Montenegro’s beautiful natural environment — from sunny beaches to hiking in verdant mountains — has made it a hugely popular tourist destination. Combine those features with a government keen on EU membership and pro-business tax system and you have an attractive candidate for relocation.
Getting a Montenegro residence permit will be an essential, early step in your plan to move to the Balkan country. There is a firm realization in Montenegro that further economic success will be fueled by immigration, so gaining residence is definitely achievable.
Montenegro residency is relatively easy to get but there are a few critical steps that must be followed exactly. This guide will take you through the process.
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Types of Residence Permits in Montenegro
Montenegro has a very straightforward tiered residency program. The usual steps are:
- Tourist visas and visa-free travel: The citizens of many countries, including Australia, Canada, the EU, UK and US, can enter Montenegro without a visa and stay for up to 90 days if they have a passport. EU citizens can enter Montenegro with only a government ID card and stay for up to the 30 days. Holders of other passports will have to apply for a visa that allows for stays of up to 90 days.
- Temporary residence permit (privremeni boravak): To stay longer than 90 days you need one of these permits. Generally, they last a year or as long as you meet the underlying condition (e.g., employment or studying.) They can be renewed for subsequent one-year terms.
- Permanent residence permission (stalni boravak): These last for five years and can be renewed. This grants all the privileges of Montenegrin citizenship, except voting and carrying a Montenegrin passport.
- Montenegrin citizenship (drzavljanstvo): After a decade living in Montenegro, you can apply for full citizenship.
Tourist Visas Instead of Temporary Residency
Some people, who are considering relocating to Montenegro, wonder why they can’t enter Montenegro with their visa-free passport, stay for less than 90 days, leave the country and then return for another 90 days and so forth.
(Montenegro is a small country with fairly friendly border control.)
There are a few reasons why this plan is not wise:
- The official policy is that the 90-day tourist period does not reset until 180 days have passed since it started.
- There are credible reports of people trying this scheme and receiving an official warning from the Montenegrin government.
- It is not possible to (legally) work in Montenegro without a residency permit.
Studying in Montenegro as a Route to Residency
Over the past decade especially, Montenegrin post-secondary institutions have expanded their course offerings and more international students are choosing to study here.
There is a provision for students in Montenengro’s residency program.
Students from the EU can arrive in Montenegro on their regular passport and then apply for a long-stay visa, which covers the length of their course when they arrive. Non-EU students will need to apply for the student residency before they arrive in Montenegro.
Montenegro Residency for Business Owners
Under Montenegrin law, it’s not enough to found a company in Montenegro. To qualify for temporary residency most people who want to go this route establish their company and then hire themselves as an executive director.
The good news is that Montenegro has a straightforward company formation process. And being the executive director of your own company satisfies Montenegro’s employment requirements for residency.
Montenegro Residency Requirements
Once you’ve decided to apply for Montenegrin residency the process is straightforward. Here are the essential details:
- Primary qualifications for getting a temporary residence permit for Montenegro include full-time work, study, family reunification, owning developed real estate and seasonal employment.
- Temporary residence permits are valid for one year and can be renewed for subsequent one-year terms.
- If you want to leave Montenegro for more than one month in a year, you’ll have to inform your local immigration inspector.
There are a few other reasons for receiving a temporary residence permit in Montenegro, including scientific research, medical treatment, humanitarian work and for international celebrities, but these are only issued in a slim minority of cases.
Also note the requirement that you must own a house, condo, hotel, etc. in order to qualify for temporary residency under the real estate provision. Undeveloped land is not good enough.
What You Need to Apply for Temporary Residence in Montenegro
There is a fairly standard list of documents you need to show as part of your Montenegro residency application. They are:
- A copy of your valid passport that does not expire before the permit would
- Proof of education
- Proof of a clean criminal record. This applies for all applicants who are 16 or older and must have been issued within the past six months
- Proof of solvency in the form of demonstrating that you have €3,650 deposited in a Montenegrin bank account. Or proof from your employer that your salary is at least €350 per month. For family applications, these numbers are multiplied by the total number of family members
- Marriage certificate if you’re applying as a family
- Birth certificate for minor children
- Proof you have somewhere to live (list nepokretnosti) and note that this applies both if you own your home and if you rent
- The proof of employment requirements vary between different municipalities
- Proof you have enrolled in a health insurance program
Documents that were not issued in Montenegro (like your criminal record report) will need to be translated by a licensed Montenegrin translator.
It will take roughly 20 days to get a residence permit if you’re applying for a work permit and about twice as long if not.
Montenegro’s Permanent Residency Permits
After spending five years as a temporary resident, you can apply for permanent residency in Montenegro. This means:
- Your residency permit lasts for five years and can be renewed for additional five-year terms.
- You’re granted all rights of Montenegro’s citizens except a passport and the right to vote.
- Yo have the freedom to leave Montenegro for more than one month in a year.
Montenegrin Residency for Yacht-Related Occupations
This may seem strange, but yacht owners and crew members get special recognition in the Montenegrin residency program.
In the same way that certain countries recognize that their ski or beach tourism industries need a seasonal influx of labor, Montenegro does this for yachting. So, if you own a yacht or crew for one that that has an agreement longer than 90 days with any of Montenegro’s marinas, you can apply for temporary residency.
Unlike other temporary residence permits, this one allows you to be outside of Montenegro (at sea, for instance) for up to 90 days per year without a penalty.
Getting Montenegrin Residency by Investment
During summer 2018, the government announced a Montenegro residency by investment program.
The upside of this route to residency is that it also includes a passport right away. Since it’s a direct jump to citizenship (as well as residency) it’s covered in more detail in the guide on how to get Montenegrin citizenship.
Montenegro’s Tax Residency Rules
Montenegro has one of the most attractive tax systems in Europe. Only 9% tax is levied on personal income. Corporations pay the same rate of tax.
To qualify for tax residency in Montenegro, you must have a residence permit and spend 183 days in a particular calendar year in the country.
Note that this tax liability happens automatically once you are in Montenegro for 183 days. So, if you’re a US citizen, for instance, and you spend more than half the year working in Montenegro you would owe taxes to both the Montenegrin and American governments.
Montenegro does have double taxation treaties with about fifty countries (mostly from the EU) so check to see if this situation applies to you.
Get Your Montenegrin Residence Permit
Montenegro has a straightforward path that people use to get residency in the country. Circumstances can make this a longer process, while the citizenship-by-investment program can make it (much) shorter. However, the usual course is:
- Buy a home; found a company and make yourself the executive director; or arrange full-time employment.
- Apply for temporary residency. Renew this until you’ve spent five years in Montenegro.
- Apply for permanent residency and spend another five years here.
- Apply for citizenship.
Applying for residency can seem like a daunting process. Only hire a licensed consultant to assist you and let me know if you have any questions about it.