Montenegro is a young country with a bright future. Since declaring independence from Serbia, in 2006, the government has set the country on a course for growth and prosperity.
In part, that means being open to the idea that immigration (which may eventually lead to citizenship) will be a cornerstone of the country’s future.
The Law of Montenegrin Citizenship (2008) governs the Balkan nation’s qualifications for citizenship.
There are a few slightly complicated situations, but generally, it is a straight path to citizenship. Below you’ll find all you need to know about how to get Montenegrin citizenship.
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Benefits of Montenegrin Citizenship
As one of the most stable and prosperous countries in the Balkans, Montenegrin citizenship offers several noteworthy benefits.
A European Lifestyle at a Lower Cost
Montenegro offers a safe way-of-life served by a European-style infrastructure. Montenegro is on track for EU membership and clearly, that is part of the calculation for many expats.
A Strong Passport
The Montenegrin passport is ranked 42nd in the world and comes as one of the primary benefits of citizenship.
Affordable Income Taxes
At 9-11%, Montenegro has one of the lowest personal income tax rates in the world.
Those with a temporary residence permit qualify for tax residency after spending 183 days (in a particular tax year) in Montenegro. But progressing to full citizenship will give you more certainty about your tax status and clear up complicated double taxation situations, especially for US citizens.
Who Qualifies for Montenegrin Citizenship at Birth?
As has become the global trend since the early 1980s, it’s not cut-and-dry whether your child will be a Montenegrin citizen at birth, even if they’re born in Montenegro. They will qualify if at the moment of their birth:
- Both parents are Montenegrin citizens, regardless of where the child is born.
- At least one parent is a Montenegrin citizen and the child is born in Montenegro.
- The child is born outside Montenegro and one parent is a Montenegrin citizen but the other is stateless or of unclear citizenship.
- The child is born outside Montenegro, one parent is a Montenegrin citizen and the child does not qualify for other citizenship.
That’s a bit technical, so here are a few situations worth noting:
- If neither you nor your partner has achieved Montenegrin citizenship at the time your child is born — even if the birth happens in Montenegro — your child will not automatically qualify for Montenegrin citizenship.
- If only one of you or your partner is a Montenegrin citizen, your child will probably have to be born in Montenegro to automatically qualify for Montenegrin citizenship.
- In short, at least one parent should be a Montenegrin citizen and your child should be born in Montenegro for them to qualify for citizenship by origin.
And the short version of that is: Montenegro is not a good candidate for so-called birth tourism.
Special Cases for Montenegrin Citizenship by Descent
It is still possible for a child born outside of Montenegro, to one Montenegrin citizen and one citizen of another country, to qualify for citizenship by descent. They must:
- Not be a citizen of another country and have their parents submit an application before they turn 18.
- Or submit the request themselves after turning 18, but before turning 23.
- Or be the adopted child with at least one parent who is a Montenegrin citizen.
Further Rules About Montenegrin Citizenship by Descent
If your parents were Montenegrin and registered you for Yugoslavian citizenship (while that country still existed) that might help your case for Montenegrin citizenship.
Montenegro does not automatically accept applications for citizenship by descent if your grandparents were Montenegrin (like Ireland or Italy) or even if your parents were citizens (like the UK).
Montenegrin Citizenship by Investment
Starting in January 2019, the Montenegrin government launched a citizenship-by-investment program (CIP). The idea is to jumpstart foreign direct investment (FDI), especially in the undeveloped north, by offering citizenship to those who meet a few criteria. These are:
- Pay €100,000 to the Montenegrin government, which goes into their development fund, supposed to support infrastructure in non-tourist areas of the country.
- And make a €250,000 investment in a government-approved development project in the undeveloped part (generally the north, away from the coast) of Montenegro.
- Or make a €450,000 investment in a government-approved development project in the developed, southern part of Montenegro.
- You must also be a citizen of a non-EU country, have a valid passport from there, be able to prove you have a clean criminal record and demonstrate that your investment funds were legally obtained.
Details of the Montenegrin CIP
If you have a half-a-million euros and an urgent desire for a new passport you might be starting your application. Obviously, you’ll need to know more, so here are further details:
- There is a cap of 2,000 participants, from outside the EU. The program expires once the quota is filled or three years passes.
- The company who is helping the Montenegrin government with marketing expects applications to be tentatively approved (and permanent residence granted) within three weeks. They say due diligence should be wrapped up within six months when successful applicants will get full citizenship.
- It’s fair to expect that the program was meant to include the families of those who pay this sizable price tag. But questions have been raised about the legal basis for this and who will be included (spouses and children under 18, but what about older children or dependent parents?)
This is the fastest way to Montenegrin citizenship.
History of Citizenship by Investment Programs in Montenegro
The Montenegrin government has made two previous attempts at the CIP game. Both times, in 2010 and 2014-15, the government sold Montenegrin passports to “renowned businessmen of credible reputation” for about €500,000.
A combination of concerns from the EU and public criticism, such as when the ousted Thai prime minister bought citizenship, caused the government to end both schemes.
This time, stronger due diligence and credential checking has been baked into the process. But, the Montenegrin government chose to design the program themselves so it might make sense to wait until we’re a few months out from the January 1 launch date to make sure they have ironed out the kinks.
Additional Fees for Gaining Montenegrin Citizenship by Investment
On top of the investments mentioned above, you will be required to pay:
- A tax of €15,000 per application to cover the government’s costs.
- Another €10,000 for each family member (up to four) that you want to include in your application.
- €50,000 for each family member after you and the first four.
How to Get Montenegrin Citizenship by Marriage
It is possible to qualify for Montenegrin citizenship through marriage. You must have been married to a Montenegrin citizen for three years and have lived (legally) in Montenegro for five years.
To meet the residency requirement, the five years must have been uninterrupted. But presumably, the same allowance of one month abroad per year applies here as for temporary residence permits.
Applicants for Montenegrin citizenship by marriage must:
- Be 18 years old or older.
- Able to demonstrate sufficient income and have a place to live.
- Prove that they have a clean criminal record.
- But they are excused from the language requirement.
Legal Requirements to be Married in Montenegro
But, of course, the first step in the (legal) process is to be married in Montenegro. There may be special requirements in the local jurisdiction where you want to be married, but generally, you must:
- Have copies of your passport and long-form birth certificate for both bride and groom.
- Have copies of the passports for your two witnesses.
- Provide certificates of non-impedance for both parties. (Some municipalities will also require copies of death certificates or final divorce papers if you’ve been married previously.)
- Declare your intention to marry and apply for a marriage license at least 7 days before the wedding.
Marriage laws are the purview of municipal governments in Montenegro and requirements may vary from place to place.
Many countries, such as the US, do not typically issue certificates confirming that their citizens are free to marry. If this applies to you, you may have to visit your embassy to get a substitute.
Same-sex marriages are banned in Montenegro. While the government seems open to changing this, draft legislation was met with loud opposition in 2018.
Can Montenegrins Hold Dual Citizenship?
Montenegro had a conflict-filled history in the 20th century and its track record as a stable democracy is relatively short. That may lead some to wonder: Can I keep my current citizenship and become a dual citizen of Montenegro?
The short answer is no. But there are a few exceptions. They are:
- If the person also holds citizenship from a country with a reciprocal, bilateral agreement with Montenegro. At this point, only Macedonia has signed such an agreement.
- If the person was a citizen of Montenegro and also another country before Montenegro declared independence from Serbia on June 3, 2006.
- Citizens of other former Yugoslav republics, who registered their residence in Montenegro at least five years before independence and have been consistently registered as Montenegrin residents, may be able to add Montenegrin citizenship and keep their primary citizenship.
- Participants in the citizenship-by-investment program may be able to keep their original passport, but best to confirm this.
Note that if you successfully apply for Montenegrin citizenship the government will issue a guarantee (valid for two years) of your application’s acceptance. This allows time to renounce your previous citizenship, which is a prerequisite for Montenegrin citizenship.
Also, take into account that Article 24 of the Montenegrin Citizenship Law states that anyone who acquires dual citizenship (or fails to disclose another citizenship) will automatically lose their Montenegrin citizenship.
How Do I Apply for Montenegrin Citizenship?
Montenegro’s Ministry of Internal Affairs administers the country’s citizenship program. The application process and document requirements are similar to those for temporary and permanent residence
Unlike in some countries, there is no general knowledge test as part of the Montenegrin citizenship application. But you will have to take an exam that demonstrates basic proficiency in Montenegrin.
These tests are held at the Examination Center of Montenegro in Podgorica and come with a €55 administrative fee.
The 4-Point Take on Montenegrin Citizenship
As a former Yugoslav republic, Montenegro takes the definition of its citizenship seriously. They also have a relatively strong passport — the chief perk of citizenship — that they want to control carefully.
That said, it is entirely possible to become a Montenegrin citizen. Here is what you need to know:
- Being born in Montenegro will not automatically qualify your child for Montenegrin citizenship.
- Marrying a Montenegrin may get you more quickly approved as a permanent resident, but you will still have to spend five years with that status.
- Generally, it takes five years as a temporary resident, plus five years as a permanent resident, plus basic language proficiency in Montenegrin to get citizenship.
- Montenegrin citizenship by investment is available to those willing to pay €350,000+ for it.
Send me a message with your thoughts on this post and any questions you have about the Montenegrin citizenship process.