How to Become a Citizen of Montenegro: Rules and Procedure

How to Become a Citizen of Montenegro: Rules and Procedure

Montenegro is a small country in Southeastern Europe located near the Adriatic Sea. The country is famous for its picturesque landscapes, pleasant temperate climate, and Byzantine architecture. Montenegro demonstrates strong economic performance and provides favourable conditions for doing business. These factors make Montenegrin citizenship attractive for expatriates.

Until recently, Montenegro has been one of the few European countries that provided citizenship for investments into the economy. However, this programme has now been scrapped. Nonetheless, certain avenues to acquire Montenegrin nationality remain accessible. While many routes to citizenship entail a significant investment of time and effort, the prerequisites for candidates are not excessively stringent. The Montenegrin government has thoughtfully delineated the procedure, ensuring a clear path for interested individuals.

Benefits of Montenegrin Citizenship

Montenegrin citizenship presents numerous opportunities to its bearers. The country itself is characterized by stability, security, and commendably low crime rates, contributing to a heightened sense of social well-being. Notably, Montenegro boasts an exceptionally favorable income tax rate of 9%, ranking among the most competitive globally. Moreover, establishing a business is streamlined, with the potential to initiate a company with a minimal share capital of just €1. Registering your business necessitates confirming a mere €3,650 in your personal account, simplifying the process.

Possessing Montenegrin nationality bestows the privilege of unrestricted travel within the entire European Union territory, affording visa-free entry to over 120 nations globally. Furthermore, Montenegrin citizens are endowed with the right to seek employment and engage in business activities across any European Union member state. They also enjoy favorable access to education within European universities. Notably, Montenegrin citizenship streamlines the procedure for acquiring permanent residence permits in other European Union nations.

While Montenegro is not yet a member of the European Union, it has been an official candidate for membership since 2010. The country's accession to the EU is expected soon, possibly as early as 2025. Afterwards, the benefits of holding a local passport will increase even further. Montenegro has been a member of NATO since 2017.

Note that due to the E-2 visa treaty programme, Montenegrin citizens can live and work in the United States.

Kotor. Photo: Faruk Kaymak (Unsplash)

Who is Eligible for Citizenship?

As of mid-2021, there were approximately 71 thousand foreigners residing in Montenegro, out of a total population of 619.2 thousand people. Most of these foreigners came from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. Approximately 31,000 foreigners held permanent residence permits.

The grounds for obtaining Montenegrin citizenship can include the following:

By Origin. An individual is entitled to acquire Montenegrin citizenship and a passport if at least one of their parents holds Montenegrin citizenship, irrespective of their place of birth. For those residing outside the country, submitting an application to the Montenegrin consular department along with pertinent lineage documentation becomes essential. Additionally, children adopted by Montenegrin citizens and individuals aged 18 or older in international marriages, who have not inherited the second parent's citizenship, are eligible to seek citizenship. If they are below 23 years of age, they have the option to request inclusion in the Montenegrin citizens' registry.

By Birth. Individuals born in Montenegro to foreign nationals, stateless individuals, or those with undetermined citizenship status may also qualify for citizenship application. However, being born within the country does not automatically guarantee the issuance of a passport. This circumstance arises only when the child is ineligible to acquire their parents' citizenship or if their parentage remains unidentified.

By Marriage. If you are married to a Montenegrin citizen, you could potentially qualify for citizenship through the naturalization process. To be eligible in this scenario, your marriage should be legally recognized for a duration of at least three years, and you must have maintained lawful residence in Montenegro for a minimum of five years. Additionally, you will be required to furnish evidence of financial self-sufficiency, exhibit proficiency in the country's language and culture, possess a clean criminal record without serious offenses, and not be involved in any ongoing criminal proceedings. A special committee evaluates the submitted naturalization application and subsequently reaches a final decision on citizenship approval. Typically, this procedure takes several months to complete.

Before obtaining the right to citizenship, a foreign spouse resides in the country based on a temporary residence permit.

Kotor. Photo: Ivana Djudic (Unsplash)

Naturalisation on General Grounds. The most suitable approach for many foreigners, albeit the most time-consuming, is the process of naturalization. Aspiring Montenegrin citizenship holders who are foreign nationals must fulfill a series of prerequisites. The candidate should be at least 18 years old, have maintained lawful residence within the country for a span of at least 10 years (five years for stateless individuals), exhibit conversational competence in the Montenegrin language, possess a residential property, demonstrate a stable source of income, maintain a clean criminal record devoid of convictions or outstanding debts, and refrain from engaging in positions associated with national security. Moreover, dual citizenship is strictly prohibited.

To establish the legality of your residency within the nation during the initial five years, acquiring a temporary residence permit is imperative. This authorization can be obtained through two primary avenues: either via employment or property ownership. In the first scenario, entering into an employment contract with an employer and securing a work permit is necessary. The Ministry of Internal Affairs grants a temporary residence permit for employment-related reasons, valid for a maximum of one year. Renewal is possible provided the requisite conditions for permit issuance are upheld. Similarly, ownership of your own company qualifies you for a comparable temporary residence permit.

To acquire a temporary residence permit grounded in property ownership, the applicant is required to furnish the authorities with either a title deed or a purchase agreement for the property. The assessed value of the property does not matter. The duration of document validity spans one year, with the option of renewal contingent on maintaining ownership rights to the property.

Other conditions for issuance of a temporary resident permit are education, medical treatment, or carrying out research activities.

After five years, a foreigner has the right to apply for permanent residence. It will be valid for an additional five years, which will provide sufficient time to apply for naturalisation.

 Kotor. Photo: Datingscout (Unsplash)

“Golden Passports” Cancellation

Starting in 2019, Montenegro introduced a "Golden Passports" program, commonly referred to as "citizenship by investment." Initially designed to operate for three years, the program's timeline was extended by the country's government until December 31, 2022, due to substantial demand and pandemic-related delays caused by COVID-19. While there was deliberation regarding the potential for another extension, the authorities ultimately opted against it, influenced significantly by the persistent recommendations of European Union officials.

Under the Montenegro passport programme, applicants had to invest a minimum of €250,000 in government-approved real estate in less developed northern parts of the country or €450,000 in the vibrant southern coastal region. Additionally, they had to make a contribution of €200,000 (initially €100,000) to State funds. The term to get the temporary residence permit was only three weeks, while getting citizenship would take six months. To maintain their citizenship, applicants had to spend only five days in the country over a period of five years. Moreover, the investor could retain their current citizenship.

Nowadays, there are no other official programmes available for obtaining Montenegrin citizenship through investments.

Kotor. Photo: Nasta Faley (Pixabay)

Passport Application Process

The application for naturalization can be submitted at any Ministry of Internal Affairs branch in Montenegro. The application necessitates the provision of personal details and an articulation of the motivations behind seeking citizenship. Moreover, the application should be accompanied by a comprehensive document set, which includes passport copies, a birth certificate, a certificate confirming a clean criminal record, and other pertinent records. Alongside these materials, evidence of lawful residency in Montenegro and substantiation of financial self-sufficiency must also be submitted.

If the applicant does not meet the requirements for potential citizens, has provided false information, or has withheld important information (such as having a criminal record or not renouncing previous citizenship), the Ministry of Internal Affairs can reject the application.

The processing time for the application can vary from several months to a year, depending on the complexity of the specific case and the workload of the government authorities. You can request expedited processing of the application for an additional fee. In any case, the ministry must communicate its positive decision or refusal within one year from the date of application submission.

After submitting the application for naturalisation, you will be scheduled for an interview to assess your knowledge of the Montenegrin language and culture.

When you have successfully completed all stages, you will sign the Declaration of Acceptance into Montenegrin citizenship and receive a new passport.

The cost of the procedure can vary from €3,000 to €10,000, depending on the category of the applicant and other factors. Along with that, the expenses for document translation and notarisation impact the total cost.

In a Nutshell

Getting a Montenegrin passport can be a lengthy and laborious process, especially after the “Citizenship by Investment” programme completion. At the same time, it provides foreigners with numerous opportunities, allowing them to travel freely within the European Union, engage in business under favourable conditions, and travel visa-free to many countries worldwide. The list of advantages of the Montenegrin passport will significantly expand after its accession to the European Union, which is soon expected. Therefore, if you meet the requirements set by the authorities of the country, obtaining Montenegrin citizenship can be a worthwhile investment of time and resources.

Cover photo: bayankou (Pixabay)

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