So, you made the rational decision to live in Montenegro based on its favourable tax regime and potential accession to the EU.
Or, you just came on holiday and fell in love with the beautiful nature, good people, and incredible diversity in such a small country – and on a whim decided to up and move your life here.
Either way, you’re fortunate that Montenegro makes it incredibly easy – and cheap – to apply for legal residency, compared to almost every other country. For me, the process from my first meeting with my accountancy firm to picking up my local identity card, took just six weeks.
There are two primary ways to get legal residency in Montenegro (assuming you aren’t marrying a local, don’t have family in the country, and don’t have the cash for the citizen by investment program): buying real estate, or opening a company.
It’s technically possible to navigate the bureaucracy and its requirements on your own but I wouldn’t recommend it, especially if you’re not fluent in the language and have no local connections. But if you happen to enjoy a lot of time waiting in government offices and fulfilling Kafka-esque requirements at the whim of the desk clerk, all in a foreign language, then hey, go ahead. (If you’re that bad-ass, here’s a complete list of everything you’ll need.)
Buying a Property for Residency
You can simply buy a house or an apartment and use the purchase documentation as your qualification for temporary residency. The only restriction that the house has a roof (which means no unfinished land, no farmland, and no ruins).
The downside of buying a property for residency is that you must spend at least 11 months out of the year in Montenegro, or you will have to reapply for your residency permit every single year (which means re-supplying all of your documents again, and constantly resetting your counter towards permanent residency, instead the much simpler renewal process).
But if your travelling days are done and you just want to settle down in Montenegro, small studio apartments in less popular areas of Podgorica are available from around 20,000 euros.
This is a pretty cheap way to secure legal residency, plus a place to live, with no other ongoing fees other than the (low) property taxes and your annual residency renewal. Navigating the actual finding and purchasing of a property is a whole other story – one I hope to write in future.
Opening a Company for Residency in Montenegro
The more flexible, initially cheaper, option is to open a company. Essentially, you open a Montenegrin company, then you receive a work permit based on your position as executive director, which is your basis for your temporary residency application.
The benefit of this method is that there is no restriction on how much time you spend out of the country each year. (You’re an executive director: presumably you have important business elsewhere).
There is also no need to do actually do anything with the company like having customers or issuing invoices; as long as you pay your own salary and taxes you have fulfilled all requirements.
Plus, lawyers or immigration specialists aren’t required for residency applications based on company ownerships in Montenegro. You will only need to hire an accountant who will handle all your paperwork and applications.
Opening a company costs around 200 – 600 euro depending on your accountancy costs. Once you have the company and have residency, there are also ongoing monthly costs for your director’s salary, taxes, and pension contributions of around 350 – 400 euro a month.
Your accountant will also cost 50 – 250 euro monthly to handle your company administration. When you choose an accountant, one in your locality is best, as specific requirements can vary based on region. Or choose one in Podgorica as they can assist around the country.
To open a company, you’ll just need a name for it and a copy of your passport. Have your ideal company name and then several other options ready in case the first one is taken (don’t be like me and spend hours on your ideal company name, find out it is taken and then register something you thought of in five minutes while jetlagged in the accountant’s office).
It will normally take 5 – 10 business days for the company formation to be approved. Mine took two weeks. Once this is done, you can formally start the process of applying for temporary residency.
What Else You Need to Apply for Residency
First and most important: get your own documents sorted before you start the residency process. If possible, get them in your own country and bring them to Montenegro. Getting the originals of old diplomas, or criminal history checks from your own country’s police department plus getting them apostilled, all while overseas ranges from slow to impossible.
Secondly and also important as it is easily missed: when you arrive in Montenegro ready for this process, make sure you register with the tourism board and pay your tourist taxes. You’ll need to be in the system when you apply for residency.
For both types of residency, you’ll need these documents:
- A criminal history check, less than six months old, with Apostille (1)
- Passport copies (every page in the passport) (2)
- Health insurance for minimum 30 days (3)
For residency by real estate, you’ll also need proof of property ownership, less than six months old.
For residency based on company formation, you’ll need these as well…
- Proof of education (4)
- Company formation documents
- Medical health check
- 12-month property rental contract, notarised (5)
Elsewhere in the country, in Budva or Bar localities for example, your application may also require proof of 3650 euro in a local bank account (10 euros a day for a year to support yourself), but that isn’t needed in Podgorica.
Your accountancy firm will have opened your company and have your formation documents as the start of the residency process. They should also help you with health insurance and the medical health check. You’re on your own with the rental contract, however.
Requirements for the Rental Contract
Your contract has to be for a minimum of 12 months, in both English and Montenegrin, and notarised in person at a notary’s office with a translator present. It’s an easy process but might take an hour or so (you’ll get a nice chat to all the people involved while you’re waiting).
Make sure when you’re looking for a rental property that you tell your agent and potential landlord upfront that you need a contract for a residency permit. Agents are familiar with the process but landlord opinions can vary: they may decline; they may want you to pay the taxes (9% of the monthly rental fee); or they might request that the contract has a, errr, slightly inaccurate rental figure listed on it.
Don’t worry about the exact figure on the contract, it’s not important. What is important is that your name, the contract dates, your ID information, and the address are correct – in both languages. It’s a pain to re-do these contracts, so make sure it is accurate the first time.
Other Tips for Your Residency Documents
1. If, like me, you have no clue what an apostille is, it’s fancy looking seal that proves the validity of your document and is recognised internationally. I’m Australian so while I was home for a holiday, I requested a federal police check online which arrived by mail in a couple of weeks, then got it apostilled (they added a signed document then tied them both up with ribbons and a seal) at the Passport Office. You’ll also need to make an appointment for this as they won’t do it on the spot.
2. Make sure your passport has plenty of time before it expires. Your passport is tied to your residency and if it expires you’ll need to re-do your residency application, even if it isn’t yet time to renew.
3. My accountant handled the health insurance but I believe the cost is usually less than 50 euro. I also got taken to the private health center for blood tests and the medical check so didn’t need to organise this myself but cost would be around 30 euro.
4. You’ll need your original high school diploma or diploma from a tertiary institute, plus your grade transcripts. I hope you kept it at your parents’ house or your college still exists because these can be stupidly difficult documents to replace. I used my technical college degree because I’d filed it away with my grade transcripts several decades ago, whereas my high school transcripts had disappeared into the mists of history.
What About Permanent Residency?
After five consecutive years of temporary residency, you can then apply for permanent residency which is renewable every five years.
What about Citizenship?
Theoretically it is possible in future, but I haven’t heard of any foreigners up to now that have successfully acquired a passport via the route of temporary residency – permanent residency – citizenship, as the requirements have changed too often to acquire the necessary number of consecutive years.
However, you can buy one through the Citizen by Investment program. Minimum investment is 350,000 euro: there is a 100,000 euro government fee plus investment in development projects is required (250,000 euro in the north, 450,000 euro in the south or on the coast).
See you living here in Montenegro!