Lifestyle & Culture

Limited offer: Montenegro’s new Golden Passport program open to 2k foreign investors and their families

Effective 1 October, Montenegro is the latest country to offer a Golden Passport/Golden Visa program, awarding citizenship if you invest in this small Balkan country just south of Croatia on the Adriatic coast.

Montenegro’s citizenship-for-investment scheme requires the smallest investment of all the current programs in Portugal, Greece and other countries, requiring a minimum of only 350,000 euros – a 250,000 investment in government-approved projects such as hotels, commercial real estate and the tech scene along with a 100,000 euro “grant,” meant for under-developed areas of the country.

Compare that to Austria’s requirement of a 10 million euro direct business investment, or 3 million to the country’s development fund. (See the details on Montenegro below.)

Unlike Golden Visa countries, Montenegro’s passport-for-investment scheme is limited to 2,000 foreign investors including their family members, expiring on 31 December 2021, according to the official Montenegrin Golden Passport website. But it’s projected to raise 1 billion euros because options go far beyond the 350,000 to including a passport/citizenship for those investing at least 5 million euros in 5-star hotels and big real estate projects in the capital of Podgorica.

As with similar programs, your investment gets you a passport if you can pass the vetting, meant to weed out international criminals and Russian plotters, who tried to take over Montenegro by force back in 2016. Unlike in Greece and Portugal, your Montenegrin passport does not entitle you to unfettered access to the European Union or the Schengen Area. And it won’t get you into the United Kingdom or Ireland without a visa.

Montenegro, a former province of Yugoslavia that only split from Serbia in 2006, began the European Union membership process in 2012. Already a euro country, it’s on track for full EU membership by 2025, though the Golden Visa deal expires in 2021.

Still, you and your family would get permanent, renewable passports. So you’d be set should the country really enter the EU. That said, the Montenegro passport is good for visa-free, if time-limited, travel to the EU and throughout the Schengen Area.

Under the Golden Passport program, there’s no requirement that you actually live in Montenegro. But with its dramatic mountains, wilderness and seascapes, there are worse places to seek sanctuary from annoying trends such as Trump and Brexit.

Dispatches has included it on multiple “must-visit” lists as well as our list for the best developing countries for expats.

The details:

• Montenegrin officials started taking applications on 3 October. You can get more information here. It takes about three weeks to get your permanent residency after you invest, then through the vetting process.

• The authorized investments include tourism developments on the Adriatic and in Podgorica, agriculture, wood processing and fisheries. You can see more here.

• There is an application fee of 15,000 euros for the applicant; an additional 10,000 euro fee per family member up to four people and a 50,000 euro fee for each family member above the initial four.

• Even though the World Bank rates it as an “upper middle-income” nation, Montenegro claims to have some of the lowest housing costs in Europe at an average of about 1,400 euros per meter, down there with very poor countries such as Moldova and Macedonia. So a 100m2 apartment theoretically would cost about 140,000 euros, less than half of the cost in Dispatches’ HQ city of Eindhoven.

• Montenegro is something of a tax haven as its banks don’t exchange information with banks in other countries under the Automatic Exchange of Information or Common Reporting Standards treaties.

To apply, you will need:

• certified copies of passports and national identity cards, birth certificates and marriage certificates.

• health insurance policies valid in Montenegro .

• health certificate from doctor proving you don’t carry a contagious disease.

European countries with Golden Visas include Austria, Cyprus, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Portugal.

The rest of the story:

In a perfect world of global mobility of talent and capital, the Golden Visa/Passport programs make it easy and relatively affordable for affluent expats to gain access to the high-functioning societies by investing in the expanding markets of the EU. That is the ideal. But the European Commissions is hinting strongly that it would like to see EU countries end the practice, which EU officials say open the doors to corrupt businesspeople and despots laundering money.

You can read a Transparency International exposé here examining Golden Visa abuses.

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