Serbia: residence via business

Hi all

I’m kind of new here, and as a reply to my introduction I was asked to share some points on Serbian residence.

To remind, as one of my investments I decided to purchase a piece of Serbian agricultural land to rent it out and hope for price growth. The problem is that this type of land can not be bought privately by a foreigner, so I have to create a company and buy this land to the legal entity. That is pretty straightforward, founding a company and assigning myself as a sole director, so I decided to go this way and also try to get most of the process for its money (i.e. get the passports for myself and my family - spouse and 2 children [11 and 14]).

Disclaimer: myself I’m yet rather in the beginning of the process, but the information received from the local lawyers, as well as the experience of my fellow countrymen that they share over internet, demonstrates its’ ease. Anyway, don’t treat my post as something that does not require further check on site or with some trusted lawyers.

Serbia. What is that?

It’s a nice country on the Balkan peninsula, located right between Hungary, Romania, Croatia and Macedonia. It has mild climate, beautiful nature, reasonable infrastructure, good cuisine (especially if you are a meat-lover) and friendly people. You can cross the country in some 5-6 hours from south to north and 4-5 hours from east to west.

Largest cities are Belgrade (2M+ inhabitants, international airport with good connection with the whole world), Novi Sad, Niš. My personal love is Novi Sad – yet a nice calm town with some 400K inhabitants (myself I was born and lived all my life in Moscow, which is a neversleeping megapolis) in just some 50 minutes from the airport, which has, however, some good hotels, nice residential areas, great restaurants (especially I like these fish ones at the Duna river), farmlands in 15 minutes to the north and national park (Fruška Gora) in 15 minutes to the south. Local ski resort (Kopaonik) is in 4 hours drive, and the Croatian Adriatic sea is in just 5 hours. If I would to choose where to live – that’s the best option for me.

I’ll just leave these links to some random Instagram accounts here:

https://www.instagram.com/serbia_photo_ig/

https://www.instagram.com/ig_serbia_photo/

The country is really beautiful, and the life rhythm is really optimal, as is the work-life balance. Okay, let’s move to the business.

I’d like to avoid rewriting the official materials and posts of law firms, so if you’d like to check the whole bunch of options and requirements, please follow the link to the website of the Ministry of Interior:

http://www.mup.gov.rs/wps/portal/en/information/Terms+for+issuance+of+authorization+for+temporary+stay

According to the MoI, there are 23 reasons to get the temporary residence permit, which is the first step towards the permanent permit or citizenship. Some of them are quite exotic (sportsmen, diplomats, medical treatment, consultancy for large banks and funds etc.), others are barely realistic for most of us (study, marriage, employment), but couple of them are quite okay: property and business.

In general, the option with the property requires that you (ha) own some local property and have sources of self-financing. However, if your plan is to get the permanent residency or citizenship, you’ll have to live in Serbia most of the time.

As opposite to the property option, grounding a company and hiring yourself as a director allows you to use in the future the ambiguity of the Serbian laws, that assume that if somebody is employed in the country and pays salary taxes, he or she is residing there. Strange but seems to be true.

So, roughly speaking, in order to get permanent residence in Serbia (and later the citizenship if required) by the “business” way, one needs to follow the next broad steps:

  • Open a company and bank accounts, hire an accountant.
  • Rent a flat (this step may be nominal if you have friends who can rent you the flat out for $1 per year or agree to register you at their premises) and print out the proof of sufficient finance (for the first temporary permit only).
  • Get residence and work permit based on owning the company.
  • Extend the residence permit 4 times, i.e. in total possess the residence permit for 5 years.
  • Submit for permanent residence permit.
  • Submit for citizenship.

Costs:

  • Opening a company is barely a €100: 6000RSD to the state, some 2000RSD to the notary and a bottle of rakija (local spirit) to the person helping you to fill in the documents.
  • Maintaining a company with 0 or close to 0 activity (like my example of renting out the real estate) is roughly €300 per year for the accountant.
  • Salary and income taxes for yourself (based on minimum salary) is roughly €2000 per year. Corporate tax should be 0 as you can definitely account anything towards company costs, even your evening pub visits.
  • Residence and work permit fees are low, they’re within €100 each.

Please note that the above costs are based on my situation and on the fact, that I’ve worked on several projects in Serbia since 2017 and have local business partners, who let me use their corporate lawyer for consultations, provide me the company seat (legal address) for free and help with the residence address. Also I speak rather fluent Serbian, so I can pass the express language test in front of notary and not pay hundreds of money to the official interpreter or for apostile of the documents in my homeland. If you don’t have these valuable assets, you’ll have to count an extra €1000 for that.

< politics on >
I would like, just to support the opinion that we, Russians, are bad diplomats, to devote an additional paragraph to the problem, which is not visible from the start, but for sure is in place for most of the forum people here. When thinking to live in this godlike place you should always remember that the last real war here has finished just some 20 years ago, and if you are from US – be ready to the very negative attitude towards your person from most of the locals. US bombed Serbia badly, and at least 2 generations of locals will not forget it. You’ll have to use all your time and efforts to prove the Serbians that you worth to have the right to live in their land.
< politics off>

4 Likes

Excellent post–absolutely captivating! I have a hobby of tracking residency and citizenship minutiae; this is gold!

That’s some serious food for thought, concerning ongoing resentment about one of America’s countless campaigns of annihilation. Nomad Capitalist speaks very positively about Serbia as a friendly and welcoming place. I wonder whether he gets a pass because he renounced his American citizenship.

I aspire to visit there soon! I’ll have to work on my Canadian accent. :slight_smile: Eventually I’ll have a second passport from a non-belligerent country; I look forward to flying a less controversial flag on my future travels.

Thank you again for making the effort to compose this superbly informative post!

Serbia is open for tourism now (anyone with negative PCR test is welcome), and there are flights to US I saw last week in the Belgrade airport. Just plan it to be at least a couple of weeks to mix with the locals in their lifestyle and to enjoy several places in the country (Belgrade, as for me, does not worth more than 2 days). Serbian “polako” (eng. “slowly”) is some kind of a motto, like Spanish “mañana” :slight_smile: Especially in the summer season. God knows how I suffered last week on a business trip when it was 110F outside… The only place to survive was Fruska Gora, height 450, in the shade of the forest and with the spritz (white wine + sparkling water + ice) in your hands.

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You get PR after 5 years. How many more years before you get the citizenship?

Straight away after you get the permanent residence permit. This information is not available in English, but the Serbian version of MUP website says the following:

Захтев за пријем странаца у држављанство Републике Србије
У члану 14. Закона, предвиђено је да странац, који није у браку са држављанином Републике Србије, а коме је сходно прописима о кретању и боравку странаца одобрено стално настањење у Републици Србији може бити, на свој захтев, примљен у држављанство Републике Србије, ако достави отпуст из страног држављанства или поднесе доказ да ће отпуст добити ако буде примљен у држављанство Републике Србије.

I found the translation of the law (http://www.legislationline.org/download/action/download/id/5946/file/Serbia_Law%20on%20Citizenship_2004_en.pdf), and it says:

A foreigner who, in line with the regulations on movement and residence of foreigners, was
allowed to permanently reside in the Republic of Serbia can, upon his own request, be admitted to citizenship of the Republic of Serbia if:

  1. he is 18 years old and not deprived of working capacity;
  2. he is released from foreign citizenship or he submits the evidence that he will be granted the
    dismissal if admitted to citizenship of the Republic of Serbia;
  3. that until submitting of application for at least three years he has had uninterrupted residence in
    the territory of the Republic of Serbia i.e. Serbia and Montenegro;
  4. he submits a written statement that he considers the Republic of Serbia his state.

There is a question whether you can have Serbian passport without releasing any other citizenship. During my consultations with lawyers they all answered positive, but now I can’t quickly find the law base for that. Probably it depends on the country of your origin and existing citizenships, and is regulated by some bilateral documents between Serbia and your country. For example, Russia allows dual citizenship. Portugal, afaik, allows it for the citizenships applied at the end of the golden visa process.

Awesome write up thank-you! Especially appreciative of the poli-points on Serbia – I’ll be visiting there as an American.

Hi all

Quick update after the first stage.

The laws do not explicitly describe what happens neither after you apply for the first residence, nor during its validity, nor at the extension. It is also never written that you must live in Serbia to extend the residence. However, I decided to finally consult with some lawyers who work specifically in this area (immigration via business) to find out the current situation.

The outcomes are overwhelming for me:

  • after the residence application the police inspector is going to check whether you are present at the registered address. If he or she does not find you there within 3 weeks -hasta la vista.
  • for the first time you will most probably get the residence for 6 months, and it must be then extended. Extension is not automatic, you must apply for it. During the validity of the residence police inspectors come and check several times whether you really live there. If you don’t - hasta la vista.
  • you can’t be the director in your own company if you don’t have work permit, which you can’t have unless you own the residence permit.

Other thing: several local banks refused to open the account for me as a private person as I don’t have the local residence. Also some others (like ERSTE) refused to open the company account until the company celebrates its 2nd “birthday”…

Thus, the way of using the investment for getting the residence and citizenship won’t work if you don’t plan to be Serbian resident or don’t have local people who you can hire.

My personal lesson: check twice with several lawyers whether what you plan to do will work out. Not necessarily a corporate lawyer knows the details of immigration laws.

What do I do next:

  • I nominated the local director (without labour relationships: angažovanje, engagement) and put the company on hold till I find the land to buy.
  • I’ll limit by the engagement contract the freedom of the director to the minimum level and will keep the card certificate from the bank account with me.

This all costs ca. €150 monthly considering I don’t pay my friend director. Later we’ll see.

Take care.

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Ahh! It’s good to know that achieving part-time residency there is not a casual affair.

I’d still love to visit. I’ve met some Serbians in my travels who seemed like great folks.

Good luck with navigating the maze and achieving your goals!

Hello Max,

Thank you for sharing this and for taking the time to go to such details. I hope and trust that you and your family enjoy the process as you achieve your goals.

I am looking at the options to gain residence in Serbia and had the pleasure to find and reach out to a Canadian living there who has done same and runs a relocation assistance service. Perhaps he might have some information to share that would help with your banking issue. Please find his website below.

He also has a Youtube channel just for promoting Belgrade.

It will be a pleasure to buy and share a bottle of rakija with you when I get there. Thank you once again for sharing.

Akan

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After 3 years of PR