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How To Acquire Serbian Citizenship By Marriage

Marija Medic

Marija Medić

Senior Associate

26/06/2024

We are witnessing a time when people travel more than ever before, relocating and commuting abroad for work. That said, the consequences are the increasing number of mixed marriages worldwide. This trend has not bypassed Serbia.

If you are married to a Serbian citizen, you may wonder how to acquire Serbian citizenship. What conditions are to be met? In further text, we will answer how spouses of Serbian citizens can obtain Serbian citizenship by marriage.

Is marriage to a Serbian citizen a pathway to acquiring Serbian citizenship?

Under the Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Serbia (hereinafter: “the Law”), foreigners who are married to a Serbian citizen have the right to apply for Serbian citizenship. It is important to understand all the conditions that must be met and the steps that need to be taken.

Let’s take Gisele from the United States of America (USA) as an example. She came to Belgrade after hearing about all the benefits for foreign nationals living in Serbia. During her temporary residence in Serbia, based on company ownership, she fell in love with Nikola, a Serbian citizen. After a year-long lovely relationship, they decided to marry and start their life together in Belgrade.

Firstly, Gisele is likely wondering if she needs to change the basis of her temporary residence in Serbia due to the changed circumstances under which she resides and will reside in the future. As mentioned before, Gisele and Nikola decided to marry. However, Gisele is unsure whether marriage to a Serbian citizen would constitute a basis for acquiring citizenship.

This brings us to the very important question – Is the fact of being married to a Serbian citizen the sole condition for acquiring Serbian citizenship by marriage? Are there any other conditions that must be met?

The conditions for acquiring Serbian citizenship by marriage

To obtain Serbian citizenship by marriage, you must meet the following requirements

  • Length of Marriage: You must be married to a Serbian citizen for at least three years. This requirement is crucial as it demonstrates the stability and seriousness of a relationship.

 

Now, after three years of a happy marriage, Gisele wonders if she meets the criteria for obtaining Serbian citizenship by marriage. According to the Law, the marriage must last for a certain period before a foreign citizen can apply for citizenship. Gisele believes that after three years of marriage with Nikola, she can fulfill this condition and start the procedure to obtain Serbian citizenship. However, before beginning the procedure, Gisele must meet some other requirements for acquiring citizenship, one of which is the question of her residence in Serbia.

  • Permanent Residence: If you decide to apply for citizenship by marriage, you must meet another condition – that is permanent residence. In other words, the applicant must have an approved permanent residence (a permanent residence permit). For more information about residence permits in Serbia for foreigners, see our blog.

 

To be granted permanent residence, a foreign citizen must prove their long-term and stable residence in the country. Due to recent changes to the Law on Foreigners, foreign citizens can apply for permanent residence after three years of continuous temporary residence in the Republic of Serbia. It is essential to note that the basis for applying for permanent residence should be the existence of a marital union with a citizen of the Republic of Serbia.

  • Written statement: Serbian citizenship can only be acquired if you submit a written statement that you consider the Republic of Serbia as your own country.
  • Integration into the society: It would be beneficial if you could demonstrate that you integrated into Serbian society. This includes knowledge of the Serbian language, culture, and local customs. Although this is not strictly a condition of the Law, certainly it can assist you during the process.
  • Security measures: As part of the process, you will undergo security background checks to ensure that there are no obstacles, from the national security aspect, to become a citizen of the Republic of Serbia.

 

You might be wondering under what conditions foreign nationals may marry Serbian citizens. This is, of course, a prerequisite for acquiring citizenship by marriage.

This so-called “mixed marriage” can be concluded under the same requirements as those for domestic citizens, under the Family Law of Serbia. On the other hand, the procedure of concluding a marriage between a Serbian and a foreign citizen is a bit specific in some aspects.

The foreign citizen must submit the following documents:

  • Birth Certificate,
  • Non-impediment to marry certificate,
  • Valid passport.

 

Furthermore, above mentioned documents must be properly legalized and translated.

Translation

All of the documents that are in the foreign language must be translated by an authorized court translator. The certified translation of documents can be done in both the country of the document’s origin and in the country where it will be used – thus, in Serbia.

Legalization

Documents of a foreign national must be properly legalized. In that case, the document legalization procedure needs to be carried out. Depending on whether the country of origin is a member of the Hague Convention, an apostille stamp or full legalization may be required.

The presence of a court interpreter

Additionally, it is necessary for a certified court interpreter in the respective language of a (foreign) spouse to be present. If your future spouse is not a Serbian citizen and does not speak Serbian, the presence of a court interpreter will be necessary on the day of the wedding ceremony. Not only that, but it is also not uncommon for an interpreter to be present during the scheduling of the wedding with the municipal registrar.

In the light of our couple, Gisele and Nikola decided to get married. With properly legalized documentation, they visited the competent municipal registrar to schedule their wedding date. During the scheduling and on the wedding day, Gisele had to be accompanied by a court interpreter in English, who provided simultaneous translation as Gisele does not speak Serbian fluently. The municipal registrar confirmed that all the other requirements for marriage were also met. This way, Gisele entered into a valid marriage with Nikola.

Permanent residency as an important step toward Serbian citizenship

Acquiring Serbian citizenship for foreign nationals requires prior granting of permanent residency. This process involves proving long-term residence in the country, along with meeting additional conditions. Permanent residency is essential for legal status and integration into the local community.

The competent authority can grant permanent residency to a foreign citizen if a foreigner meets the following conditions (related to marriage):

  • Upon applying for permanent residence in Serbia, a foreign national must continuously reside in the Republic of Serbia for more than 3 years (or longer) based on a temporary residence permit; or 3 years if married to a Serbian citizen or a foreigner with permanent residence.

 

After marriage to a Serbian citizen, a foreign national can apply for permanent residence after 3 years of continuous legal temporary residence in Serbia (based on marriage).

In this case, a foreign citizen has met 2 criteria for acquiring Serbian citizenship by marriage:

  1. Granting of a permanent residence,
  2. Meets the condition of a marriage duration.

 

However, it should be noted that the competent authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs may grant residency. That means that in each specific case, the competent authority has the right to exercise its discretionary power. In other words, the mere submission of an application and the necessary documentation does not imply automatic approval.

In the example previously mentioned, permanent residency is a key step as it ensures Gisele’s legal residence in Serbia. Additionally, it represents an essential requirement in the naturalization process, i.e., acquiring Serbian citizenship

Therefore, after getting married and fulfilling other formal legal requirements for permanent residency, Gisele needs to submit a formal application to the competent state authority, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to obtain its approval. Furthermore, to qualify for citizenship, she must also meet another condition – being married to a Serbian citizen for at least 3 years. 

The procedure for applying for Serbian citizenship

If you believe you meet all the requirements, the next step is submitting the application. Here’s how the process looks:

  1. Collecting all the relevant documentation: After collecting all necessary documents, you need to submit them to the competent authority.
  1. Submitting the application: Once you have gathered all the documents, you can submit your application for Serbian citizenship to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. If you live abroad, you can submit your application through the competent diplomatic-consular representation of the Republic of Serbia in your country, which will promptly forward it to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
  1. Paying the administrative fee: Part of the process involves paying an administrative fee for processing the application.
  1. Interview: After submitting the application, an interview with officials may be required to verify the authenticity of your claims and your integration into society. Officials will also conduct security checks.

 

After 3 years of marriage to Serbian citizen Nikola, Gisele decided to apply for Serbian citizenship. She gathered the necessary documents, including personal identification documents, proof of marriage, and proof of permanent residence. She submitted her application to the competent state authority, paid the required administrative fees, and then waited for the decision. After some time, Gisele was granted citizenship of the Republic of Serbia. With the acquisition of Serbian citizenship, Gisele now has certain rights that she did not have as a foreign citizen.

Advantages and disadvantages of Serbian citizenship

Acquiring Serbian citizenship brings many benefits, and here are some of them:

  • Right to work and reside in Serbia without any additional permits,
  • Election rights, and other political rights (active and passive voting rights)
  • Free education – entitlement to free education in primary, secondary, and higher education institutions that is not provided to foreigners, who must pay a fee to enroll in such institutions,
  • Right of residence – Serbian citizens have the right to reside in Serbia without time limits, whereas foreigners must extend their stay by applying to a competent state authority or obtaining a permanent residence permit,
  • Right to personal identification documents,
  • Employment – access to certain jobs that are restricted to foreigners, such as positions in state administration, police, military, etc.
  • Ownership of agricultural land.

 

On the other hand, if we analyze not-so-positive aspects, they could include:

  • The citizenship application process can be lengthy and require extensive documentation,
  • Administrative costs: Acquiring Serbian citizenship involves administrative expenses, including fees paid to the Republic of Serbia, legalization, and translation costs,
  • Rejection of the application: Since the competent state authority has discretionary power while processing the request, there is always a possibility that your request will be rejected.
  • Potential challenges in proving a genuine intention of marriage.

 

The process of obtaining citizenship, as mentioned, can be lengthy. It requires thorough preparation and knowledge of conditions, regulations, and other factors that influence a positive outcome. However, not every citizenship application procedure needs to be stressful for applicants.

Frequently asked questions by clients

To better inform you about a topic that interests a lot of people, below are answers to a few of the most common questions.

  1. How long does the process of acquiring citizenship last?

The process of acquiring citizenship can take from several months to a year, depending on the complexity of your case. During this process, the Ministry of Internal Affairs will process your application, verify if you meet the conditions for citizenship, and conduct all necessary checks before making a final decision.

  1. What are the costs regarding the submission of the application?

The costs associated with applying for citizenship vary, but they always include administrative fees and possible costs for document translation. The amount of administrative fees that are paid directly to the budget of the Republic of Serbia depends on legal provisions. Before submitting your application, we recommend that you inquire about the exact costs so you can be prepared for the procedure.

  1. What if my application is rejected?

If your application is rejected, you have the right to initiate administrative litigation before the Administrative Court within 30 days from the receipt of the decision.

Administrative litigation is a special type of dispute in which the legality of decisions made in administrative proceedings, such as the citizenship application process, are reviewed. There is no appeal available in this specific case as there is no higher instance to decide.

A new chapter in your life – acquiring Serbian citizenship

Acquiring Serbian citizenship by marriage is an important step for many romantic partners, especially if they want to start living together in Serbia. Although the procedure seems quite complicated, with the proper preparation and support, it is possible to complete all the steps mentioned above. Meeting key requirements such as the length of the marriage, continuous residence, a written statement, and passing security checks qualify you to achieve your desire and become a citizen of the Republic of Serbia.

To make getting your new citizenship smoother and ensure you have all the information you need in one place, it’s wise to seek advice from an expert. This will help minimize any potential risks and mistakes during the application process.

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