What it's like living in tiny Montenegro, where the rich pay R7 million for citizenship
- The ultrawealthy are paying millions to snap up second passports in Montenegro, a tiny European country on the Adriatic Sea.
- CNN reports that the Balkan country has seen a 142% increase in applications for its citizenship-by-investment program, which costs at least R7 million.
- At least 66 millionaires live in Montenegro, which is about the same size as Connecticut.
- It's been emerging as a luxury destination and was ranked one of the top destinations for billionaires in 2019.
- Montenegro is an attractive destination for yacht owners, largely thanks to Porto Montenegro, which can fit 450 superyachts and includes luxury shopping and restaurants.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The ultra-wealthy are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for citizenship in Montenegro, a tiny European country that's been called "the next French Riviera."
New applications rose 142% in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to the fourth quarter of 2019 — the highest increase of any country, CNN reports. In 2018, Montenegro launched a new program to lure in millionaires by letting them invest in the country in order to get a Montenegro passport.
A Montenegro passport will currently cost you at least R7 million — broken down into a R2 million grant plus R5 million invested into development projects like hotels, resorts, and commercial real estate. And that's not including the R370,000 application fee.
Such programs, referred to as "golden visa" programs, have been rising in popularity during the coronavirus pandemic as the ultra-wealthy look for loopholes in a world where travel is increasingly difficult, per CNN. With enough money, travelers can essentially buy a second passport or "elite residency" in a country.
Montenegro, a Balkan country on the Adriatic Sea that's about the size of Connecticut, may seem like an unlikely destination for millionaires. But it's already home to at least 66 of them, and its picturesque coastline, new luxury hotels, and popularity among yacht owners have made people take notice of what's been called "the next French Riviera."
Montenegro recently built two massive yacht ports that include luxury residences, hotels, and shopping, drawing comparisons to the glitzy French Riviera city-state of Monaco. Millionaires in Montenegro can get free 24-hour servicing for the yachts, stay in luxurious hotels like the Regent Porto Montenegro and the island-resort of Sveti Stefan, and reap the benefits of exclusive Owners Clubs and Yacht Clubs.
Here's what it's like living in Montenegro as a millionaire.
It's getting an influx of ultra-wealthy applicants for its citizenship-by-investment program, where foreigners invest at least at least R7 million in the country for a passport, CNN reports.
New applications for the program, which Montenegro launched in 2018, rose by 142% in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, per CNN.
Such programs, referred to as "golden visa" programs, have surged in popularity during the pandemic as the world's wealthy try to get around travel bans, according to CNN. With enough money, travelers can essentially buy a second passport or "elite residency" in a country.
"In fact, it's not just the unspoiled terrain, ample sunlight, and hospitable locals that have made Montenegro an exciting travel destination but also a bevy of newly renovated and built luxury hotels and restaurants, which have caused some to call Montenegro the next French Riviera," Nick Mafi wrote in Architectural Digest in 2018.
Montenegro was one of the top destinations billionaires were traveling to in 2019, according to a report by Business Insider and the luxury travel agency Original Travel.
Tom Barber, a cofounder of Original Travel, told Business Insider last year that Montenegro was set for a luxury upgrade with newly opened resorts like Chedi Lustica Bay and the upcoming Portonovi.
Montenegro is home to about 620,000 people.
"In my opinion, Monaco has lost its soul — there's no real atmosphere there anymore," Kai Dieckmann, the general manager of the Regent Porto Montenegro, a five-star property in Boka Bay, told Architectural Digest. "But in Montenegro, we have natural beauty, incredible food and wine that are both locally grown, and friendly people."
Montenegro doesn't need Monaco's tax benefits to attract visitors, Dieckmann added.
The country counted 64 citizens with at least R17 million in their bank accounts at the end of 2017 — 10 more millionaires than the year before, according to Telegraf.
In 2018, Montenegro started a program that lets up to 2,000 wealthy individuals who invest at least R5 million in one of the government's development projects, to obtain a Montenegro passport.
Since the launch, the price of a passport has gone up to at least R7 million.
In 2019, a record 26% of global ultra-high-net-worth-individuals planned on emigrating to one of the many countries — including Greece, New Zealand, the UK, Cyprus, and Malta — that offer citizenship and residency through investment schemes, Liam Bailey, Knight Frank's Global Head of Research, wrote in the consultancy firm's 2019 Wealth Report.
And interest in such programs has soared during the pandemic, as CNN reported.
It's an attractive port for yacht owners not only aesthetically but also because it has free 24-hour yacht service and a tax and duty-free fuel station.
The waterfront development's shopping center includes luxury brands Dior, Rolex, Burberry, Balenciaga, and many more.
In 2017, it won a Marina of Distinction Award by The Yacht Harbour Association.
The Regent Porto Montenegro was the first five-star property in Boka Bay, where Porto Montenegro is located. "Investors have swooned over property" in the Regent, according to Architectural Digest.
A three-bedroom in the Regent Residences is listed for R51 million.
Buyers of these luxury residences get membership to the Owners Club and the Yacht Club, which offer access to a sports club, a fitness center, a tennis club, a 64-meter outdoor swimming pool, a private member's lounge, a nightclub, and restaurant.
Porto Montenegro even has an international school for its permanent residents.
It will eventually include seven luxury hotels, two marinas, a new village, and a golf course.
In February the project was awarded the Best European Property Development award at the Luxury Network International Awards in Dubai.
"As with its predecessor, Porto Montenegro, Lustica Bay is slowly raising the profile of Montenegro on the global luxury tourism map," Paul Bradbury wrote in Total Montenegro News.
The site will have shops, restaurants, cafés, sporting facilities, and even schools and medical centers. Essentially, Ludica Bay will be an entirely new town.
The website describes the hotel as "a private enclave" within Lustica Bay, which offers "a wealth of world-class residential and lifestyle facilities" and will be "a new Montenegrin coastal haven offering peace, healthy living and modern luxury for those who seek life as it should be."
Nightly rates start at aboutR4,200.
Lustica Bay touts Montenegro's tax system as "one of the most attractive in Europe," with a "flat-rate income tax and a corporate income tax rate set at 9%."
The 80-acre hotel estate has three pools, Turkish baths, a yoga pavilion, and several fine-dining restaurants.
For a little less than R5.2 million, you can get a three-bedroom luxury condo with a terrace overlooking the sea, or a four-bedroom, three-story house in Budva for the same price.
Or for a little less than R52 million, you can pic up a five-bedroom luxury villa with a pool and sauna and a terrace overlooking the sea.
Some of the country's most prestigious addresses can be found on the island of Sveti Stefan, where you can get a five-bedroom luxury villa with five levels of living space, a two-car garage, a fitness center, a sauna and pool, and a terrace, for about R61 million.
These international buyers have been attracted by new-construction homes "based on European standard expectations," Leila Calic, director of Resido Montenegro, a real-estate agency and consultancy, told The New York Times in 2019.
"The market is more and more offering luxury properties, and at prices still attractive in comparison with the French coast, for example, or even Spain seaside locations," Calic said.
Local real-estate agents told The New York Times that between 80% and 90% of sales in Montenegro go to international buyers.