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Postcards from Montenegro
Montenegro is the smallest country in the Balkans, but as the saying goes, good things in life come in small packages. With its daunting mountaintops, its stunning beaches, and its rich culture, Montenegro has plenty of possibilities to captivate anyone.
My name is Leo; I’m from London. Upon finishing my Master’s in finance in the LSE, I wanted to undertake a challenge. I had been in the crypto world since it was an underground business and earned big money in the 2017 Bitcoin spike.
This gave me enough capital to start my own crypto business. I had a couple of Montenegrin friends studying with me in the LSE and I knew about the unparalleled investment opportunities this country offered. The best is an innovative fintech sandbox regime, which allows testing financial technologies before obtaining a license, meaning you can earn the funds for the license through the sandbox.
If you want to know more about our crypto services in Montenegro, check out our article right here.
And that’s before mentioning that Montenegro has one of the simplest and most beneficial tax regimes in Europe.
My friends presented Montenegro as a hidden paradise. The country is one of the ecological wonders of the planet and has attractions for all, from snowy skiing mountains in Kolasin to the otherworldly beaches in the Adriatic coastline.
I didn’t think much. Montenegro seemed like a Balkan El Dorado, where I could invest and develop my dream business freely while living in a heavenly country with warm people, delightful food, and, best of all, beneficial taxes.
Going to Montenegro
Montenegro has an open immigration policy, which means it’s relatively easy to get to the country. In fact, seeking fresh investment, Montenegro started a novel CBI program in 2019, which has seen quite a success quickly as Montenegro will presumably join the EU in 2025, and it costs significantly less than the other EU CBI programs, Malta and Cyprus.
If you want to know more about our citizenship services in Montenegro, check out our article right here.
But the program didn’t exist when I moved to Montenegro. Still, I was able to obtain the residency easily. Montenegro offers two main paths towards legal residency in the country: real estate ownership and company ownership.
The other path towards obtaining a residence permit in Montenegro is buying real estate. Foreigners don’t have any limitations regarding this path. You can extend the permit annually and can get it if you buy houses, apartments, companies, hotels, restaurants, and seasonal homes, no matter their value. However, this path won’t lead to permanent residence. I qualified for both because I bought an apartment in downtown Podgorica and I registered my crypto exchange company right after arrival. However, I chose the company path. Why? Because it offers the possibility to obtain citizenship after living as a permanent resident for five years.
All I needed was to submit the following documents:
· Proof of company ownership
· €3650 receipt in a Montenegrin bank
· Police clearance
· Medical insurance for at least 30 days
· Registration with the local police within 24 of arriving in Montenegro
· Copy of each page of my passport
· Paying the €25 residence permit fee
And that was it!
Getting there was simple. There are many direct flights from Europe’s main cities to Montenegro. You can easily fly to Montenegro from Berlin, Munich, Rome, Warsaw, London, Paris, and Moscow.
What to do in Montenegro?
Montenegro offers a relaxed lifestyle. It gives you the comfy life you’re used to in the West for a fraction of the price, without the stress, the logjams, and taxes of a European metropolis.
Montenegro is still somewhat overlooked as a tourist destination in Europe, but that’s precisely why it’s seen as one of the last few undiscovered tourist investment places in the Old Continent, and especially in the Mediterranean.
I traveled a ton to Switzerland and Norway while studying, which means I’m a huge skiing fan. I arrived in Montenegro during winter, and I didn’t lose much time to go to Kolašin, which is the best skiing destination in Montenegro, and probably in the whole Balkans. It is surrounded by the mighty Bjelasica mountain and cut in half by the river Tara, which offers unique views. The best? It has around 17 km of ski tracks.
The country is quite small, meaning that from Podgorica, you’re a bit more than a one-hour drive from all major tourist attractions in Montenegro. For those who love the beach, the Bay of Kotor and Budva won’t leave them disappointed. In fact, Budva is nicknamed the Balkan Miami. The nightlife is amazing during the summer, and for the rest of the year, it has a calm ambiance, perfect for relaxing and thinking about what to do next with your business.
For those who love culture, history, and architectonical wonders, Montenegro has plenty of them. Kotor has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Its bay and its Venetian fortress.
When I started talking with my Montenegrin friends about our potential business, and they proposed locating it in Montenegro, I was skeptical at first. Still, they insisted that Montenegro is Europe’s best-kept secret. Now, I agree wholeheartedly.
For many years, the word kafana was associated with low-class and even used as an almost-insult. Kafanas are local bistros that offer coffee, drinks, and small beverages such as the Spanish tapas. In the last few years, the bad name has gone away, and they’ve become a part of the Montenegrin traditional culture.
Most have been rebranded, but they keep the same spirit. You meet people of all classes, with all kinds of history. It seems like a small capsule of the mix and match of the Montenegrin culture and history. In the Montenegrin folk tales, Kafanas are the places where lovers weep their broken hearts drowning their sorrows in alcohol, gamblers bet fortunes, friends drink to their future, and business and political arrangements are negotiated with a few bottles of rakia in-between.
Living in Montenegro
You’re probably wondering about the day to day life in Montenegro, and the major question is perhaps the language and culture. Montenegrin is a complex language, and the main problem is that it’s written both in Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.
However, if you speak one of the other Balkan languages (Serbian, Croatian, etc.), it’s easy to get along. Even better, English is widely spoken in the capital and the tourist destinations, and especially by young people, meaning that, in general, you won’t have many problems.
The country was one of the borders between the Eastern and Western Roman Empire, was part of the Venetian Republic, one of the borderlands of the Ottoman Empire, and, then, part of Yugoslavia. This gives the country a cosmopolitan vibe. Locals are amazingly welcoming and eager to meet new cultures, which eased up my arrival to the country.
One of the best things in Montenegro is that it’s the most stable and pro-business country in the Balkan region. Private property is sacred (there haven’t been expropriations of foreign-owned properties since the full independence of the country), and foreign investors have the same rights to local investors. The country has had the same government since 1991, which is good stability-wise, but might not seem ideal for Western standards.
For Balkan standards, Montenegro is incredibly safe. The main issue is organized crime, but there are no gang wars that affect foreigners in Montenegro, and violent crime is fairly infrequent. Aside from petty theft, such as pickpocketing in touristic places, you’ll be safe in Montenegro and will relish long-night walks in the picturesque streets of Podgorica.
You’ll enjoy most of the comfort you may enjoy in your typical Western city, with much lower prices in renting, public services, supermarket products, and transportation.
Your monthly service bill will range somewhere between €50 and €100. Monthly bus passes in Podgorica cost about €20 per month and a three-course dinner for two at a restaurant costs €50.
The public healthcare system is good, but private insurances are affordable, which is why I acquired one. Doctor visits range from €25 to €35 in the main specialties.
Real estate prices are among the lowest in Europe. The square meter in downtown Podgorica costs about €1400, and outside the downtown, it’s closer to €1000. Renting a three-bedroom apartment in the city center costs about €600 in the city center. You won’t find prices close to that in London, not even in your wildest dreams.
Taxes in Montenegro
I’m not a tax expert, but you don’t need to be one to understand the unparalleled tax benefits Montenegro has.
If you want to have an expert opinion about taxes in Montenegro, check our article right here.
First, it’s far from being a tax haven, which means it’s not blacklisted. Second, it’s not a CRS jurisdiction, meaning your accounts in Montenegrin banks won’t be automatically reported to foreign jurisdictions.
9 is a magic number in Montenegro. If you ask about a particular tax in Montenegro, there’s a good chance it’ll be 9 %. The corporate tax rate and capital gains tax rate are both 9 %, and the income tax rate varies between 9 % and 11 %. Montenegro has a growing network of more than 40 tax treaties, including the UK, which is fantastic for me as I still hold some investments in the UK and avoid double taxation.
The best of all is that the system is simple. It doesn’t have complex deductions, credits, or income rules. You pay 9 % for your income under the national income average (€750 per month) and 11 % on the rest of your income, plus a 15 % surtax over your total tax payments for municipalities.
As real estate has surprisingly low prices that are continuously rising, it’s an amazing investment opportunity. Furthermore, the rental income tax is 9 %, but you can deduct 40 % of the gross income as rental costs, or even 70 % if you rent with a touristic agency. Right now, I’m looking to invest in some seaside properties in Budva, and they offer some of the best ROIs in Europe.
Montenegro is one of the last frontiers of investment in Europe. It offers one of the best onshore tax regimes and attractive crypto licensing environments you’ll find in the continent. And that’s not it. You also have the epic mountain landscapes, the charming towns, and the crystalline beaches in its Adriatic shore. You don’t have to be an expert tol understand Montenegro’s potential. I sure did and won’t leave Montenegro for a very long time.
If you want to know more about our services in Montenegro, check out our Country Focus right here.
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