Serbia does not have a citizenship-by-investment program but becoming a legal resident in the country is relatively easy. You can obtain a temporary residence permit first, then a permanent residence permit, and then citizenship of Serbia by naturalization.
Because the living standards and the salaries are at an acceptable level in Serbia, the crime rates there are among the lowest in Europe. The level of corruption is also low. Therefore, living in Serbia is quite comfortable. A residence permit holder is eligible to buy real property in any Serbian city. A foreign resident and a native Serbian pay for utilities at equal rates and they have equal access to medical services in the country.
If you choose to apply for legal residence by investment into real property, the whole process is not going to take more than a month. You don’t have to obtain any special document to be able to apply for a Serbian residence permit. You can visit the country on a tourist visa, go straight to the police station, get a ‘white carton’ that is a registration card in Serbia, and apply for residence. If you stay at a hotel, the hotel administration will acquire a registration card for you. If you stay at a private house, however, you have to visit the police station together with the property owner.
The procedure of acquiring a legal residence permit in Serbia
There are several legal grounds on which you can qualify for legal residence in Serbia in 2023:
- Scientific research;
- Academic research;
- Purchase or real property;
- Study in Serbia;
- Marriage to a local citizen;
- Establishment of a business company in Serbia;
- Cooperation with a Serbian company or institution.
You will have to supply a different set of application documents depending on what method of acquiring legal residence in Serbia you choose. Besides, residence permits in Serbia can have different validity terms. They are extendable in any case.
Let us provide comments on some of the methods of acquiring legal residence in Serbia.
Marriage to a Serbian citizen
Your marriage can be official or unofficial. Two witnesses will have to confirm that you live together with your partner. There is an important condition though: the married couple have to be of different sexes, Same-sex marriages are not allowed in Serbia.
Purchase of real property
You can qualify for legal residence in Serbia if you purchase livable property in the country. Moreover, your family members (your spouse, children, and parents) can also qualify for residence in Serbia if you buy a piece of property there.
You should bear in mind an important factor, however. There is a special Committee in the Land Cadaster in Serbia that has to approve the purchase deal if it is made by a foreigner. Normally, the Committee will put no obstacles in your way.
The application processing takes about three weeks. When permission is granted, finalization of the purchase deal will take one more month.
Please note that a foreigner cannot buy land in Serbia: it would be against the law. However, foreigners can rent land in Serbia and it can be a long-term rent agreement, for up to 30 years.
As far as rent is concerned, you can also rent residential accommodations in Serbia instead of buying them and this will also make you qualified for legal residence in the country.
Opening a company in Serbia
You can start a business company in Serbia, rent an office for 1 year, and hire 4 Serbians. This will serve as legal grounds for applying for residence in the country. If your company keeps working and giving jobs to Serbians, your residence permit can be extended. Hiring local people is an obligation that you have to meet but it also brings you fiscal advantages. A business company in Serbia that belongs to a foreigner and that employs Serbians is eligible for tax deductions.
Please note that you can apply for a residence permit in Serbia only after your company has completed the registration process. Luckily, it doesn’t last for more than 2 weeks.
You have to realize that you won’t be able to ‘make a quick buck’ in Serbia if you start a company there. The business environment is very friendly but some time will have to pass before you can return your investments.
Employment in Serbia
You can also acquire legal residence in Serbia if you find a job there. You will have to acquire a work visa and the Serbian Employment Bureau will have to give consent to your application for residence. It will give consent if your employer justifies in writing that no Serbian citizen can do the job and besides, he/ she will have to pay a state duty of about 100 euros. The duty is payable every time your job contract is extended.
You have to submit the following documents when applying for legal residence in Serbia by employment:
- A valid passport and its copy.
- A bank statement that confirms your solvency. The amount of the money in your account has to be not less than 3,500 euros. Supposedly, this sum should be enough to cover your basic costs over one year.
- Marriage or divorce certificate.
- A police clearance from your home country.
- Your birth certificate.
- A medical insurance policy with a coverage of at least 1,000 euros.
- A medical examination report. This document has to confirm that you don’t have any infectious diseases and don’t pose any threats to Serbians.
- University diploma (if available).
Study in Serbia
A school or university student is also eligible for a residence permit in Serbia. You have to realize though that things may not be so easy when it comes to acquiring residence permits for the student’s parents (see below).
You have to bring an official enrollment confirmation when applying for a residence permit on these grounds. The permit is going to be valid for 1 year and it can be extended as long as your educational program continues.
There is a restriction in Novi Sad, however. The student’s parents are eligible only for 6-month residence permits. They have to use this time to purchase property or start a company to continue their legal stay in Serbia.
Additional methods of acquiring legal residence in Serbia
There are also some less popular ways of acquiring a residence permit in Serbia. These include the following ones:
- Diplomatic, educational, or cultural activities on the territory of the country;
- Having special merits such as investing at least 70,000 euros in Serbian economy;
- Family reunification.
Steps in the process of acquiring legal residence in Serbia
The first thing to do is pay a visit to the Ministry of the Interior and find an alien inspector. The inspector will hand you a piece of paper containing a list of the required application documents and duties to pay. We recommend that you visit the Ministry at 8 to 9 a.m.
Then you will have to take the following steps:
Take 2 photos as for a Schengen visa;
Make copies of your ‘white carton’, your passport, and your property ownership certificate.
Purchase a medical insurance policy;
Obtain a bank statement;
Pay the state duty;
Write resumes for all adult family members (the resumes have to be in the Serbian language);
Fill out the application form (in Serbian).
Admittedly, the process of acquiring legal residence in Serbia does involve some paperwork. The good news, however, is that there are many different legal grounds on which you can apply for a Serbian residence permit.