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Termination of Serbian citizenship

Marija Medic

Marija Medić

Senior Associate

Nikoleta Židišić

Legal Trainee

26/06/2024

For many people, renouncing citizenship often represents a step towards a new adventure – permanent relocation to another country. This decision often stems from the need to avoid legal conflicts or restrictions in the country of residence that does not allow dual citizenship. Terminating Serbian citizenship enables individuals to fully embrace a new country as their only state and access all the rights and benefits it offers.

Considering increasing global mobility, understanding the procedures and possibilities related to citizenship termination becomes crucial for individuals living or working abroad. National relations are a complex topic requiring careful balancing between national legislations and international norms, while respecting the rights and freedoms of each individual.

Deciding to terminate the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia is a serious process with significant consequences. Before making this decision, it is important to become familiar with all the conditions and procedures, especially if you plan to regain Serbian citizenship at some point in the future.

In this blog, we will provide all the necessary information on the ways to terminate the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia.

Serbian citizenship can be terminated in three ways:

  1. Release
  2. Renunciation
  3. According to the provisions of international agreements.

 

In this blog, we will focus on renunciation and release from citizenship, two legal processes regulated by the Citizenship Law (hereinafter: the Law) that allow citizens to cease being Serbian citizens on their initiative.

Release

Release from the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia is a common choice among members of the Serbian diaspora, which, according to recent data, numbers nearly 3 million people. Many of them live in the states of the former Yugoslavia, the United States, Germany, Austria, and other countries worldwide.

Citizens of the Republic of Serbia who wish to acquire citizenship of the country where they live and work are often required to go through the process of release from Serbian citizenship. Whether this will be necessary depends on the regulations of the specific country.

For example, for dual citizenship of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Serbia, it has been necessary to obtain permission from the German authorities before acquiring another citizenship (Einbürgerungsurkunde), however, due to changes in the law of 26.06.2024. that will not be necessary now.

To successfully submit a request for release from the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia, the following basic conditions must be met:

  1. Adulthood

The applicant must be an adult, i.e., over 18 years old. Along with the request for the release of a child’s citizenship, the consent of the other parent must be submitted, and if the child is over 14 years old, their consent must also be provided. If the parents are divorced, the request can be submitted only by the parent to whom the child has been entrusted by a final court decision.

  1. Acquired citizenship or guarantee of new citizenship

The applicant must have citizenship of another country or a guarantee that they will acquire citizenship of another country upon release from Serbian citizenship. This is important to avoid a situation where an individual becomes stateless (a person without citizenship).

  1. Settled obligations towards the state

The applicant must have settled all military, tax, and other legal obligations towards the Republic of Serbia. This includes paid taxes and completed military obligations, if applicable.

  1. Settled property-law obligations

The applicant must have settled property-law obligations arising from marital relations and parent-child relationships with persons living in the Republic of Serbia.

  1. No ongoing criminal proceedings

No criminal proceedings must be initiated against the applicant, nor should they have been finally convicted of a criminal offense prosecuted ex officio unless the sentence has been served.

Mr. Marko Jovanović, born in 1980 in Belgrade, has lived and worked in the Netherlands for many years. In 2005, Marko met the conditions for Dutch citizenship and decided to apply for it due to professional commitments and better business opportunities. Since the Netherlands does not allow dual citizenship in the case of naturalization, Marko decided to seek release from Serbian citizenship to regulate his legal status. In December 2023, Marko submitted a request for release from the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia through the Serbian diplomatic-consular mission in The Hague, Netherlands. Along with the request, he provided all necessary documents proving his intention to acquire Dutch citizenship, as well as a request for release from Serbian citizenship. After detailed verification and processing of the request, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia issued a decision on the release from citizenship for Mr. Jovanović in March 2024. This decision confirmed that Marko Jovanović ceased to be a citizen of the Republic of Serbia from the date of the decision. Marko now holds only Dutch citizenship, which allows him full legal recognition and benefits in the Netherlands, where he plans to continue his career and life.

The request for release from citizenship is submitted personally to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia or the Serbian diplomatic-consular mission in the country of residence. The competent authorities verify the submitted documentation and decide on the request. The process can take several months, depending on the complexity of the case. After verification, a decision on release from citizenship is made. If the request is approved, the competent authority issues a decision on release.

Serbia, as a signatory of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, is committed to preventing statelessness. This principle is incorporated into the legislative framework to ensure that all citizens have legal protection and belong to a state.

In cases where a guarantee act is submitted during the citizenship termination process (that the individual will only be accepted into another citizenship upon termination of Serbian citizenship), special rules apply. If an individual who has been released from the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia does not acquire foreign citizenship within one year from the date of the release decision, and if that individual remains stateless, the authority that issued the decision will annul it at the written request of that individual. The request to annul the decision on release from the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia can be submitted within three months from the expiration of the one-year period.

It is important to note that release from the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia will not be approved if it is necessary for the security or defense of the country, for reasons of reciprocity, or if required by the economic interests of the Republic of Serbia, as the Ministry of Internal Affairs always retains discretionary powers in decision-making.

After the decision on the release from citizenship is personally delivered to you, your passport and ID card will be invalidated. During the period between the delivery of the decision on the release from the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia and the formal acquisition of the chosen country’s citizenship, it is recommended not to plan any travel. This is important to avoid potential difficulties when crossing borders, as you will not formally have valid Serbian travel documents during that period.

This period can also be used to prepare the necessary documents and formalities required for acquiring the new country’s citizenship. It is important to adhere to the legal and administrative requirements in the country where you wish to acquire citizenship to ensure the process runs smoothly and without issues.

This practice is a standard procedure to ensure that the change of citizenship is carried out in accordance with legal requirements and security protocols, providing you with legal certainty in the new legal environment.

Renunciation

Renunciation of the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia represents a simple and quick process in which a person voluntarily renounces their citizenship without the need for formal approval from the Serbian state. This process is less formal and faster compared to the release from citizenship, making it a suitable choice in situations where it is necessary to cease being a citizen of Serbia quickly.

To renounce the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia, the following conditions must be met:

  1. Adulthood

The person must be an adult at the time of renunciation, and the possibility of renunciation of the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia is available until the age of 25.

  1. Birth and life abroad

The person must be born and live outside the territory of the Republic of Serbia.

  1. Possession of foreign citizenship

The applicant must have acquired foreign citizenship.

It is important to note that the current Citizenship Law of the Republic of Serbia does not provide the possibility of re-acquiring citizenship for persons who voluntarily renounced their Serbian citizenship while being adults. However, there is a possibility for younger persons who renounced their citizenship while minors to apply for re-acquisition after reaching adulthood.

Renunciation of citizenship is carried out by submitting a statement of renunciation of citizenship. This statement is submitted to the competent authority, usually the diplomatic-consular mission of the Republic of Serbia in the country of residence or directly to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia.

Milica Stojanović, born in 1990 in Zurich, has lived and worked in Switzerland for many years. Milica holds Swiss citizenship due to her long-term residence and Serbian citizenship by origin. Although Switzerland allows dual citizenship, Milica decided to renounce her Serbian citizenship for personal reasons. In September 2022, Milica submitted a statement of renunciation of Serbian citizenship through the Serbian diplomatic-consular mission in Zurich. In her statement, she expressed her desire to renounce Serbian citizenship for a personal sense of belonging and identity towards Switzerland. Although there were no legal or administrative obligations forcing her to renounce Serbian citizenship, Milica wanted to formally express her choice and feelings regarding her citizenship. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia received her statement of renunciation and issued a confirmation of the termination of her Serbian citizenship in December 2022. This formally confirmed that Milica Stojanović ceased to be a citizen of the Republic of Serbia from the date of the confirmation.

Below are the key characteristics of the two most common ways to terminate citizenship.

Termination of Citizenship by International Agreements

In a previous blog on acquiring Serbian citizenship by descent, we highlighted that one of the grounds for acquiring citizenship can be found in international agreements. Accordingly, the termination of citizenship can also be regulated by the provisions of international agreements, although this is not common. Such a method of terminating citizenship is usually associated with situations like changes in national borders or specific events that require intergovernmental agreements.

International agreements play a crucial role in defining relationships concerning citizenship between two or more countries. They can influence the rights and obligations of citizens regarding citizenship, including the possibilities for its termination.

It is important to note that this situation is not frequent and usually results from specific international events or agreements that directly affect the legal status of citizens. In practice, most cases of citizenship termination are regulated by the national legislation of the country where the person holds citizenship.

Gaining New Opportunities – Acquiring Another Citizenship

The termination of citizenship is a complex legal issue considered within the context of international standards and national legislation. Through this blog, we have explored various aspects of the termination of Serbian citizenship, emphasizing the different legal grounds and procedures that citizens must fulfill if they wish to terminate their Serbian citizenship.

In any case, if you are considering terminating your Serbian citizenship, it is advisable to consult a lawyer specializing in immigration and foreigners law to help you determine the easiest way to terminate your Serbian citizenship.

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