It’s not often that major developments occur in Southern Europe in the month of August. Montenegro’s announcement of its new instant second passport by investment program this past week is an exception.
Perhaps the Montenegrin government hoped to avoid the inevitable backlash from certain nationalist and socialist politicians in the European Union, while attracting the attention of wealthy Americans, Russians and Chinese at whom the program is aimed.
Montenegro has just become only the third state in the world to offer an economic citizenship program, along with the Caribbean island nations of St Kitts and Nevis and the Commonwealth of Dominica. Austria has a similar program with a few more strings attached, while Paraguay, Uruguay and the Dominican Republic are known for their relatively liberal grants of second citizenship after a period of residence. (More information on citizenship by naturalization programs.)
Montenegro is the youngest country in modern Europe, having voted for independence and achieved international recognition in 2006. However its history dates back to Byzantine times. (See Wikipedia entry on Montenegro)
Since independence, Montenegro has boomed, fuelled by a surge of foreign offshore investment… to date mainly from wealthy Russians who have felt comfortable with its Slavic culture, stunning coastline, visa-free travel to the European Union, and confidential offshore banking regime that has been substantially cleaned up following some scandals in the 1990s.
By launching an official economic citizenship program, however, the government of Montenegro hopes to attract investors from further afield, by co-operating with international law firms, trust companies and offshore service providers. We don’t doubt they are taking aim at the huge Chinese market, as well as the increasing flow of Americans who – spurred on by policies like Obamacare and the HIRE Act – are looing to renounce US citizenship for tax, privacy and asset protection reasons.
The new Montenegro economic citizenship program will require an investment of at least EUR 500,000, some of which goes direct to the Montenegrin Treasury and the rest of which must be used to generate business and employment in Montenegro.
Although the announcement is new, insiders have been suspecting for some time that Montenegro passports were available to prominent wealthy investors. One of the most infamous to date is former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who now travels on a Montenegro passport. Mr Shinawatra was convicted in absentia in his homeland on corruption charges, but denies all the charges against him and has announced plans to invest in Montenegro, possibly in some of the luxury hotels along the coast where he has reportedly been staying.
Details of this new second passport program are not yet entirely clear, except that it will be substantially more expensive than established competitors such as the St Kitts and Nevis program that also offers its passport holders visa-free travel to the European Union.
Rest assured however that we at Q Wealth will be monitoring the situation closely and we are already in contact with the government of Montenegro with regard to an interview and citizenship FAQ for the autumn Q Wealth Report. If you are not yet on our free e-mail list, sign up now to receive updates.