A path to Permanent Residency in Serbia¶
As a foreigner ("stranac"), you can stay in the Republic of Serbia for a short-term stay of up to 90 days either on a visa or under a free visa regime, or you can be granted a temporary or a permanent residency.
You can check here if a visa regime applies to your country.
If you intend to stay in the Republic of Serbia for over 90 days, you can be granted a temporary residence permit on the grounds of employment, studies, and ownership over immovable property, among others. Temporary residency is also available based on self-employment. After extending temporary residency five times (five years in a row), you can apply for a permanent residency.
If Serbia's permanent residency is registered for at least three years without interruptions, it is possible to apply for citizenship of the Republic of Serbia if certain conditions prescribed by the Citizenship Law of Serbia are fulfilled.
Simplified representation of the path to the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia:
- Visa (only for certain foreigners)
- Short-term stay and Temporary residence (granted for one 1 year and can be extended)
- Permanent residency (if your stay in Serbia was based on temporary residency and you stayed in Serbia 3 years or longer)
- Citizenship (if conditions prescribed by the Law are fulfilled)
This implies residence no longer than 90 days, in any 180 days starting from the day of first entry. The duration can vary according to citizenship. It is required for some foreigners to have a visa to enter Serbia - this type of visa is called a Short-term or C- visa.
When you arrive in the territory of the Republic of Serbia, it is necessary to register your stay at the nearest police department within 24 hours from arrival in order to obtain a white card.
Whenever you change the local government unit, you have to file for a new white card. The next step is to apply to get the temporary residence permit during this approved period of stay (30 or 90 days, depending on your citizenship).
The Law on foreigners states in Article 40 that if the foreigner intends to stay in the Republic of Serbia for over 90 days, the temporary residence can be granted on the grounds of employment, studies, and ownership over immovable property, among others.
If your country's visa regime demands a visa for a temporary stay in Serbia, this Long-term visa is called a D type visa. This means you will need an invitation letter as proof of your purpose of stay, along with other visa requirements. Visa applications can be filed with the relevant diplomatic or consular mission of the Republic of Serbia. Foreigners who are not required to obtain a visa before entering Serbia do not need any proof of the purpose of stay.
What are the general documents you have to submit to apply? Besides the temporary residence request, which is filled at the police department, you will have to submit the documentation as evidence of your application's grounds. These documents are:
- valid travel document
- the registered address of residence in the Republic of Serbia
- two photographs (35x45 mm, colored, face)
- filled forms (three copies)
- proof of paid administration fee for stay (around 140€, plus a fee of about 15€)
Also, you have to submit:
- bank statement as proof that you are capable of supporting yourself- sufficient funds for staying is around 3.500 EUR per year
- evidence that you have health insurance for the period that you stay in Serbia
- proof that your purpose to stay is justified.
These additional documents are determined based on the request grounds, which will be elaborated on in separate paragraphs. The application has to be filed with the police department in the same place where the address is registered. However, if the foreigner afterward decides to reside in a place other than the registered address, it is possible to change the address. The change can be done by filling a new application with the police department competent for the territory where the new address is located.
Temporary residence permits will usually take less than three weeks to process, after which it will be marked in your travel document, and it will last up to a year.
The travel document's validity period must be at least three months longer than the temporary residence permit's expiry date. The permit can be extended for the same period, no earlier than three months and no later than 30 days before the previous one expires. In order to extend, it is necessary to stay in Serbia for at least half of the approved residency period plus one day (if the approved period is one year, it is highly recommended to be in Serbia around eight months of that period).
After extending the temporary residence five times (five years in a row), you can apply for permanent residence.
Temporary residence based on employment¶
Your employment as a foreign national is possible if you possess a visa for a long- term stay based on employment, temporary residence approval, permanent residence, and work permit under the Foreign Nationals Employment Act.
As written in the Law on Foreigners, temporary residence on the grounds of employment may be granted to a foreigner who meets the criteria referred to general required documents for application, and who:
- should have temporary residence approved as a precondition for obtaining a work permit in the Republic of Serbia, or * intends to stay in the Republic of Serbia on the grounds of employment for longer than 90 days and does not need a work permit.
Additional required documents for application are:
- Ruling on Registration of the company or other legal entity where you got the employment
- Employment Contract or Service Contract
- The opinion of the National Employment Service when the employment is being set up for the first time or Ruling of the National Employment Service that authorizes employment setting up
A temporary residence permit represents a precondition for issuing a work permit. However, it is not up to you to request the work permit - this is an obligation of the employer, which will occur before the National Employment Service.
Temporary residence based on self-employment¶
A temporary residence permit is intended for those foreign citizens who wish to register as entrepreneurs and employ themselves in their own company instead of working for another (Serbian) company.
There are three separate procedures to pass:
- Start your company and register yourself as an entrepreneur in the Business register agency
There are no special requirements for founding legal entities, so every individual or legal person can do it. The Law on Companies regulates legal status and forms, incorporation, registration, and other relevant issues.
- File a request for a temporary residence permit
It may be granted to a foreigner who meets the criteria referred to general required documents for application and who submits additional evidence:
- The act of registration of a company or an entrepreneur from the Business register agency
Bank's transaction report
Request a work permit for self-employment
The application has to be submitted by the foreign citizen. Required documents are:
- work permit request form
- evidence of approved temporary residence
- document about the nature, duration, and scope of activities that your business includes
- evidence that you possess the necessary qualifications and experience for doing the job
- proof of the right of ownership or renting of office space in which the business
- statement regarding the number and structure of persons that you plan to employ
The work permit can last as long as the temporary residence permit lasts. You will have an obligation to start your business activities within 90 days of getting the work permit.
It is important to know that work permit can be revoked, which applies to both employment and self-employment:
- If you run activities for which no work permit has been issued or if you work for a different employer
- If you do not start working within 15 days from the day of issuance of the work permit for employment
- If you do not start working within 90 days from the day of issuance of the work permit for self-employment
- If other conditions from the Foreign Nationals Employment Act are not met at the time of issuance
Temporary residency based on studying¶
Temporary residence on the grounds of university studies in the Republic of Serbia may be granted to a foreigner who meets the criteria referred to general required documents for application and submits additional evidence of enrolment in a program with an accredited tertiary education institution. Temporary residence on this basis can be granted for one year and extended for the same period of time unless the studies last less than one year when granted for that period of time.
More information about academic requirements for bachelor and master programs and doctoral studies can be found here.
Temporary residence based on ownership over immovable property¶
In practice, this temporary residence permit gets issued for a period of six months. Temporary residence on the grounds of the ownership over immovable property in the Republic of Serbia may be granted to a foreigner who meets the criteria referred to general required documents for application and submits additional evidence of ownership over that property.
If you intend to buy a property in Serbia, you will have to conclude a purchase contract, which has to be solemnized before the notary. To confirm your ownership, you will have to register it to the Real Estate Cadaster. However, when you submit a request for a temporary residence permit based on this ground, it is enough to file just the certified purchase contract, without the Real Estate Cadaster registration decision. The property implies housing buildings and housing units that you can get property rights and reside in Serbia.
Foreign natural and legal persons can buy Serbian property if the condition of legal or factual reciprocity is fulfilled. The legal reciprocity means there is a bilateral agreement between your country and Serbia. In contrast, you can check the factual reciprocity condition. You will need to send a reciprocity explanation request to the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Serbia and pay a tax of 1,750 dinars (around 15 EUR).
The law is not explicit about renewing the residency based on ownership over immovable property. In the police, they will say that you need to stay half the time of the approved period. Meanwhile, in practice, foreigners get their renewal without a problem if they submit evidence to justify their absence (family, business etc.) The Law on Foundations of Property Law Relations regulates ownership rights of foreign citizens.
Temporary residence on the basis of ownership of real estate¶
Temporary residence on the basis of the right of ownership over real estate may be granted to a foreigner who meets the already mentioned general conditions for obtaining the residency and who submits evidence of ownership over a real estate. Immovable property in this sense of the Law is residential buildings and apartments in the Republic of Serbia, over which a foreigner may have the right of ownership and in which the foreigner resides in the Republic of Serbia.
In practice, there is no stay requirement for getting the first residence permit, since almost all of these procedures can be done online. However, you have to file the application for temporary residence permit in person, which will take at least three days, and you have to collect it in person, after one month.
Physical presence is also necessary after submitting the temporary residence application, as you have to appear at the police department to have a short interview with a police officer.
You can obtain permanent residency after five consecutive years of temporary residence, except if you have a temporary residence permit in the Republic of Serbia on the grounds of a school or university studies. In that case, it is necessary to, later on, change the ground for residence. Only one-half of the time you spend here on the grounds of a school or university studies will count as the time required to approve permanent residence.
You have to reside continuously on the territory of the Republic of Serbia for five years. However, you can have multiple stays outside up to ten months or a single stay up to six months over this period. The request for permanent residence you should submit personally on a prescribed form to the competent authority where you got the temporary residence permit.
Additional required documents are:
- Valid travel document
- Proof that you are capable of supporting yourself
- Proof that you have health insurance for the period that you stay in Serbia
- The registered address of residence in the Republic of Serbia
- Evidence that the application for permanent residence is justified
- Evidence of payment of prescribed administrative tax
These documents can vary depending on the permanent residence ground. The Ministry of Interior will bring the decision within the next 60 days from applying.
The procedure of acquiring the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia for foreigners is made via Admission. This procedure is called naturalization, and a legally capable foreigner can initiate it. The procedure is regulated by the Law on the Citizenship of the Republic of Serbia.
If the main prerequisite of having a permanent resident in Serbia under the Law on Foreigners is fulfilled, you have to meet additional requirements:
- To be 18 or more than 18 years old and not deprived of business capacity
- To be released from foreign citizenship or to have any evidence that you will be released from it if you get the admission of the Serbian citizenship
- The permanent residence in Serbia has to be registered for at least three years without interruptions before applying for citizenship
- To submit a signed statement that you consider the Republic of Serbia as your country
Suppose your home country does not allow the release from citizenship or does not fulfill the release conditions. In that case, it will be enough to declare that you renounce your previous citizenship if you acquire Serbian citizenship.
The acquisition application has to be submitted to the Ministry of Interior via internal affairs authorities (competent Police department) in the applicant's place of residence or temporary stay. It is also possible to file it with the relevant diplomatic or consular mission of the Republic of Serbia. It can be filed in person or through an authorized person.
If the conditions are fulfilled, the Ministry of Interior will issue a decision of admission.