 300 mu s have been obtained with Al2O3-based passivation layers for gettered UMG wafers, with implied V-oc values up to 710 mV. These record-breaking lifetimes and iV(oc) figures obtained with p-type multicrystalline UMG-Si material demonstrate a significant upgrading of its electronic quality by means of industry-scalable technical processes.