Montenegro Launches Golden Visa Application Process

Montenegro has on Thursday officially launched the application process for its Citizens by Investment Program, otherwise known as the Golden Visa scheme, which offers rich foreigners and their families citizenship in return for investments worth hundreds of thousands of euros.

Bay of KotorBay of Kotor, Montenegrin coast (Photo: Pudelek (Marcin Szala) (CC BY-SA 3.0))Golden Visa programs came under scrutiny after investigative journalists and NGOs revealed that schemes like this can be misused. In March last year, the OCCRP extensively wrote about their use by wealthy but shady people. A Transparency International’s report called it a gateway to Europe for corrupt people.

Earlier this year the European Union urged member states to tighten controls over their Golden Visa programs, warning the schemes can be used by organized crime groups for money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.

Twenty states, including the United Kingdom, Ireland and Spain, sell residency permits while Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria offer full citizenship.

Montenegro promotes itself as a member state of the European Monetary Union, the NATO Alliance, OSCE, and the WTO, and as a candidate for EU membership.

The tiny Balkan maritime country said it expects to raise EUR1 billion (US$1.09 billion) from the program by the end of 2021. The money will speed up “economic development of the country by creating new tourist, agricultural and processing capacities and opening new jobs,” the program’s website says.

The government decided in November last year to launch the program and defined the prices.

“At least EUR450,000 ($494,282) for the purpose of investing in one of the development projects in the capital of Podgorica or the coastal zone of Montenegro or at least EUR250,000 ($274,595) for the purpose of investing in one of the development projects in the northern or central region of Montenegro, not including the Capital City of Podgorica,” the site says.

In addition to investment, those interested to become Montenegrins will have to pay an additional EUR100,000 ($109,828) fee per applicant. The government limited the number of applicants to 2000.

Although not being an EU member, Montenegro offers “visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 122 destinations including Europe’s Schengen Area, Russia, and Turkey... as well as Mediterranean climate, beautiful scenery, and a low cost of living,” according to the program’s marketing agent Henley & Partners.

The Montenegrin citizenship, promised to be granted to the applicant’s family members too, reportedly also provides benefit of “political and economic stability, multinational and multilingual European community surrounding.”