Youssef owned a fishing company that specialised in marine fish and seafood. His hobby was yachting. Every vacation, the entrepreneur sailed on a yacht in the Mediterranean or participated in a regatta.
Visas to the Schengen Area were a pain in the neck for Youssef. It was impossible to set sail along the European coasts at any convenient moment. Youssef had to plan trips in advance and count days spent in the Schengen Area not to overstay the visa. And visas were not always issued for the desired period. For example, an investor wanted to get a five-year visa, but due to the unstable situation with the Covid-19 pandemic, he was granted a six-month visa instead.
Youssef learned he could register his yacht abroad and travel in Europe visa-free if he obtained a second passport. On August 2nd, 2021, Youssef contacted Immigrant Invest.
Preliminary Due Diligence check
Before starting cooperation, our lawyers checked Youssef’s reliability. Due Diligence helps identify risks and reduce the likelihood of rejection when participating in citizenship programs for investors.
Youssef passed the check against international legal and business databases, as well as the Internet. No negative or compromising information was found. It meant that Youssef could participate in any citizenship program.
An international lawyer and a Compliance Anti Money Laundering Officer
How the investor’s goals changed when he learned the terms of investment programs
Immigrant Invest lawyers told Youssef about the main requirements of citizenship and residence permit programs and how he could benefit from participation:
- It is necessary to invest in the country’s economy.
- Investments can be of two types: non-refundable and refundable.
- Investments under European programs start from €150,000. The investor also pays Due Diligence and state fees.
- Spouses, children, and parents can get a second passport with the investor under any program. Parents and adult children must be financially dependent.
When Youssef learned about the possibility of getting a status for the whole family at once, he started thinking about his daughter Dina, her husband and their children also getting second citizenship in Europe. Youssef had two grandchildren, and he would have liked them to travel freely and choose where to study, live and work in the future.
The final requirements formulated by Youssef:
- Not only he himself but also his daughter and her family were to obtain the status.
- The status opened up the possibility to travel around the Schengen Area without visas.
- He either got an EU country's second citizenship, or there was a prospect of getting it in the future.
- The budget for the whole family was 1 million euros.
Youssef’s daughter was not financially dependent on her father, so Youssef could not include her in his application. Thus, Immigrant Invest lawyers suggested that Youssef sponsor her participation in the citizenship program. They submitted two applications, with Youssef and Dina as the main applicants and Youssef paying all the expenses. Of course, the costs were higher than if submitting one application.
|Application 1||Application 2|
|The main applicant and the investor — Youssef||The sponsor — Youssef|
The main applicant — Youssef’s daughter
Citizenship that could help reach the investor’s goals
Malta is the only EU state that allows obtaining citizenship by naturalisation for exceptional services by direct investment. The citizenship program for investors is operating in Montenegro, which plans to join the European Union in 2025. Citizens of Montenegro can stay in the Schengen Area without a visa for up to 90 days in half a year.
In Portugal, Spain, Greece, Malta and Cyprus, one can get a residence permit by investment. Austria offers a residence permit for financially independent persons. After 5—12 years, depending on the countries’ legislation, it is possible to apply for citizenship in these countries.
Which country’s citizenship suited Youssef best
To get Malta citizenship for a family of 5, one needs to invest at least one million euros. But only in the case when all the family members are included in one application. In Youssef’s case, he would have spent €752,500 on himself and €1,660,500 on his daughter’s family, which is €2,413,000 in total. The costs exceeded Youssef’s budget, so the Malta citizenship option got off the table.
To become eligible for Austria, Greece or Spain citizenship, foreigners must live in the country for 7—12 years on a residence permit. Neither Youssef nor any of his family members planned to relocate.
Portugal citizenship can be obtained after holding a residence permit for 5 years. You also need to spend 7 days a year in the country and pass the Portuguese language proficiency test. Youssef was not eager to wait five years and learn a new language.
Montenegro citizenship can be obtained within 6 months. In 2021, the minimum investment amount was €372,000. To get passports, investors used to make a non-refundable contribution of €100,000 to the fund and buy real estate for €250,000 or more.
Since January 1st, 2022, the minimum investment amount under the Montenegro citizenship program has increased to €472,000. The non-refundable part of the investment has risen by €100,000. Now investors make contributions to two state funds by €100,000 each.
Youssef would manage to obtain Montenegro citizenship under the old terms of the program. The minimum cost would be €372,000 for Youssef’s application and €405,000 for his daughter’s, for a total of €777,000. But Youssef was in two minds as Montenegro is not a member of the European Union but only plans to be granted membership in 2025. The investor did not give a definitive answer.
Selection of real estate in Montenegro
A month later, Youssef called Immigrant Invest. The entrepreneur planned to visit Montenegro to take part in a regatta. In his free time, Youssef decided to see the country and real estate objects as well. Immigrant Invest lawyers told him which properties he could buy to participate in the Montenegro citizenship program and how to get to them.
Eligible properties are either large resort complexes or hotels. An investor can buy an apartment or a share in the project. Many hotels are at the final stage of construction or are being prepared for commissioning.
The minimum value of a property that an investor can choose to participate in the Montenegro citizenship program depends on the region. It is €250,000 if a property is located in the northern or central part of Montenegro, except for Podgorica, the capital. It is €450,000 if a property is located in Podgorica or the coastal zone of Montenegro.
The head of the Legal Department
The investor liked three objects in the country's north and decided to participate in the Montenegro citizenship program. Having discussed the terms of the contracts with developers and lawyers, Youssef chose to purchase two shares in a five-star hotel — for himself and his daughter. The total value of the property was €500,000.
Three properties that Youssef liked
How Youssef obtained Montenegro citizenship: step-by-step procedure
1. Collecting documents and opening escrow accounts. Immigrant Invest lawyers prepared all the necessary documents and got to opening escrow accounts. An applicant needs to have two escrow accounts. One is for paying a non-refundable contribution, and the other is for buying real estate. An escrow account can be opened in person or remotely by proxy.
In Youssef’s case, Immigrant Invest’s lawyers opened four escrow accounts: two for each application.
As Youssef was in Montenegro, he could come to the bank without delays. Within one day, the investor signed agreements for opening escrow accounts with the bank and for sale and purchase with the developer. The Immigrant Invest’s lawyer accompanied Youssef and checked the terms of the contracts and their compliance with the program’s requirements before signing.
For Youssef's daughter, Dina, the lawyers opened a bank account by proxy.
The agreement with the bank on opening escrow accounts indicates the amounts that the investor is to transfer to the fund and the developer and the details of the recipients as well. When the citizenship program department approves the application, the bank gets informed and immediately transfers the money.
Investment programs expert
It takes two weeks from the date of signing the agreement with the bank to open an escrow account. The time is spent on conducting the Due Diligence check of the investor.
How to open escrow accounts under the Montenegro program
2. Investing. When the Montenegrin bank opened escrow accounts, the investor transferred money: €100,000 for the fund and €250,000 for a share in a real estate project. Youssef also paid €7,000 for the Due Diligence check under the citizenship program and €15,000 for administration fees.
Youssef transferred €405,000 — the amount necessary for participation in the program — to his daughter’s account in the Egyptian bank. Dina transferred money from this account to escrow accounts in the Montenegrin bank.
€787,000 — Youssef’s expenses under the Montenegro citizenship program
Payments for Youssef
Payments for the daughter and her family
Usually, in the case of sponsorship, the Due Diligence check on the sponsor is also conducted as the legality of the investment needs to be proved. But since Youssef is not only a sponsor but also a participant of the program, no additional Due Diligence was required.
If Youssef had not participated in the citizenship program, Dina’s expenses would have increased by €7,000 because she would have paid for two Due Diligence checks: for herself as the main applicant and Youssef as the sponsor. But since Youssef was a participant himself, Dina only paid for the check for herself and her family members.
The head of the Legal Department
3. Submitting documents. Immigrant Invest’s lawyers submitted a package of documents, including proof of payments, to the Montenegrin CBI Unit.
The department considered Youssef’s and Dina’s applications for three months.
4. Getting approval. The program department notified Immigrant Invest of the pre-approval of applications. The lawyers informed the Montenegrin bank, and the bank immediately transferred the money from the escrow accounts to the accounts of the developer and the fund.
Montenegrin banks do not have the right to transfer investments to the fund and the developer without the approval of the program department. In case of refusal, the bank returns the money to the investor.
When the department received notification of the investment transfers from the bank, Youssef and Dina's applications were finally approved. So then they could get passports.
5. Obtaining citizenship. To get a passport, one must come to Montenegro and provide the fingerprints. The family chose a convenient day, and Immigrant Invest’s lawyers made appointments for the procedure for everyone.
The passport is issued within 24 hours after the fingerprinting. Therefore, the next day, all family members received passports and flew back to Egypt.
5.5 months took participation in the Montenegro citizenship program
How Youssef lives with a Montenegrin passport
Youssef had already registered his yacht in Montenegro. The investor was glad that he chose a country with access to the Adriatic Sea and hence the Mediterranean. In the spring of 2022, Youssef wants to open the yachting season.
I’m in anticipation of the spring. Now I can sail on a yacht in Europe when I want to but not when the consulate or visa centre allows it. I feel free from borders.
An entrepreneur and a yachtsman