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Residence Permits in Serbia in 2023 Leading to Citizenship in the Future

How to get a family residence permit in Serbia? What is the procedure for obtaining a residence permit by investment in real estate or other assets in this friendly and picturesque Balkan country? Where to find advice on how to obtain a temporary residence permit, a permanent residence permit, and citizenship in Serbia? What should be done to emigrate to Serbia? We are not surprised that more and more clients want to know answers to such questions. Read on, and you’ll learn about all the benefits of the Serbian residence permit and citizenship, regardless of the method of obtaining them. 

Serbia is an excellent choice for expats because it is the mix of many virtues: the pretty environment, vigorous development of sustainable transport and technical infrastructure, access to quality public services, education, housing, and community amenities. Therewith, the cost of living in this nice country is many times lower than in many other countries of the world, and Serbia’s ratings in terms of safety and tolerance are very high. No wonder, many foreigners choose Serbia for residence, international protection, work, and business. 

Serbian Legal Residence

A permit for residence in Serbia can be a great solution in the time of trouble. Therefore, the incentives for residence permit holders deserve particular attention this year. 

What is the profile of an applicant for a residence permit in Serbia? 

The highest number of residence permit holders and immigrants in Serbia before the CIVID-19 pandemic came from Russia, China, Romania, Turkey, N.Macedonia, Ukraine, Germany. The top 6 countries which nationals applied for the first time for a temporary residence permit in Serbia in 2019 were: Russia, China, Turkey, Ukraine, B&H, Romania. They came for family reunification/marriage/extramarital union, work, property ownership, education, other reasons. 

Any residence permit holder employed in Serbia has equal rights and obligations in relation to work, employment, and self-employment as nationals (certain conditions apply). The biggest number of work permits were issued in 2019 to citizens of Russia, Italy, B&H, Belarus, India, Greece, Croatia, Germany, France, Albania, China, Austria, Bulgaria.  

For 2 years, due to the pandemic-related lockdown and travel restrictions, the number of residence permit applications decreased in Europe at large and in Serbia in particular. It is too early to share the current data on resident permit applications. But there is no doubt that the number of people wishing to obtain a residence permit in Serbia this year is growing.

For many foreigners, a residence permit in Serbia is primarily a tool for opening a bank account there. Deposits of up to up to 50,000 euros are protected in Serbia. Foreign citizen and foreign legal entities can open companies in Serbia, set up a bank account, and hold full ownership without any restrictions.

The fairly liberal legislation makes the path of obtaining a residence permit in Serbia by purchasing real estate or by opening a company even a more interesting option than participation in other investment migration programs across the world.

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Serbia’s geography and status as an incentive for residence permit holders in Serbia in 2023

Serbia enjoys a glorious setting in the southeastern part of Europe. Its location is a special advantage for applicants for the residence permit in Serbia. It borders Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Romania.

Moreover, you can easily reach any major European city from Serbia: many flights to neighboring countries are operated from Nikola Tesla International Airport in Belgrade. 

Serbia is a rapidly developing country. It is a member of the UN, the Council of Europe, OSCE, and a signatory to the Central European Free Trade Agreement. A very important incentive for many applicants for the residence permit and citizenship is that Serbia is a potential candidate for the EU membership.

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Please note that the current turbulence and the influx of millions of refugees in Europe may trigger new trends and amendments in the countries’ immigration/emigration policies. Updates on the global investment citizenship and residence options, including Serbia, should be discussed with our experts.

Climate and landscapes as an incentive for residence permit holders in Serbia

Serbia has mostly a continental climate, with warm summers and cold winters. The average temperature in Belgrade is 12° C. Summer temperatures usually reach 21° C (in July), and winter temperatures drop to 0° C (in January). In the mountains of Serbia, winter temperatures drop to -5° C. The strong Košava wind from the Carpathian Mountains is a reason why Belgrade can rival Chicago for the title of the “Windy City”. 

Serbia is the land of gorgeous natural sights, nature parks, rivers, lakes, picturesque canyons, and forested hills. The country is 75% mountainous. The abundance of pristine nature in Serbia is still delightfully off the mass-tourism trail. However, the tourism is steadily growing. The excitement of discovery of many stunning sights and business opportunities is a special privilege available to all new residence permit holders in Serbia.

Foreign policy of Serbia as an incentive for residence permit holders in Serbia

Serbia is a parliamentary republic. The head of the government in Serbia is Prime Minister, appointed by the President. The country is very much interested in tourism revenues and promotes the strategy based on friendliness, hospitality, and liberal values.

The government positions Serbia as a happy medium between Western Europe and Eastern Europe. Even the Serbian language is “bilingual”:  both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets are used. Serbia’s sobriety, focus on the domestic step-by-step economic reforms, and the ‘multi-vector’ approach to international affairs, appeal to many residence permit applicants in Serbia who move to this nice small country for good.

Taxation system as an incentive for residence permit holders in Serbia

Residents of Serbia are taxed on their worldwide income. Non-residents are taxed only on their Serbian source income and worldwide income related to their work in/for the Republic of Serbia. A person is considered a tax resident if he/she resides permanently (with a residence permit) in this country for most of the year (at least 183 days during the tax year) or has a registered business in Serbia, or if such person has a vital interest in Serbia.

As of January 1, 2022, a new set of Tax Laws has been adopted in Serbia.

The tax rates for individuals depend on the type of income:

  • The salary tax rate: 10% (after deducting the RSD 19,300 non-taxable salary cap). The taxable base is gross salary, including fringe benefits. Tax reliefs for new employees and students who perform work-based are subject to certain conditions in Serbia.
  • The minimum tax base for social security contributions is 35% of the average monthly salary.
  • Tax rate on income from self-employment in Serbia: 10%
  • Capital gains tax (for example, the tax on income generated by the sale or other transfer of the title of the ownership of real estate, shares, etc.) in Serbia: 15%
  • Income from investments in Serbia (the tax on loans, savings, and other deposits, etc.): 10%
  • Property tax is levied on the property value at a maximum rate of 0.40% in Serbia
  • Royalty income tax in Serbia: 20% (and up to 80% of income by eligible copyright holders can be excluded from the tax base)
  • Personal deductions and allowances of up to 50% of the taxable annual income are available to taxpayers supporting Serbian and foreign dependent family members.

In addition, there is a supplementary annual income tax for one’s net worldwide income exceeding a prescribed threshold. Its rate is 10% this income is more than 3 times the average annual salary in Serbia. If the aggregate annual worldwide income is 6 times the average annual salary in Serbia, the rate of this supplementary annual income tax is 15%.

The corporate tax in Serbia is payable at a rate of 10%, and there are many deductions to support capital investment. The standard rate of the Value Added Tax is 20%. A reduced VAT rate of 10% applies to basic food stuffs, medicines, public transportation services, utilities, other basic services and goods.

As you see, taxes in Serbia are among the lowest in Europe. Your residence permit in Serbia will entitle you to the Serbian tax residence and citizenship coming with many incentives. 

Economic migration is the most popular form of migration worldwide and in Serbia. Work permits issued as personal work permits or as work permits are stipulated by the Law on the Employment of Foreigners and the Rulebook on work permits. They regulate the procedures for issuing/extending the work permit, the form and content of the work permit.

Healthcare system as an incentive for residence permit holders in Serbia

Public health care services in Serbia are provided to every citizen and holder of a residence permit through the Health Insurance Fund (HIF). So, expats can also use the public health care system at very reasonable prices.

Private medical care is widely available across Serbia and is considered one of the best in the region. Foreigners and new holders of the residence permit feel more comfortable using the private health care system. The prices for private clinics are quite reasonable.

Real estate market as an incentive for residence permit holders in Serbia

Real estate prices in Serbia are quite reasonable. In Belgrade there are expensive neighborhoods such as Dedinje, Senjak and Dorćol. There are also less expensive neighborhoods in Belgrade, such as Zemun and Novi Beograd, but they are located far from the city center.

In other cities of Serbia, housing prices are much lower than in the capital. One of such attractive local markets is the city of Novi Sad. Real estate in small towns and rural areas is very affordable. Anyway, you have a good menu of options to choose a nice place of temporary or permanent residence in Serbia.

Shopping opportunities as an incentive for residence permit holders in Serbia

Serbia offers a modern shopping infrastructure, including stylish malls and countless trendy outlets that are typical of the developed countries of Central and Western Europe.

In Belgrade, the main shopping hubs are Ušće and DeltaCity, both in the Novi Beograd neighborhood. You can find stores everywhere, but the best ones are on Terazije Street or along Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra (King Aleksandra Boulevard).

We have heard from residence permit holders used to foreign goods that they enjoy their local lifestyle in Serbia. 

Cost of living as an incentive for residence permit holders in Serbia

Most things can be bought much cheaper in Serbia than, for example, in the United States or Western Europe. New residence permit holders are glad to discover that services are usually provided at extremely low cost.

But some goods, such as cars and gasoline, are considerably more expensive than in the United States. In general, the cost of living in Serbia is one-third of the comparable lifestyle in any Central European country. So, it is yet another reason to apply for a residence permit in Serbia.

The passport power as an incentive for residence permit holders in Serbia

The United States of America or any other Western country have much more powerful passports. Nevertheless, Serbia is rapidly strengthening the power of its passports.

The government of Serbia has done an excellent job over the past decade to make life easier for citizens and residence permit holders who frequently travel the world. The local Foreign Ministry has successfully negotiated a series of visa-free travel deals with many friendly countries.

In general, the number of countries that allow visa-free arrivals for Serbs is steadily growing. In recent years alone, Serbia has been included in the list of countries whose citizens are entitled to visa-free entry to the Schengen area (according to Annex II Countries).

Serbia, along with Montenegro and Macedonia, became eligible for visa-free travel to Europe back in 2009. Serbia is one of the very few countries on the globe (Mauritius, Seychelles, Dominica, Grenada, the UAE and a couple of  others) whose citizens can visit without a visa the Schengen Area countries, Andorra , Argentina, Aruba, Barbados, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba , Croatia, Georgia, Israel, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macao, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Palestinian Territories, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, Ukraine, the UAE, Uzbekistan, Vatican City, and dozens of other state, including Russia and China.

Interestingly, the old Yugoslavia’s visa treaties that give Serbian citizens and residents the right to visa-free entry to states such as Cuba and Tunisia, are still in force.

As of 2022, Serbia is finalizing negotiations with Azerbaijan, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Venezuela. When all these agreements are ratified, Serbian passports will be even stronger.

Most of the countries on the list of visa-free destinations for the holders of Serbia passports are quite difficult to visit even for citizens of some Western countries. Therefore, the opportunity to travel there without having to obtain a visa will be a real gift coming with a Serbian passport. If you know what it takes to obtain visas to such countries as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland and New Zealand, you will appreciate the freedom to travel without visas to as many countries as possible.   

In the past, Serbia’s Western European neighbors, such as Great Britain, have hinted at the possibility of lifting visa restrictions, but this has not happened so far. In any case, Serbia wants to restore its attractive image and is taking all necessary practical steps to do so, unlike many other countries. This effort and obvious success of Serbian reforms is much appreciated by residence permit holders and deserves global respect and encouragement.

How quickly can you obtain residence permits in Serbia?

The passport issued by Serbia is steadily improving its status in the world ratings of passports, considering the number of countries that holders of such documents can visit without a visa, or with an electronic visa, and visa on arrival. Although this is not the only criterion for evaluating the power of alternative citizenship, it is definitely on the top of the most important ones.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to come across websites that promote “economic citizenship in Serbia” at a price of €100,000 to €500,000. All such sites are run by scammers.

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Please note that it is NOT POSSIBLE to become a Serbian citizen by taking advantage of a citizenship by investment program similar to those in many other countries. One has to obtain the residence permit first and meet all the requirements. And there is no such thing as ‘the fast track’ to national passports in Serbia.

To get the first Serbian residence permit, you do not have to stay in Serbia for the duration of the residence. You can obtain tax residence in Serbia 1 year after the first approval of your Serbian residence permit. A permanent residence permit in Serbia can be obtained for 5 years. Only then you can become a citizen.  

Nevertheless, it is true that in some very exclusive cases citizenship can be obtained in a non-conventional way: for example, if the President of Serbia decides to grant someone citizenship for special merits. By the way, this is how Steven Seagal obtained his Serbian passport some time ago.

Local lawyers also confirm that there is no legal way to becoming a Serbian citizen quickly, unless one personally convinces the President of Serbia of his extraordinary value to this country. Otherwise, those wishing to become Serbian citizens have to follow the standard procedure of obtaining residence permits. Only having lived in the country for some years, they can be granted citizenship by naturalization.

No release from foreign citizenship is required if the applicant (over 18 y.o.) is an emigrant from the Republic of Serbia or a descendant thereof. In such a case, the admission to citizenship is fast, and the applicant does not need to live or have permanent residence in Serbia. 

It is possible to register a marriage with a Serbian citizen and in 3 years apply for citizenship if the permanent residence permit has been obtained in Serbia. 

A standard path to citizenship is through obtaining a permanent residence permit. The process of acquiring Serbian citizenship takes from 5 to 10 years, depending on the reason for immigration to Serbia.

Bright prospects for residence permit holders in Serbia

Serbia is one of just a few developing countries that does not want to rely purely on Western financial support. It safeguards its national interests and independence. At the same time, it is building its economy in partnership with all the major players on the global political arena. This meaningful cooperation is in favor of business initiatives and enhances the value of residence permits and Serbian passports.

To sum up, a Serbian residence permit will provide you many advantages, including the right to enjoy the benign taxation policy. You can obtain a temporary or a permanent residence permit in Serbia. The initial temporary residence permit is issued for 6 months and can be extended for up to 1 year. Your family can join you as a temporary residence permit holder. You can apply for a temporary or permanent residence permit for investment purposes, marriage, education, international security, work, business, and other purposes. You need to hold the temporary residence permit for 1 year before applying for a permanent residence permit. The set of documents for obtaining a permanent residence permit is minimal but needs to comply with the specifications. By standard rules, you can apply for citizenship after residence in Serbia for at least 3 years. You can obtain your residence permit with our help within a very short period.

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For more information about steps towards the tax residency, residence permits, citizenship, permanent residence permits in Serbia, please contact our experts at [email protected] or in messengers given at the top of this page.

Will I get an EU passport if I obtain citizenship in Serbia?

Serbia is going to join the Union in 2025. Before Serbia joins the EU, its citizens cannot be considered EU citizens. If you apply for a residence permit asap, you will be able to apply for a passport in Serbia in 2025 – after the required 3-year period of an uninterrupted residence in Serbia. This means that you have a chance, like all citizens in Serbia, to become an EU citizen in the future.

How can I obtain citizenship in Serbia by investment?

You can obtain citizenship by investment in Serbia, even though Serbia does not maintain a special CBI/RBI program. The Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Serbia stipulates that in certain cases applicants can get expedited citizenship by investment in property or business in Serbia upon arrival in Serbia. The minimum amount of investment is not specified. First, you need to select and buy some property. Then compile a portfolio of documents. With all the papers signed, translated, notarized, and ready, you will need to apply in person to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia and be interviewed. Your children up to 25 years old or parents over 65 years old will also qualify for citizenship if you apply by investment. Besides the investment, every applicant, including family members, is charged government fees and taxes. After you submit your application for citizenship by investment, the process will take just 3 months. The actual timelines and result depend on the value of your substantial investment and the professional help of a lawyer. Our experts are ready to help you at every stage of this path. Please contact us for details of our package and customized offers.

Do I have to pass any test when applying for a residence permit or citizenship in Serbia?

You don’t need to pass any language, history, culture, or medical tests when applying for a residence permit or citizenship in Serbia. For updates regarding the health safety requirements for travelers and expats, please refer to our experts.

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