Aug 2018

Contact: Kristina Vuljaj

The new Law on Foreigners came into effect in April this year, and its application is due on October 3, 2018. The law is aligned with the EU Directives which regulate this area, which is a step closer to harmonizing our legislation with the EU acquis communautaire.

The Law on Foreigners introduces substantial novelties by regulating certain issues for the first time or by specifying issues that proved to be problematic in practice.

What are the Novelties Introduced by the New Law?

1. Protection of Security of the Republic of Serbia and its Citizens

With decision-making procedures on rights and obligations of foreigners, the Ministry of Interior obtains the opinion from the state body responsible for the protection of security of the Republic of Serbia (The Security Intelligence Agency – BIA) in terms of evaluating whether the entry or stay of a foreigner to the territory of the Republic of Serbia represents an unacceptable security risk, referring to activities that threaten the constitutional order and security of the Republic of Serbia.

Should the foreigner be evaluated as an unacceptable security risk for the Republic of Serbia and its citizens, their request shall be denied.

2. Instead of 4, the New Law Prescribes 3 Types of Visas

The new law abolishes the transit visa (visa B), which was issued for one, two or more travels across the territory of the Republic of Serbia for a validity period of up to six months, while the time of stay for one transit cannot exceed five days. The designated visa now falls under the visa C, or the short-stay visa.

The applicable law on foreigners as of yet provides three types of visa:

Airport Transit Visa (visa А)

This visa is issued for a validity period of up to six months for one or several passes through the international transit area of the airport without the possibility of entering the territory of the Republic of Serbia. The Serbian government may prescribe obligatory possession of this visa for citizens of certain countries for safety reasons.

When applying for this visa, the applicant should provide evidence of the possibility of entering another country on a planned route.

Short-stay Visa (visa C)

A short-stay visa is the approval for entry, transit or stay in the Republic of Serbia that cannot exceed 90 days in a span of 180 days, starting from the date of the first entry.

The previous law on foreigners provided a validity period of up to one year for this visa, starting from the date it was obtained, whereas the new law provides a validity period of 5 years, which represents a significant novelty in this field.

When applying for the short-stay visa, the applicant should provide evidence on the following:

  • Reasons for traveling;
  • Sufficient financial means to cover accommodation and other expenses, or any other evidence related to accommodation;
  • The amount of financial means available to sustain themselves during the intended stay and return to the country from which the applicant arrived;
  • Other evidence which substantiate the applicant’s intention to leave the country before the visa expiration date.

Long-stay Visa (visa D)

Long-stay visa is the approval for the entry and stay for the duration between 90 and 180 days in the Republic of Serbia. If the foreigner wants to apply for temporary residence and needs a visa in order to enter the Republic of Serbia, it is necessary to obtain this visa prior to arriving in the Republic of Serbia.

It is also necessary to emphasize that the basis for filing an application for short-stay must be identical to the basis for issuing the long-stay visa.

Temporary residence will be discussed in more detail further in the blog.

Where to File the Visa application?

Visa applications should be submitted to the diplomatic-consular mission of our country in the country where the applicant legally resides. In case of emergency, the applicant may submit their visa application to the diplomatic-consular mission of the Republic of Serbia in the country where they have been approved legal stay, but which is not their legal residence.

General Visa Application Requirements

  • The application is submitted in person. An exception to this rule can be made if the applicant is established to have used previous visas issued on part of our diplomatic-consular mission in accordance with the law.
  • The application is submitted in the prescribed form.
  • The application should be submitted at least 3 months in advance.
  • The travel document should be valid at least three months after the intended departure from Serbia, it must contain at least two consecutive blank pages, and it must be issued within the last 10 years.

When filing a visa application, the applicant should provide the following:

  • completed visa application form;
  • passport;
  • photo;
  • evidence of payment for visa fees;
  • evidence of the purpose and reasons for staying in the Republic of Serbia;
  • letter of invitation – the individual invitation for a foreigner for a private or business visit should provide their letter whereby they commit to covering the expenses of the foreigner’s stay in our country;
  • appropriate and valid travel health insurance – the insurance duration must exceed the duration of the intended stay in the Republic of Serbia.

Special attention should be paid when submitting the enlisted documentation, since, unless all of the aforementioned requirements are met as prescribed, the visa application will be denied. Consequently, all of the documents provided, including the visa fee, will be returned to the applicant. This is another useful novelty prescribed by the new law.

The deadline for making the decision on the application is 15 days from the date of submission; it can, however, be extended up to 30 days if there are justified reasons to do so.

The term of visa validity and duration of stay stated in the visa is not to be extended; it may only be extended in case of professional reasons or force majeure.

3. Standard Procedure and the Procedure and Reasons for Denial of Entry of Foreigners to the Republic of Serbia

The new law regulates the procedure and reasons for denial of entry of foreigners to Serbia in detail. In addition, a standard form for refusal of entry has been introduced, which explicitly states the reasons of refusal, in contrast to the previous oral announcement and a note in the travel document that the foreigner has been denied entry. Another novelty is that there is a possibility of filing an appeal to such a decision within 8 days following the reception of the decision.

4. New Basis for Granting a Temporary Residence

The new law regulates in detail the basis for obtaining temporary residence whereby new basis has been introduced, as well as the previously applied basis that had not been legally prescribed.

Temporary residence may be granted based on: employment, professional training, training and practice, scientific research or other scientific educational activities, family reunification, for providing religious services, treatment or care, ownership of real-estate, humanitarian stay, status of an assumed trafficking victim, status of human trafficking victim and other justified reasons pursuant to the law or international treaties.

A foreigner who has been granted residence on any of the aforementioned bases is obliged to stay in the Republic of Serbia in accordance with the purpose for which the stay has been approved.

A foreigner who legally entered the Republic of Serbia and did not need a visa to do so, as well as a foreigner who entered the Republic of Serbia with a long-stay visa, files an application for temporary residence within 90 days following the last entry, i.e. during the validity of the long-stay visa.

Temporary residence may be approved for the period of up to one year and may be extended for the same period. Application for extending temporary residence is filed at least three months in advance and not later than 30 days prior to the expiry of the validity of the temporary residence.

Temporary residence is issued in the form of a temporary residence stamp in the foreign travel document and its validity period has to exceed the period of residence by at least three months.

Additional information on getting a residence can be found in our blog on getting a residence permit in the Republic of Serbia.

5. Independent Residence of a Foreigner Who Stayed in Serbia on the Basis of Family Reunification

The independent residence institute is yet another novelty prescribed by the new law on foreigners. This institute enables the possibility of independent residence for a foreigner who has stayed with no interruptions in the Republic of Serbia for at least 4 years on account of family reunification. Independent residence is approved at the foreigner’s request, and the foreigner becomes independent from the family member who has enabled them approval for temporary residence.

If the family member based on whom the foreigner qualified for temporary residence dies, and the foreigner has stayed with no interruptions in the Republic of Serbia for at least 3 years, they have the right to apply for independent residence.

This institute may be quite useful, especially in case of conflict or disorder within the family relations, and the foreigner has a temporary residence in our country on account of family reunification.

A foreigner is granted independent residence for the period of up to one year and may be extended for the same period.

6. Marriage of Convenience

A marriage of convenience is a completely new institute in the Serbian legislation, and its goal is to prevent foreigners from unlawfully staying in the Republic of Serbia.

The responsible authority shall make an informed decision on whether each individual case represents a marriage of convenience, with special regard to circumstances such as how long the spouses had known each other prior to entering into marriage, whether they speak the language they both understand, whether material assets have been given for the purpose of entering that marriage, with exception of assets given as a dowry and provided that the spouses come from countries where giving a dowry is part of the tradition, and whether there is evidence of previous marriages of convenience on part of any of the spouses in the Republic of Serbia or abroad.

The responsible authority shall deny the request for temporary residence or extension of temporary residence for family reunification if there is a reasonable doubt that the marriage was entered into out of convenience.

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