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Acquiring Serbian Citizenship by Descent

Marija Medic

Marija Medić

Senior Associate

03/07/2024

Acquiring citizenship of the Republic of Serbia by descent, also known as ius sanguinis, is an important legal institute that allows individuals with Serbian roots to formalize their legal status as citizens of Serbia, even if they were not born on Serbian territory.

This process is regulated by the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Serbia (hereinafter: the Law), which clearly defines the conditions, procedure, and necessary documentation for acquiring citizenship by descent.

The current legal system provides four basic ways to acquire citizenship of the Republic of Serbia:

  1. Descent;
  2. Birth on the territory of the Republic of Serbia;
  3. Naturalization;
  4. In accordance with international agreements.

The primary method for acquiring citizenship of the Republic of Serbia is by descent, while the place of birth is used as a supplementary criterion. In this blog, we will examine in detail how Serbian citizenship can be acquired through descent, as well as some possibilities of acquiring citizenship through naturalization, including all important steps and legal provisions.

Acquiring citizenship in this way provides an opportunity to renew and preserve the connection with Serbian heritage and culture.

If we focus solely on acquiring citizenship in the Republic of Serbia by descent, this means that a person can obtain Serbian citizenship if they meet certain conditions related to their descent or affiliation with the Serbian people. This usually means that the person has a parent or ancestor who is a citizen of Serbia or originates from Serbia.

The process of acquiring citizenship involves submitting appropriate documentation that confirms affiliation with the Serbian people or descent from Serbia. These documents usually include birth certificates, proof of citizenship of parents or other ancestors, as well as other relevant evidence.

Who is Eligible for Citizenship by Descent?

Children

The Law defines several key ways in which a child (a person under 18 years of age) can acquire citizenship by descent:

  1. Both Parents are Serbian Citizens

A child will acquire citizenship of the Republic of Serbia if both parents are citizens of the Republic of Serbia at the time of the child’s birth.

  1. One Parent is a Serbian Citizen, and the Child is Born in Serbia

If one parent is a Serbian citizen and the child is born on the territory of the Republic of Serbia, the child will acquire Serbian citizenship.

  1. One Parent is a Serbian Citizen, and the Other is Unknown or Stateless (Apatrid), and the Child is Born Abroad

If the child is born abroad, and one parent is a Serbian citizen while the other parent is unknown, of unknown citizenship, or stateless, the child can also acquire citizenship of the Republic of Serbia.

For a child born abroad to a Serbian citizen parent and a foreign citizen parent, additional conditions are prescribed for acquiring citizenship of the Republic of Serbia:

  1. Registration Before the Age of 18

The parent who is a Serbian citizen must register the child with the competent diplomatic or consular mission of the Republic of Serbia before the child’s 18th birthday and submit a request for the child’s registration in the citizenship records.

  1. Statelessness

If the child would remain stateless, they acquire Serbian citizenship even if the condition of registration before the age of 18 is not met.

  1. Child’s Consent

If the child is older than 14, their consent is required for acquiring citizenship.

Ana was born in Canada to her father Marko, a Serbian citizen, and her mother Sara, a Canadian citizen. When Ana turned 17, Marko decided to apply for Ana’s Serbian citizenship. They prepared the documentation and visited the Consulate General of the Republic of Serbia in Toronto, where Marko submitted the request for Ana’s registration in the citizenship records. The consular officers reviewed the documentation, confirmed the fulfillment of the conditions, and approved the request. Ana is now registered as a citizen of the Republic of Serbia, allowing her to enjoy all the rights and privileges that come with this status, including the right to education, healthcare, and residence in Serbia without restrictions.

Adults

Persons over 18 years of age who were born abroad can also acquire Serbian citizenship by descent, but under different conditions.

If a person over 18 years of age, born abroad, has one parent who is a Serbian citizen, they can acquire Serbian citizenship if they submit a request to the competent authorities of the Republic of Serbia before their 23rd birthday.

It is important that the person submits the request for registration in the citizenship records before turning 23, provided they have not already acquired Serbian citizenship in another way.

Adoptees

Adoptees can also acquire Serbian citizenship by descent. If the adoptee is a foreigner or stateless, citizenship is acquired under the conditions applicable to children born abroad.

The request for the registration of the adoptee in the citizenship records must be submitted by the adopter, who must be a Serbian citizen. If the adoptee is over 18 years of age, the request must be submitted before the adoptee turns 23.

Individuals who acquire citizenship by descent are considered citizens of the Republic of Serbia from birth, meaning their rights and status are retroactively recognized from the moment of birth. This way, the process of acquiring citizenship by descent allows many with Serbian roots to become part of the Republic of Serbia and enjoy all the rights and privileges that come with Serbian citizenship.

What rules apply if I am a descendant of a member of the Serbian nation?

In practice, it is often encountered that people, later in life, if they had any family connections with Serbian heritage, become interested in exploring the option of acquiring Serbian citizenship.

If you are over 18 years old, i.e., over 23 years old, and you think there is no longer a legal basis for you to apply for the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia, you will be pleased with the explanation that follows.

The most favorable way to acquire the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia for all members of the Serbian nation and their descendants, who consider Serbia their homeland, is by proving an ethnic connection with Serbia.

The procedure for acquiring citizenship based on affiliation with the Serbian nation is interesting because it does not require strictly prescribed documentation but opens up the possibility of finding various documents in your archive that can serve as proof. This means that applicants can use a wide range of documents to prove their Serbian descent, such as personal documents of ancestors in the Serbian language, family books, birth certificates, baptismal certificates, old photographs, letters, or other archival materials that can confirm their heritage and kinship with Serbia.

This flexibility allows applicants to gather relevant evidence and provide a deeper insight into their family origins to successfully apply for Serbian citizenship.

The first and crucial condition for acquiring Serbian citizenship by descent is, as the name suggests – Serbian descent. It is necessary to prove that the applicant identifies as a member of the Serbian nation. Additionally, it is necessary to provide evidence that the ancestors of the foreign applicant (the applicant for citizenship) identified as Serbs. Proof of these facts is submitted in the form of public documents or other relevant civil records. It is also necessary to prove the kinship between the foreign applicant and the Serbian ancestor in a direct line.

It is important to emphasize that the right to acquire Serbian citizenship based on affiliation with the Serbian nation applies to foreigners who do not have a residence in the territory of the Republic of Serbia. This possibility is significant because it allows applicants to submit their application for naturalization through a representative without having to come to Serbia personally.

Relevant legal provisions prescribe exact conditions that applicants must meet:

  1. Ethnic Connection

Proving descent or affiliation with the Serbian nation through relevant documentation such as birth certificates, family records, baptismal certificates, or other evidence that confirms Serbian descent.

  1. Adulthood

The applicant must be of legal age. If both parents acquire citizenship of the Republic of Serbia through naturalization, their child under 18 years of age also acquires citizenship of the Republic of Serbia.

  1. Legal Capacity

It is necessary that the applicant has not been deprived of legal capacity.

  1. Declaration of Serbia as Homeland

A written declaration by the applicant that they consider Serbia their homeland, confirming emotional and cultural ties with Serbia.

The Law specifically highlights individuals born in the countries of the former SFRY who had the citizenship of that state or are citizens of other states that emerged on the territory of the former SFRY, and who are settled in Serbia as refugees, displaced persons, or have fled abroad.

For this category of applicants, the same conditions apply as for members of the Serbian nation. This means they must be of legal age, not deprived of legal capacity, and submit a written declaration that they consider the Republic of Serbia their homeland.

It is important to note that the effect of acquiring citizenship of the Republic of Serbia based on affiliation with the Serbian nation does not apply retroactively but from the date of the decision on naturalization. This means that the applicant becomes a citizen of the Republic of Serbia from the exact date when the decision on naturalization was made, not retroactively, as in the case of acquiring citizenship by descent, which is important to keep in mind when planning future steps or obligations arising from acquiring citizenship.

Marko Petrović, born in Australia, decided to apply for Serbian citizenship based on affiliation with the Serbian nation. His grandparents, Milana Petrović and Jovan Petrović, were originally from the former Yugoslavia and emigrated to Australia during the 1950s. The Petrović family is strongly connected to their cultural and national heritage, as evidenced by their membership in the Serbian Orthodox Church. According to the legal provisions of the Republic of Serbia, Marko Petrović submits a request for Serbian citizenship, providing the necessary documentation confirming their affiliation with the Serbian nation, including birth certificates of his grandparents, baptismal certificates, and a declaration that he considers the Republic of Serbia his homeland. Through this step, Marko Petrović formalizes his status in Serbia and reestablishes ties with his cultural and national identity, representing an important step towards strengthening connections with the Serbian nation and preserving his heritage.

Emigrants and Their Descendants

For emigrants and their descendants originating from Serbia, the opportunity to acquire Serbian citizenship represents a significant step in preserving cultural connections and identity.

The law precisely defines an emigrant as a person who permanently left the Republic of Serbia with the intention of residing abroad. This category includes their descendants, who can apply for Serbian citizenship under specific conditions.

Emigrants and their descendants can obtain citizenship if they are at least 18 years old and legally capable. A crucial requirement is the submission of a written statement declaring that the applicant considers Serbia their homeland. This statement is symbolic yet pivotal in the citizenship acquisition process.

Acquiring Serbian citizenship enables emigrants and their descendants to access various benefits such as easier travel, the right to stay in Serbia without a visa, and the preservation of cultural and linguistic ties with Serbia.

Procedure for Citizenship Acquisition

The application for Serbian citizenship is submitted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, either through local authorities at the applicant’s place of residence or an authorized representative. Alternatively, applications can be submitted through the relevant diplomatic or consular representation of the Republic of Serbia abroad.

Once submitted, the Ministry of Internal Affairs conducts a multi-month verification process to ensure compliance with all conditions stipulated by the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Serbia. If all legal requirements are met, the Ministry issues a decision granting citizenship.

It’s important to note that the Ministry may reject citizenship applications if, based on its discretionary assessment, there are reasons of interest to the Republic of Serbia that justify refusal. These reasons often relate to national security, public order, or state interests.

What if Both Your Parents Were Serbian Citizens at Your Birth but You Were Not Registered?

If your parents were citizens of the Republic of Serbia at the time of your birth, or if you met the conditions for acquiring citizenship by descent but were not registered in the citizen registry on time, do not worry; you have not lost the opportunity to acquire citizenship of the Republic of Serbia.

In this case, you need to submit a request to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to determine your citizenship. This request can be made personally, by the competent authority conducting the procedure related to the realization of your rights, or it can be submitted ex officio.

Based on your request, the Ministry will determine that you acquired the right to Serbian citizenship by birth and will issue a decision confirming your citizenship. This decision has a declaratory effect, meaning that all rights deriving from citizenship will be retroactively recognized from the moment of your birth.

Once your citizenship is confirmed, you will be registered in the citizen registry of the Republic of Serbia. This step is crucial for formalizing your status as a Serbian citizen and opens the door to all the rights and obligations that citizenship entails.

Reconnecting with Roots – Acquiring Serbian Citizenship

This process underscores the importance of carefully preparing documentation and adhering to prescribed conditions to ensure successful consideration of the citizenship application by the Ministry.

This text aims to provide a brief overview of the conditions and methods for acquiring Serbian citizenship by descent, offering a general understanding of the regulatory framework in this area according to Serbian legislation.

If you are considering applying for Serbian citizenship, it is advisable to consult with an immigration law specialist. They can assist you in selecting the appropriate basis and navigating the most effective path to obtaining a Serbian passport.

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