How to Get Montenegrin Citizenship

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.

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%-15%, income tax rates in Montenegro are one of the lowest 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.

Montenegrin Passport
Ranked 42nd in the world, the passport is one of the primary benefits of Montenegrin citizenship.

Montenegrin Citizenship by Investment

Since December 2022, the Montenegrin Citizenship by Investment (CIP) has ended. The program was originally launched by the Montenegrin government in January 2019. The idea was to jumpstart foreign direct investment (FDI), especially in the undeveloped north, by offering citizenship to those who met a few criteria.

This was the fastest way to Montenegrin citizenship.

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Details of the Montenegrin CIP

If you had a half-a-million euros and an urgent desire for a new passport, you probably already knew that Montenegro’s program was one of the best on the market back then.

It’s important also to be aware that:

  • There was a cap of 2,000 participants from outside the EU. The program would expire once the quota was filled or until December 21, 2022.
  • Applications were expected to be tentatively approved (and permanent residence granted) within three weeks.
  • Due diligence was wrapped up within three months, at which point successful applicants would get full citizenship.
  • As a Montenegrin passport holder, you can travel and visit visa-free through the Schengen zone, Russia, Turkey, and many other nations, even before Montenegro joins the European Union (expected in 12-24 months).
  • Your family members could obtain citizenship under the same process. The whole family would not need to live in Montenegro and had the right to dual or multiple citizenships.
  • As a citizen, you can elect to have your income subject to the Montenegrin tax system and request a tax certificate as proof to share with your home country.

Citizenship by Investment Requirements

Obviously, the country wanted to retain its integrity. Montenegro’s golden visa passports would not be issued to just anybody willing to pay their way into the country.

The core requirements for this program included:

  • You had not been convicted of a criminal offense, leading to a jail term of more than one year.
  • The agent reviewing your application had a positive opinion of your character while completing international due diligence.
  • You can provide evidence of the origin of the capital that you will use for payment and investment, leading to your citizenship.
  • You were able to supply all of the required personal documents.

Required Personal Documents

In order to successfully submit your application, you would need to provide the following personal documents for yourself and your family members:

  • application form for citizenship approval,
  • notarized passport copy (certified with an apostille, if applicable),
  • an original birth certificate/extract,
  • an original marriage certificate/extract,
  • a health insurance policy valid in Montenegro,
  • a medical report assessing your health for infectious diseases, and
  • a statement detailing the origin of funds for your fee payment and investments.

CIP Fees and Investment Amounts

Montenegro’s citizenship by investment program offered one of the best value options for a second passport.

You had to first pay €200,000 to the Montenegrin government, which went into their development fund, to support infrastructure in non-tourist areas of the country. Additionally, you had to invest either:

  • €250,000 in a government-approved development project, generally the north (away from the coast) of Montenegro, or
  • €450,000 in a government-approved development project in the developed, southern part of Montenegro.

Additional Fees for Gaining Montenegrin Citizenship by Investment

On top of the investments mentioned above, you would be required to pay:

  • A fee of €15,000 per application to cover the government’s costs.
  • Another €10,000 for each family member (up to four) that you would include in your application.
  • €50,000 for each family member after you and the first four.
  • €25,000 fee for your intermediation agent (for a family of up to 4 members, additional family members would be €5,000 each)
  • €7,000 for a single applicant or €10,000 for a family of up to 4 for the due diligence agent.
One of the stated goals of the Montenegrin citizenship by investment program is to encourage investment in underdeveloped parts of the country.
One of the stated goals of the Montenegrin citizenship by investment program is to encourage investment in underdeveloped parts of the country.

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.

The last CIP program had stronger due diligence and credential checking baked into the process.

It appears that this was the last chance to obtain Montenegrin (European) citizenship. It was a relatively small investment for such a big opportunity.

Citizenship by Naturalization

In accordance with the Montenegrin Nationality Law, you can acquire citizenship if you stay 10 years in the country. 

This type of citizenship makes sense if you are not born in Montenegro, don’t have citizenship by descent, and are willing to stay for the time required to qualify. 

Steps to acquire citizenship by naturalization:

  1. Enter Montenegro on a tourist visa: Most countries allow travel for up to 90 days without a visa. 
  2. Apply for a temporary residence permit (privremeni boravak): To stay longer than 90 days, you’ll need a temporary residence permit, which typically lasts a year. You can acquire a temporary residence through company formation or buying real estate.
  3. Apply for a permanent residence permit (stalni boravak): After 5 years of holding a temporary residence permit, you can apply for a permanent residence permit. With permanent residency, you have all the privileges of Montenegrin citizenship, except voting and passport.
  4. Acquire Montenegrin citizenship (drzavljanstvo): After maintaining your permanent residency for an additional 5 years (10 years in total), you can apply for Montenegrin citizenship via naturalization.

While holding a temporary residence permit, you must spend at least 9 months per year in Montenegro. Failing to do so will restart your temporary residency, and the countdown to permanent residency will begin from year one.

However, once you have permanent residency, you can leave the country for as long as you want.

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.

A newborn baby in hospital.
Being born in the country doesn’t guarantee a child is eligible for citizenship in Montenegro.

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).

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.

The Montenegrin citizenship by marriage rules aren't as favorable as some parts of the world and marrying someone from Montenegro will not significantly reduce how long it takes to get citizenship.
The Montenegrin citizenship by marriage rules aren’t as favorable as some parts of the world and marrying someone from Montenegro will not significantly reduce how long it takes to get citizenship.

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.

Get your European passport with the help of a partner you can trust.

My team is detail oriented, but we work efficiently to ensure you get the result you want in the shortest possible period of time.

Contact me today to book in a no-obligation consultation call, or if you prefer, we can speak via email or WhatsApp.

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.

Contact me today with any questions you have about the Montenegrin citizenship process.

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