How To Apply For and Renew Your Visa in Serbia

The monument to soldiers lost in World War I
The monument to soldiers lost in World War I | © Amazonite / WikiMedia Commons

When it comes to tourism, Serbia has a delightfully relaxed visa system. That changes if you’re looking for a longer stay in the country, and the process of getting your documents in order can be a struggle at best and a migraine-inducing tumour at worst. It won’t be easy, but we’re here to help.

Visa-free entry

Before getting into the nitty gritty, there is good news for some. For citizens of many nations, you don’t need a visa to visit Serbia, provided you plan on spending less than 90 days in the country within a period of six months. The full list of countries that are exempt can be found at this link, with the majority of European nations included. Now, onto the nonsense.

Subotica, Serbia

Transit visa

If you’re using Serbia as nothing more than a transit stop before moving on to your destination, this is the visa for you. It is valid for up to six months, although it doesn’t allow for more than five days on Serbian soil. In order to get the visa, you’ll need the following:
A valid passport, and one that is valid for up to 90 days following the date your visa is issued.
A completed visa application form.
Two passport-sized photos, adhering to internationally approved passport standards and signed on the back.
An entry visa to the country to which you are traveling (if you don’t need a visa, you’ll need to provide some way of justifying your journey there).
A return ticket or planned itinerary, although if you are driving this will amount to your licence and insurance.
Proof of sufficient funds to get you through Serbia.

Sunset above the city of Kraljevo in Serbia

Tourist visa

If you’re not from one of the lucky countries that doesn’t require a visa to visit Serbia, you’ll need to get yourself one of these. You’ll need everything listed for the transit visa above, along with a couple of extra bits and pieces:
An invitation letter. If you’re heading to Serbia on a work trip, this can be a letter from the company in Serbia you will be visiting. If the trip is private, this can be as simple as confirmation from your hotel.
Health insurance. This doesn’t need to be absolutely comprehensive, but you’ll need to prove that you have some form of health insurance before being allowed into the country. On the same subject, if you are traveling from an area that has recently experienced a pandemic, you will have to be sufficiently vaccinated and provide proof of that too.

The ‘Three Fists’ of Bubanj Potok

Temporary stay visa

Looking to spend a little longer in Serbia? You are wise to do so, although the extra bureaucracy might make it seem like it isn’t worth it. A temporary stay visa will allow you to stay in the country for a whole year, and can be extended every year thereafter. This can only be applied for once you are in Serbia, so make it a point to get it out of the way early into your stay. You can apply for this visa if you are in Serbia for educational reasons, for employment, or if you are joining family members.
What will you need? Patience, heaps and heaps of patience. You’ll also need all of the general requirements listed above. If you’re moving for work, school or family, all three will be able to help the process along. Your school or employer should do the entire process for you, while your family will be able to get much of the legwork done.
Along with the usual requirements, you’ll also need to provide proof of residence. This amounts to the contract you will have signed for your flat, apartment or house. You’ll also need to provide proof of your reasons for applying for the visa.
What is the process for this visa? As mentioned previously, a little bit of patience will be required. You need to attend an appointment at Serbian immigration services, where you will have to sit through a short interview. Keep in mind that the services are only open in the mornings from Monday to Friday, so be prepared to turn up bright and early. It is also first come first served, so best of luck there. When you finish the interview you’ll be issued a receipt with a date for you to return, which will be in Cyrillic.
It will then take at least one month for your case to be resolved, but the likelihood is that the one will soon become three. You might even need to chase it up with immigration. If successful, you’ll be issued a visa for three to six months, which will extend to a year once you renew it the first time. You’ll only need to renew it annually after that.

Drvengrad is one of many great summer spots in Serbia

Permanent stay visa

So you’re in this for the long haul? If you don’t plan on leaving any time soon and will eventually apply for Serbian citizenship, the permanent stay visa is for you. This is an understandably difficult process, although by the time you come to apply you will likely be well versed in the peculiarities of Serbian society. If you’re after the permanent stay, you’ll need to tick at least one of these criteria (followed by the extras you’ll need to provide):
You have lived in Serbia on a temporary residence visa for at least five years. You’ll need to provide proof of that tenure, along with your birth certificate and a medical certificate issued by the state.
You have been married to a Serbian citizen or foreigner with permanent residence for at least three years. You’ll need the extras detailed above, along with your marriage certificate. If you were married previously, you’ll need to provide proof of annulment. Your spouse will also have to provide proof of their citizenship, and the birth certificates of any kids will also be required.
You have Serbian family links. This is a little easier in truth, as along with the birth and medical certificate you’ll just need to provide proof of kinship with your Serbian family.
You have been granted permanent residence by the state for humanitarian reasons. The special nature of this visa means the state will help you through the process.

Belgrade comes alive at night

Important things to keep in mind

No matter which visa you are hoping to procure, you are going to need a lot of patience. If you’re after the temporary or permanent visas, the whole experience will be immeasurably smoother if you have a Serbian speaker with you. With that in mind, you should be speaking the language if you’re applying for the latter.
Serbian bureaucracy is never in anything approaching a hurry, so expect plenty of waiting and no small amount of confusion. Persist, be friendly, and stay confident.

Oplenac, Serbia

Other useful links

The official Serbian government website isn’t particularly useful on this subject, but there are a few alternatives that provide good information. Move to Belgrade might be the best, which is no surprise considering the title of the website.
And finally, good luck!

A glorious sunset over Bač fortress

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