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Serbian Banking: Do Currency Controls Affect Foreign Investors?

Today, Serbia is on its way to becoming one of the most popular countries among foreign citizens, entrepreneurs, and investors: they choose a safe business environment for building, promoting, and expanding business in Europe, as well as protecting capital and opening a bank account. Many are interested in the currency control of the Serbian Republic for individuals/legal entities, and its impact on the investment background and the operation of banks.

Serbian banking

Serbia offers fairly loyal terms for non-residents on banking, transactions in foreign currency, and sale and purchase transactions. However, entrepreneurs have to keep in mind the need to submit the reporting regarding Foreign Trade Transactions in the Republic of Serbia as part of the Foreign Exchange Business Law that imposes fines for violation of deadlines and non-compliance.

Otherwise, exchange control for international businesses and non-resident individuals is lenient, especially when compared to other European countries. If we add Serbs’ friendly attitude toward foreigners, we will see why Serbia is one of the most profitable routes for international investors to protect capital and build an international business.

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Banking in Serbia

The Republic of Serbia is home to many international financial institutions from Western Europe, China, Russia, and Turkey. Due to the lack of CRS reporting, this jurisdiction has two undeniable advantages: a high level of confidentiality and minimal currency control.

Here are a few reasons why banking in Serbia has become so popular among foreigners in 2022 – despite all the geopolitical changes and the global crisis:

  1. Reliable and versatile banking sector. There are more than 20 foreign banking institutions in the country where you can open a personal (business) account in any currency
  2. In addition to the main range of services, you can use premium ones – letters of credit, bank guarantees, and non-standard SWIFT payments
  3. E-banking has support in English, mBanking, debit cards, and an e-commerce platform
  4. Deposits insured by the state with high coverage (50,000 euros)
  5. Straightforward procedure for opening an account for personal and corporate tasks, including for non-residents of Serbia

One more benefit of the Serbian banking system and banking for foreigners is an almost complete absence of currency control. This does not create barriers to investment activities, commerce, and international economic transactions, as well as intercountry bank transfers and forex transactions.

Currency Control in Serbian Republic – Law and Order

The primary principles which affect financial transactions with foreign individuals and legal entities in the Serbian Republic are the “Law on External Commercial Transactions” and the “Law on Foreign Exchange Transactions”. Serbian residents can achieve great success and surpass their competitors if they understand the essence of these norms and competently apply them in their business.

Access to banking products is limited for non-residents of Serbia. They surely can open an account, but some transactions are impossible to make. E-banking will be open only for viewing until a non-resident individual receives the status of a resident of the Balkan jurisdiction.

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However, there is an alternative option for foreign citizens who wish to diversify and protect their assets abroad, and the experts of our portal will kindly explain all the details to you. You can also read our post How to open a personal or corporate account in Serbia to a foreigner to get a general idea of the procedure.

For reference: a foreigner who stayed in Serbia (using a residence permit or a business visa) for 1 year or longer will automatically become a Serbian resident. All transactions in a foreign currency between the newly-minted resident and foreign natural/legal persons are subject to the Serbian exchange control regulations.

Transactions in Foreign Currency– Main Aspects of the Serbian Legislation

Your success, safety, and plans often depend on the knowledge of rules applicable in a particular area. Naturally, should you decide to engage in currency transactions in the Serbian Republic, including those concluded with foreign citizens and companies, you need to study the legal framework of Serbia to some extent. For your convenience, our experts have prepared some excerpts from the Serbian Currency Regulation Act that will be especially useful to investors who are just planning to start a business in the Balkan countries.

  1. Foreign exchange agreements concluded between Serbian residents can be signed in the territory of the country only if the amounts set in such agreements are paid in dinars (the Serbian currency).
  2. The legal entities being residents of Serbia may exchange the foreign currency if they obtain special permission from the National Bank of Serbia.
  3. Serbian residents can make investments in short-term debt securities which are issued by the EU Member States, the European Union itself, and banking institutions, as well as in securities provided by business entities headquartered in the EU.
  4. The right of ownership may be assigned from individuals/legal entities to a resident/non-resident company on a free basis in Serbia.
  5. The real estate may be purchased abroad by a resident of Serbia free of charge as these transactions are not monitored by the Serbian authorized regulatory authorities.
  6. Loans (credits) granted to Serbian residents/non-residents must be officially registered with the National Bank of Serbia by the transaction party being a resident of the Serbian Republic which is not impacted by the legal basis of relations between the transaction parties.
  7. Payments and other receipts from the non-resident holding company allocated to the affiliated company that is a Serbian resident are not considered a loan or credit transaction (activity).
  8. A branch of a foreign corporation has the right to take long-term loans and credits from a founder who is a non-resident.
  9. A Serbian resident has no right to receive funds, issue money orders, or make a transfer to a non-resident under an agreement if the actual amount/price is not specified.
  10. The Bank of Serbia may grant loans to residents in any currency provided that the funds are used to finance imports of products and services from abroad.
  11. A Serbian company may register a PayPal account and use it to accept or send payments in foreign currency as part of commercial relations with foreign companies.
  12. There are some conditions that restrict the right of a legal entity (which is a resident of Serbia) to export/import goods or services for foreign trade to receive similar payments in the form of products/services or free of charge.
  13. The non-resident business founder may provide a foreign subsidiary with core assets and consumer goods at no fee.
  14. Payment for digital products (software included) can be effected in foreign currency between Serbian resident entities – but only using bank cards or electronic money with the help of a Serbian service provider. Such a transaction will be approved if the digital products are delivered via the Internet rather than physically.
  15. Money can be paid to Serbian company directors or employees in foreign currency (in cash or by wire transfer) if this amount reimburses expenses for official travel abroad.
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Interested in more detailed information on currency transactions in Serbia? You can schedule a free consultation with our portal experts if you order one of the related services – open a bank account in Serbia, register a branch in Serbia, incorporate a company in Serbia, re-domicile your business to the Balkans, and so on. The full range of services is available in section I of the full list of our services in Serbia.

In what currencies can a foreigner open a bank account in Serbia?

Here is a full currency list:

Do Serbian financial institutions accept cryptocurrency?

Yes, cryptocurrency is accepted in Serbia.

Does SEPA work in Serbia?

Unfortunately, banks in Serbia do not support SEPA payment system.

Can a foreigner open a personal bank account in Serbia in 2022?

Yes, it is possible. To open an account remotely, you will need a special power of attorney and a copy of your passport. If the account is opened personally, you should provide a passport and a completed bank form. Some banks in Serbia may request additional documents, including proof of origin of the assets and confirmation of the source of funds.

How can a foreigner use e-banking for his personal account in Serbia?

A non-resident of Serbia can open a personal account and have limited access to banking. If you are not a resident, you can take a look at your accounts but you will not make any bank transfers. You will get full access to banking services and all transactions after a year of residence in Serbia on a work visa or on the basis of a residence permit.

Is the amount of transfer to a personal account from a foreigner limited in a bank in Serbia?

No. Transaction limits can be set by the sending country at the location of the foreign bank from which the transfer comes. In some countries, such transactions are subject to currency control and are strictly monitored by the regulator.

Is it possible to transfer money from a personal account in Serbia to a personal account in a foreign bank in another country?

Yes, it is. In fact, there are no restrictions on such currency transactions in Serbia.

Will I get access to banking if I open an account as a non-resident of Serbia?

Yes, but only in a limited version. The full banking service in the Serbian bank, including transactions, will be available only to resident foreigners. This status is assigned after a year of residence in the country based on a residence permit, work visa, or any other type of visa.

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