Montenegro is in the process of becoming one of the most attractive countries for all kinds of non-European foreigners who are looking to settle in Europe, as well as for digital nomads and businessmen (European or not) who are looking to set up a base in a convenient location and time zone.
Why, you ask?
Because this magnificent country offers a very cheap and low-tax way of living and because it’s so easy to get a residence permit, which can be upgraded to a permanent residence permit after 5 years.
Not only is the process of immigration much less complicated than in most other European countries, but also the tax burden is significantly reduced in Montenegro – both in a professional and personal sense. With some minor details to bear in mind, there is generally a flat-rate tax of just 9% in Montenegro.
Once you’ve acquired permanent residence status in Montenegro, you have almost all the same rights as Montenegrin citizens – with the exception of the right to vote. After 10 years, you even have the possibility of getting Montenegrin citizenship.
Even without a Montenegrin passport, the residence permit still allows hassle-free travel within the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days.
Montenegro is expected to become a member of the European Union in 2025. Although this may be one of the easiest and cheapest ways for people with very weak passports to obtain an EU passport (even now, you already get visa-free access to more than 120 countries with just a Montenegrin passport), this may have negative consequences for those of us with strong passports and those who are only looking for a low-tax base and to be free from overly bureaucratic EU regulations. It all depends on your motivation and objective. Nevertheless, these are still discussions for the future and for now all we can do is wait and see how the situation develops.
This small country is the rising star of the Balkans and is not as “behind” as people (who have never been) might think. Quite the opposite, in fact.
As well as low taxes, in Montenegro you can also expect:
- Political stability
- Welcoming inhabitants with a relatively high level of English and a growing French presence
- Incredibly beautiful nature, a pleasant climate and varied landscapes (depending on the time of year, you can go skiing in the mountains and swimming in the sea in the same day!)
- Visa-free entry for visitors from most countries
- Excellent air links, thanks to a variety of local airports, not only in the capital of Podgorica
- Exquisite local wine
We leave you with this interesting article written by Christina, a perpetual traveller currently based in Montenegro.
Acquiring residency by setting up a company vs investment
You can find a lot of information online that mentions the possibility of obtaining residency in Montenegro through real estate investment.
This seems extremely tempting at first, and it’s actually why I started looking into Montenegro. The incredibly low requirements intrigued me, and they are real, it is not false information.
Essentially, anyone, regardless of citizenship, can become a Montenegrin resident by purchasing any habitable property (not just land). There is no minimum investment amount; the only requirement is that for each person, you must have 12 square metres of space.
This means that you can simply purchase an apartment anywhere you like, and just like that, you are a European resident. While prices for properties along the coast are rapidly rising, in the countryside, you can get away with spending just 10,000 EUR for a small flat to renovate. Naturally, a nice place will cost more (and renovating here might not be so easy), but for people with particularly low budgets, it’s definitely possible.
Once everything is in your name and has been legally processed, you can apply for residency, which can then be renewed every year for 5 years in order to obtain permanent residency.
Now, what they don’t tell you is this:
- Residency through real estate investment will never lead to citizenship (which is bad news for those looking to get another passport)
- You are not allowed to leave the country for more than one month a year (which can be a significant inconvenience for digital nomads and perpetual travellers who are only really looking for a base).
On the other hand, when you obtain your temporary residency through a company, you are free to travel as much as you like and you also have the possibility of getting a passport.
Therefore, I think that for most people real estate investment is not the way to go, as it limits your freedom to travel and the possibility of obtaining citizenship.
Although there are monthly costs involved in setting up a company, these are still quite low and are the much better option for getting Montenegrin residency.
Personal and corporate income tax in Montenegro
Legally, as a resident, you are subject to tax in Montenegro on your global income. Although this is the official law, in reality, no one pays much attention to the rest of your income, as long as you pay taxes on your business in Montenegro.
Evidently, I am not recommending anything illegal – I am simply reporting what happens in practice in Montenegro.
Now, let’s move on to the theory. Montenegro applies a flat-rate tax of 9% on all your universal income.
This applies to both your company and to you as an individual (your salary). The 9% tax rate on personal income only applies up to the average salary, which is around 750 EUR a month (subject to change), whereas all income above this threshold will be taxed at 11%.
In other words, supposing your monthly salary is 2,000 EUR, you would pay 9% tax on the first 750 EUR and 11% tax on the remaining 1,250 EUR.
In addition, municipalities are allowed to impose a surcharge that varies from around 13% to 15%. This percentage only applies to the federal tax paid to the government and not to your entire salary.
The 9% flat-rate tax also applies to investment income: interest, dividends and capital gains. It is worth noting, however, that non-residents are taxed at just 5% on their interest income.
VAT in Montenegro has just been increased from 19% to 21%. The reduced rate for basic supplies, such as food, is 7%.
There is no wealth tax.
How to get a (permanent) residence permit in Montenegro by setting up a company
So, you might ask, how does the idea of setting up a company and getting a residence permit in Montenegro work?
Essentially, you set up a company and appoint yourself as director. By doing so, you will obtain a work permit, which forms the foundation of your residence permit.
The good news is that this company does not have to actually operate. You can use it as a sort of shell company without really running a business.
After having set up this shell company, you must pay yourself a monthly salary, part of which must go to your health insurance and another part to your pension fund. The absolute minimum to which this can be reduced is a (part-time) salary of 100 EUR a month, 45 EUR of which is for taxes, health insurance and pension. The remaining 55 EUR is your director’s salary.
45 EUR of 100 EUR seems a big percentage, but keep in mind that this is the price of your residence permit, that this also gives you full health insurance in Montenegro and that the health system is quite good (dentists have a very good reputation).
Evidently, you can also use this company to run a legitimate business. This works well for people who work online, as well as for offline businesses.
In fact, there are a billion business opportunities in Montenegro. The start-up scene and general development are still many years behind Western Europe and even further behind the USA. This is unsurprising, seeing as the country is still fairly new and not so long ago, endured a war that followed a long period of communism.
You can simply replicate concepts that have proven themselves in the “West”, perhaps refine them a little, and succeed in Montenegro.
The Montenegrin government is also investing extensively in the economy; developing the country in general and offering tax incentives to attract investors and businesses. At the end of this article, I will show you some plans for the IT sector, for example, which make technology start-ups extremely interesting.
Step 1: Setting up a company in Montenegro
Setting up a company in Montenegro is relatively quick and easy, if you have a local partner. Navigating your way through the Montenegrin bureaucracy and language barriers without a local expert is probably manageable, but will likely cause a lot of stress and headaches.
Fortunately, the costs of doing this are quite low, thanks to low overall wages and a low cost of living in this beautiful Balkan country. However, the headache of doing all this yourself is simply not worth it.
With regard to the different legal structures, creating an LLC (limited liability company, not to be confused with the American LLC) is the most common and I would certainly recommend choosing this structure, because (well, you guessed it) of the limited liability that protects your private assets. Moreover, the capital required for an LLC is only 1 EUR.
If you want to go all-in in Montenegro, you can set up a joint-stock company; the minimum capital for this is 25,000 EUR. Our partners are more than capable of setting it up for you (all you need to do is write to us), however, in this article, I want to concentrate on LLCs and how they lead to the possibility of easily acquiring a residence permit in this European country.
What are the costs involved in setting up a company in Montenegro?
- Installation costs:
Our local partners can take care of the entire company registration process for you for 1,300 EUR. This includes all government fees, notary fees and service charges.
There are quite a few formalities to complete, which I will list below, along with the conditions for residency.
- Monthly and annual costs:
As previously mentioned, you must pay yourself a minimum salary of 100 EUR, of which 45 EUR will go towards health insurance, taxes and a pension fund.
Of course, there are accounting procedures that should be carried out by a professional. If you do little or no commercial activity (i.e. you use the company solely for your residence permit), my local accountant will do it for you for just 110 EUR a month. As your business grows, naturally so will the fees.
There is a required annual report, which is already included in this price; my accountant chooses to do this at no extra cost for his clients.
Regarding the business address, you can either use your private address in Montenegro, or choose to use the business address of my local partner company at no extra cost.
All in all, this amounts to a cost of 155 EUR a month: 110 EUR for the bookkeeping and 45 EUR for health insurance etc.
As you can see, it’s a very good deal!
How long does it take to set up a company in Montenegro?
The entire filing process for the company (LLC) takes around 7 days in Montenegro.
Step 2: Residence permit in Montenegro
Now for the next question, what are the costs involved in a residence permit in Montenegro?
The entire residence permit process will come to 1,300 EUR. This includes all government fees, translation costs, notary fees and service charges that I will list below.
Please note that you must have a Montenegrin equivalent of a certificate of secondary school or university level education. This is the only cost not included, as there are two different prices: the equivalent of a secondary education certificate costs 150 EUR, and for a university level certificate, it would be 300 EUR.
You do not have to use your highest level/ most recent qualification certificate; a secondary level certificate is absolutely fine, even if you have a university degree. Doing it like this could save you 150 EUR.
How long does it take to get a residence permit in Montenegro?
The whole process of applying for a residence permit takes about 15 to 20 days in Montenegro. Ivana and her team will accompany you to all the necessary appointments.
There are a number of formalities, translations and certifications to complete, which I will list below with the company’s requirements.
What documents and services are required to set up a company and obtain a residence permit?
In the investment mentioned above, all the following services are included, unless otherwise indicated.
Be aware that other agencies that you might find online do not list all of these required documents and services, which means that they are not included in their price and that you will have to pay extra for them, but you won’t find this out until later.
They may also choose not to include a mandatory 67 EUR tax in their prices or the legally required 30 EUR tourist tax. This is the difficulty of doing business in foreign countries; you don’t know the requirements beforehand.
To get your residency application started, you will need:
- Passport and visa (you must provide)
- Translation of passport (included)
- Passport certificate drawn up by a notary (included)
- Proof of a special power of attorney (included)
- Original secondary or university level education certificate (certificate and document with grades) (you must provide)
- Translation and official recognition (‘Nostrification’) of the qualification (EXTRA: secondary school level 150 EUR, university 300 EUR)
- Criminal record/ criminal record of your country of citizenship for the last 6 months
- Translation of criminal records (included)
- Either a rental contract or proof of a house in your name (some landlords refuse to give you a contract, so if you don’t have either, Ivana can do it for you for an extra 200 EUR)
- A Montenegrin bank account and proof that you have at least 3,650 EUR in it: 10 EUR for each day of the year, as proof that you can support yourself. (If you don’t have these two requirements, we can arrange something for you, but only through a confidential appointment)
- Insurance (included)
- Medical exam (included, you will be accompanied to a medical examination to see if you are fit to work)
- Police registration (included)
- White Touristic Card (included, proof that you have paid the tourist tax for 30 days, as legally required)
- Formal job application to hire yourself as a manager (included)
- In addition, no other company offers a solution if you cannot afford to put 3,650 EUR into a Montenegrin bank account.
Getting a residence permit for family members (and friends)
- Can your spouse and children get a residence permit?
Yes, they can get residency through you, as a director. You must, however, be able to provide a marriage certificate and/or birth certificate.
- Is it possible to hire relatives (other than a spouse/children) and/or friends so that they can also get a residence permit, or does everyone have to set up their own company?
Family members can work for your company and obtain residency through this, but only after you have been there for a year. Friends can work for your company, but they will only be permitted to stay for 3 years, so they will not be able to get a permanent residence permit.
Step 3: Permanent residency and citizenship
For the first five years of your stay in Montenegro, you will have to renew your residence permit every year.
All your documents, such as school certificates, police records etc. will be kept on file and will not need to be renewed. All you will have to do each year is a medical check-up to prove that you are physically fit to work (the test is very basic).
On top of this, you will have to pay your taxes, social contributions etc. on time in order to receive confirmation from the tax authorities. That’s everything you have to do.
Sometimes, you will read that you are not allowed to leave Montenegro for more than 6 months during this 5-year period. This is not true – this is only the case if you are obtaining residency through real-estate investment.
Again: there is no requirement to be physically in Montenegro for a certain period of time in order to obtain permanent residency.
The only thing that you really have to do is renew your residence permit every year, without fail, for 5 consecutive years. If you miss a year, the process will be reset and you will have to do another 5 years without a break.
Acquiring citizenship in Montenegro
After having been in the country for 10 years with a valid residence permit, you can apply for citizenship. I have not gone through this process myself as it is a fairly new country (Montenegro regained its independence in 2006), therefore in general, few people are yet to have achieved citizenship.
Some sources say that you have to do some sort of examination about the country in Montenegrin, but you are allowed to bring a translator with you for this. Others say you must be able to prove basic language skills. In reality, there is not yet any reliable information on this matter.
If you are in a hurry to get Montenegrin citizenship, you should know that there is also a Special Citizenship Programme. As is the case in other countries where this type of programme is offered, purchasing citizenship is relatively expensive; in Montenegro, a minimum investment of 250,000 EUR is required, on top of which a donation of 100,000 EUR must be made, not to mention the cost of the procedure itself. Depending on which part of the country you are in, the minimum investment could even be close to half a million euros.
The big disadvantage of Montenegrin citizenship is that in most cases, dual citizenship is not recognised. Therefore, it may currently not be as attractive for residents who already have a European passport. However, once Montenegro has joined the EU, the status of the passport will increase significantly, so there will not be much difference.
If you are currently a citizen of a country with a weaker passport, this could be very attractive for you, even if it means having to give up your current passport.
Once Montenegro has joined the EU, you will automatically have the right to live and work anywhere within the European Union. That is, assuming the EU still exists by then, after all, since 2020, nothing is guaranteed anymore and we have absolutely no idea what the world will look like in a few years time. 😉
With a Montenegrin passport, you have visa-free access to over 120 countries, including the entire European Schengen Area, Russia, the United Arab Emirate, North Macedonia and Turkey. You are also eligible for the E-2 Investor Visa treaty with the United States, which means you can live and work in the United States.
To sum up, Montenegro is a very, very attractive country for expatriates who are looking to settle down in Europe, as well as for digital nomads and perpetual travellers with this same goal.
In addition to the incredible scenery, warm weather and friendly nature of the inhabitants, it is tax haven compared to its EU neighbours.
Although there is a bit of bureaucracy involved, thanks to the relatively low average income, it is very affordable and you can easily hire people to sort everything out for you.
The whole process of setting up a company and getting a residence permit will only take 20 to 25 days in total.
With the possibility of easily converting your residence permit into a permanent residence permit and even into citizenship without any travel restrictions makes this country even more attractive.
Internet is fast, cheap (a SIM card with 500 GB of mobile data a month costs 10 EUR) and reliable. Most inhabitants speak fairly good English and are very happy to see foreigners settling in their country, unlike in Western countries where the feeling is generally the complete opposite.
Personally, I have completely fallen in love with this beautiful country where you have everything at your fingertips: spectacular coastlines, warm and stunning seas and beaches, charming architecture, impressive canyons and mountains and picturesque lakes.
Montenegro has everything in such a small country – an incredible blend that is hard to find anywhere else.
The government is working hard to support the economy and encourage start-ups. As this information is not relevant for everybody, I will add the following support plans at the end here and now conclude my guide, on what is probably my new favourite European country.
IT and Innovation: Tax support programme
The following information is fairly recent and will have to be discussed with our lawyers in the relevant field. Essentially, this is the idea (translated from Montenegrin):
“The Government of Montenegro has finally turned its attention to the IT community and has adopted a new strategy to develop the IT sector of the country for 2020-2024. The IT and innovations sphere is recognised as a priority area for the economy.”
Funds amounting to 30 million EUR have been earmarked for the development of this sector through a direct partnership between the Montenegrin government and the national economy.
The main points of the strategy are as follows:
- Creation of the strategic Montenegrin IT cluster – 300,000 EUR
- Creation of the e-commerce support centre – 150,000 EUR
- Introduction of global online payment systems in Montenegro
- Creation of an innovations centre with virtual and augmented reality technologies – 25.5 million EUR
- Innovations in the public sector – 339,000 EUR
- Constant support for innovative start-ups – 500,000 EUR
There are also important advantages for investors, such as:
- Start-ups are exempt from taxes for the first 5 years
- Significant reduction in taxes and wage costs – up to 50%
- Exemption from paying taxes and fees when participating in innovation projects
- Exemption from income tax of up to 100% when reinvesting in innovation projects
- Exemption from income tax of up to 100% when investing in start-ups and funding for innovations projects
- Exemption from income tax when donating funds to research institutes
- Reduction in property and construction taxes for infrastructure and innovative activities
- Creation of the Innovation Fund
And that’s everything for today.
I hope you have enjoyed Christina’s article. If you are interested in opening a bank account, setting up a company or acquiring residence in Montenegro, you can contact us and our partners over there will be able to help you.
Of course, if you would prefer to discuss all the options for your specific situation together, you can also book a consultation directly, or, if you would prefer to have a look at all the migration options that the world has to offer first, you can purchase our Encyclopaedia for Emigrants.
Because your life belongs to you!