Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
One of the highlights of my three-month tour of Europe this summer was Slovenia, the tiny country to the east of Venice that is debated as either being a “Little Austria” or in the far western Balkans.
My field reports from Slovenia were peppered with comments on how gorgeous the country is. Slovenia’s capital city of Ljubljana drips with as much charm as any other city in Europe or Lake Bled and the countryside further afield.
For years, Italy and Slovenia feuded under the usual auspices of western Europe vs. Cold War Eastern Europe. Today, Slovenia is not only part of the eurozone and the European Union but feels just as advanced as its neighbors to the west.
Service in Ljubljana puts service in Spain and the United Kingdom to shame. Banks, while not perfect safe havens, are efficient and direct. Real estate isn’t as cheap as in Budapest but is affordable and of good quality.
And it is possible to become a Slovenian citizen by starting a business or merely having enough means to support yourself. This mirrors the policy of a growing number of countries in Europe eager to have businesses start up within their borders.
About Slovenian citizenship
As part of the European Union, Slovenia has an excellent passports ranked as 12th best in the world. Slovenians can visit the United States, Canada, and Australia without a visa, as well as enjoying freedom of movement throughout all of Europe.
In total, a Slovenian passport offers access to 160 countries and territories. Unlike Italy or other bankrupt European countries, most people don’t know a lot about Slovenia, which means prejudices and stereotypes are not an issue for those holding Slovenian passports.
Basically, there are much worse second citizenships out there. To become a Slovenian citizen, you must start as a Slovenian resident, maintain a residence in Slovenia (even if it’s a rented room), and spend the requisite amount of time in the country each year.
There are exceptions to the residency policy which makes the residency process even easier; I’ll be discussing some of these in my upcoming book on obtaining European citizenship.
Once you are a resident, you can apply for naturalization and obtain a Slovenian passport within one to five years in most cases. Slovenia does require you to renounce your current citizenship, although there are some loopholes to keeping your existing nationality as well as obtaining future ones later.
Slovenian citizenship for entrepreneurs
Anyone can become a Slovenian resident by starting a local business and investing the required €7,500 in paid-up capital. Once your company is up and running, you can merely apply for a residency permit to run the company.
Ideally, your business will hire at least one Slovenian worker, although that is not necessarily required, and can be done later on. If you need to hire staff, Slovenia may not be as affordable as some eastern European countries but is quite affordable compared to western Europe.
So long as you keep your nose clean and your company earns enough in profits to pay you a livable wage – €1,000 a month is a good place to start – you should have no problem having your residence permit renewed after the first year and every few years thereafter.
Personal income tax rates in Slovenia can be as high as 50%, but are far lower on basic salaries. You will need to pay social security tax on your salary; an owner-employee earning small profits and a basic salary should expect to pay around €4,000 to €5,000 a year in taxes.
If your business grows, corporate taxes are a more respectable 17%, which is moderately low for Europe.
After five years of permanent residency in Slovenia, you can apply to become a citizen so long as you have some ability to speak the language. The interesting part is that, if your business requires you to travel throughout Europe, you may be able to avoid being considered tax resident in Slovenia if you spend fewer than 183 days in the country.
Slovenian citizenship for investors
I have been told that, in response to countries like Latvia that allow investors to obtain second residency merely by making a six-figure bank deposit, the Slovenian government allows “persons of means” to bypass the requirement to start a company by showing bank statements proving sufficient funds.
This is not a pre-fab program, and eligibility is subject to approval by the local authorities. Unlike other countries, I am not aware of any program that allows foreigners to obtain residency merely by purchasing real estate in Slovenia.
The residency process is the same as for entrepreneurs but without the ongoing compliance and taxation of running a business. If you’re interested in learning more about this option and have the ability to deposit a six-figure sum, feel free to contact me for a possible referral.
Slovenian citizenship by descent
Provided you can show personal ties with Slovenia and its culture, you can go back up to two generations to prove Slovenian ancestry and apply for a passport. In the case of citizenship by descent, you need not demonstrate any period of residency in Slovenia, although you will need to demonstrate why you should be naturalized.
Slovenians by descent will be required to give up their current citizenship, although a few exceptions apply.
Slovenian citizenship by marriage
Marrying a foreigner is a great way to obtain a second citizenship, so long as you do it for the right reasons.
Marrying a Slovenian offers one of the fastest paths to citizenship in Europe; you only need to prove that you’ve been married to a Slovenian for two years and residing in the country for one year before applying for citizenship. You will still need to speak Slovenian, although you should have the benefit of free tutoring.