MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ON MOVING TO SERBIA

09
May 2022

Contact: Kristina Vuljaj

moving to serbia

Serbia has been known for its liberal immigration legislation and policies, as well as incentives for attracting foreign investments and foreign experts.

All these aspects of the Serbian legislation and immigration policy made Serbia highly attractive for companies and individuals who find many benefits from moving to Serbia. Therefore, they decide to go down the path of applying for the temporary residence permit in Serbia.

However, although the legal norms are, in general, considered liberal and encouraging for foreigners, there are still some misconceptions about conditions and legal grounds for moving to Serbia.

Therefore, we decided to clarify the most common misconceptions and doubts about moving to Serbia.

MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ON OBTAINING A TEMPORARY RESIDENCE IN SERBIA

The most often misconceptions about obtaining a temporary residence permit in Serbia are about:

  • formal preconditions for applying, especially foreigners’ visa regime and
  • legal grounds for obtaining a temporary residence permit in Serbia.

Further, we will list some common questions in this matter and provide the answers.

1. How Long Can You Stay in Serbia?

moving to serbia

The duration of stay in Serbia is regulated under the bilateral relationship and bilateral agreements between Serbia and the foreigner’s country of citizenship, or foreigner’s country of residency.

Therefore, some foreigners must obtain a visa for every entry in Serbia, whereas some can stay in Serbia as tourists, without a visa, for a limited time. The most liberal touristic regime is the visa-free entry and stays up to 90 days in the period of 180 days.

2. I Can Use My Visa-Free Touristic Stay Upon Each Entry in Serbia

Foreigners who are in a visa-free regime with Serbia are often mistaken on how to count their touristic days in Serbia. People often believe that their touristic visa-free stay begins each time they enter the country. While that is the rule that can be applied for some foreigners, in most cases, this would mean a violation of the law.

For instance, if a foreigner is entitled to stay in Serbia for 90 days, as touristic days, within 180 days, most of them think that 180 days period begins each time they enter the country.  On the contrary, that is not the case. When the citizens of Israel, or citizens of Belgium would like to count the days they’ve spent in Serbia, they would need to count in in the following way:

Therefore, foreigners should count how many days have they spent in Serbia within the last 180 days, to check whether they have overreached the 90-day limit within those past 180 days in Serbia.

On the other hand, there are foreigners who are entitled to stay in Serbia for 90 days within 6 months period starting from the date of the first entry. In this case you, the days a foreigner spent in Serbia does not annulate each time he enters the country, whereas, the foreigner should count how many days he has spent in Serbia, from the day of his first entrance, in the period of previous 6 months. That is the situation with the citizens od Argentina, Canada, USA, etc.

3. Can I Extend My Tourist Stay in Serbia?

In general, a touristic stay or touristic visa cannot be extended in Serbia. However, the Law on Foreigners,  does stipulate some exceptional cases in which it can be done while it does not list the examples of such exceptions.

Also, this provision was practically unusable in practice, given it required meeting particularly high standards, which were almost never met by a foreigner, until 2020, when Covid-19 hit, and people had limited ability to move and travel.

4. I Want to Come to Serbia for Work, Obtain a Work Permit and Look for Employment

moving to serbia

For a work permit, a foreigner shall obtain a residence permit first or prove the existing legal ground for the temporary residence and work permit in Serbia. Depending on the legal ground of your temporary residence permit, the procedure for the work permit differs.

However, there is no option to apply for a general type of temporary residence permit, which would allow a foreigner to come to Serbia for a job hunt, because the work permit is issued for the specific job position with the specific employer, upon the foreigner receives the contract proposal from the employer. This serves as a legal ground for the temporary residence permit and the work permit in Serbia.

The only exception is made for foreigners who reside in Serbia based on family reunion, who can obtain their personal work permit, which allows them to search and get employed for any job and by any employer in the private sector.

5. I Want to Come to Serbia as a Tourist and on That Occasion, Apply for a Temporary Residence Permit in Serbia

As mentioned earlier, visa regimes differ between countries. Hence, some foreigners will be able to apply for a temporary residence permit in Serbia even if they entered Serbia without a visa, as tourists, during their touristic stay in Serbia.

On the other hand, some countries’ nationals will need to obtain a “long-term” visa (visa D), before they arrive in Serbia, to apply for a temporary residence permit in Serbia.

In each case, before foreigners decide to commence the process of moving to Serbia, afterward applying for the temporary residence permit, they should consult a professional, who will interpret the regulations accordingly, and in that way, avoid doubts and difficulties.

6. Can I Apply for a Long-Term Visa (Visa D) From Serbia?

Visa D (“long term visa for employment”) can only be issued by the Serbian embassy in a foreign country.

Besides the fact that the application for the temporary residence permit in Serbia can be submitted online, the same possibility is enabled for application for visa D.

From May 2021, all foreigners who come to Serbia with intention to work, can apply for visa D, for a longer period up to 180 days, online via the eConsulate portal.

7. I Am a US/UK/EU Resident or I Have a Schengen Visa and I Want to Apply for Temporary Residence in Serbia

moving to serbia

Even though foreigners, third-party nationals are allowed to enter Serbia in a visa-free regime if they have a US, UK, EU, or Schengen visa or if they are legal residents of the EU, US or within a Schengen zone, if these foreigners would want to apply for the temporary residence permit in Serbia, foreign visas or residency will not be considered as a privilege in this matter.

Namely, citizenship is the relevant factor, in the procedure of applying for the temporary residence, which dictates whether a foreigner needs to obtain visa D before they apply for a temporary residence permit in Serbia.

8. Can I Travel or Stay Within the Schengen Zone If I Have a Temporary Residence in Serbia?

Schengen regulations relate to the citizenship of the visitor. Therefore, if a foreigner’s country of citizenship is on the list of countries in the visa regime for Schengen, the temporary residence in Serbia would not change the foreigner’s status and obligations in this matter.

The conditions for traveling to third-party countries should always be checked in that country’s regulations.

9. Can I Renew My Temporary Residence Permit in Serbia as Long as I Still Have a Legal Ground for Residency in Serbia?

The temporary residence permit may be extended as long as the foreigner provides a legal ground for the application. However, bearing in mind that the authority questions the justification of each application, besides the formal requirements, which need to be met, if the foreigner does not spend more than half of the approved time in Serbia, the application for extending the permit will most probably be denied.

10. Can I Become a Resident of Serbia Based on Retirement?

moving to serbia

Even though the fact that a foreigner receives their retirement, which implies that they do not treat to become a subject of public welfare, this alone is not enough reason to approve the temporary residence to a foreigner and does not represent a legal ground to apply for the temporary residence permit in Serbia.

11. Do I Need to Be Physically Present in Serbia to Apply for Temporary Residence?

The application for the temporary residence permit in Serbia can be filed online, even before you move to Serbia. This is the novelty, which was introduced to practice in late 2021.

12. I Want to Move to Serbia and Apply for Permanent Residence in Serbia

Permanent residence in Serbia may be approved to a foreigner who has spent 5 years continuously in Serbia on their temporary residence permit or 3 years if they are a spouse of the Serbian citizen.

In addition, it is required that a foreigner meet one more condition. Namely, in the abovementioned period, a foreigner cannot spend a 6-month period out of Serbia or altogether 10 months over multiple travels.

However, temporary residents who have their residency permits renewed based on studies, are not eligible to apply for permanent residence in Serbia.

MOST COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ON OBTAINING THE SERBIAN CITIZENSHIP

moving to serbia

1. I Am Married to a Serbian Citizen and We Live Abroad, Can I Get Serbian Citizenship by Marriage?

Citizenship based on marriage is pretty common in a lot of countries all over the world. However, it is rashly to conclude that only by marrying someone, you can obtain the citizenship of Your spouse’s country.

Namely, the legal norms on citizenship are the most rigorous norms of the immigration law, therefore, to qualify for citizenship based on marriage, different countries proclaim different rules in addition.

When it comes to Serbia, Serbia prescribes multiple stages in the procedure, before a foreigner, Serbian citizen’s spouse, can qualify for the citizenship application.

In that sense, it is most important to know that you cannot obtain Serbian citizenship based on marriage if You and Your spouse do not live in Serbia as well.

A spouse of a Serbian citizen can apply for Serbian citizenship only if they are already a permanent resident of Serbia. Therefore, before the chance to apply for citizenship on this legal ground, a foreigner needs to abide by the rules on temporary residency permits and obtain a permanent residency, with a few differences. Namely, instead of applying for the permanent residency after 5 years of continuous temporary residence, in this case, a foreigner can apply for the permanent residency after only 3 years, and right after obtaining the permanent residency, they can apply for citizenship.

2. My Ancestor Was Born on Serbian Territory and Had Yugoslavian Citizenship; I Want to Apply for Serbian Citizenship by Descent

The Serbian Law on Citizenship (hereinafter: the Law) prescribes the norms on obtaining Serbian citizenship by birth on the Serbian territory, by admission, by origin, and based on bilateral agreements.

Serbian citizenship by descent is reserved for those whose parents, or one parent were Serbian citizens at the time of the applicant’s birth, or for those whose ancestors were members of the Serbian nation and declared as such for Yugoslavian refugees, citizens of one of the former Yugoslav Republic.  

Specifically, it can be concluded that the Serbian citizenship by descent is intended for Serbian nationals who dispersed around the world over time.

Therefore, it is not possible to obtain the Serbian citizenship by descent only by having a distant ancestor who was born in Serbia or was a citizen of Serbia. It is inevitable to prove, and declare as a Serbian.

3. Can I Obtain Serbian Citizenship by Investment?

The Law does not provide the possibility to obtain Serbian citizenship by investment.

However, the Law does prescribe an exceptional procedure of admitting a foreigner into Serbian citizenship if the authorized Ministry and the Serbian Government recognize that individual as a person of significant importance for Serbia.

These situations are justified by the fact that these persons are of great significance for the country of Serbia and its interests. . The monetary aspect of this is not the official, and does not represent the lawful legal ground for awarding someone citizenship.

Therefore, maybe a significant investment in Serbia can earn this special honor to the investor. However, this is an exception, and no minimal business investment is prescribed by the law, so that it can be said that a certain amount of investment is enough for obtaining Serbian citizenship. The Government decides in each situation and this procedure is considered extremely privileged and rare example of obtaining Serbian citizenship.

After all formal requirements are met, it is important to bear in mind that the competent authority has discretionary power to analyze other factors, and based on the overall impression of the case, decides whether the application is justified or not. That is the same situation when it comes to the procedure of obtaining temporary residence permit in Serbia, as well as  in each procedure for foreigner’s admission to citizenship. Hence, each decision is based on the discretionary power and freedom of the country’s representative authority.

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