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Srbija 2020

Running the Visa Gauntlet

Ever been to Bijeljina? If you have, and you’re reading this blog, the chances are that, like me, you will have experienced that most joyous of occasions – visa renewal. For those who haven’t experienced this, it is a requirement that numerous foreigners living in Serbia face. Every three months they are required to leave Serbia to update the status of their visas simply to continue living and, as is often the case, working in Serbia.

I know of numerous friends of various professions and nationalities that have had to face this inconvenience. I won’t say indignity, as what Serbs suffer at the hands of numerous foreign embassies is probably worse, but an adventure of inconvenience it certainly is.

I understand the need for visa regulations in Serbia, as in any country, but for me it is symptomatic of the unnecessarily complex bureaucracy that foreigners and probably locals, face here in Serbia. Why is it necessary to leave the country for 40 minutes; that being the sum total of my stay at Bijeljina bus station; to re-legitimise my stay in Serbia? What benefits spring from this ludicrous process? Increased sales of cigarettes at the Bijeljina bus station kiosk? One begins to wonder if the Serbian Minister of the Interior doesn’t have a share in the enterprise.

Why can’t the Serbian authorities take a more sensible approach to such administrative procedures? It’s not as if there is any question of being rejected/barred re-entry excepting Interpol intervention or a trunk-full of Columbia’s greatest export. A sensible approach would be to allow foreigners to update their visas in Belgrade, Novi Sad or other major cities. It would become a simple administrative procedure rather than a round trip journey that leaves you with the impression that you have been robbed of four hours. If the cost of the renewal was only a little higher than that of making it to the border I’m sure most people would accept it and it would provide additionally funds for the Serbian state coffers. Bijeljina bus station kiosk might not do so well out of the deal, but…

Although the state has failed to reform this system and continues to insist upon other forms of restrictive identification such as the ‘borovak’ and ‘potvrda’ they are not totally to blame for the problem. It is also an issue for businesses in Serbia who have displayed an unwillingness to resolve the visa status of their foreign staff. Emphasis is often placed upon visitors to resolve their own status, an attitude that is unlikely to cast a favourable light on Serbian business practices and employers. Furthermore it makes it all too evident to the visitor that Serbian employment laws do not protect the right of the employee. Although these kinds of problems have not dissuaded me from continuing to live and work in Serbia - the three times that I have been to court; all due to visa related issues and most of which were outside my control; they might well have put other potentially valuable foreign visitors from staying on.

And for my part I don’t want to the see the inside of a Serbian courtroom again.

well, you did choose

to live in retarded country

How else

would you have seen Bijeljina?

This stupid rule is not

This stupid rule is not specialty of Serbia. My friends, who lived in Toronto, Canada had to travel several times to Buffalo, USA to get their Canadian immigration papers resolved.


'This stupid rule is not specialty of Serbia.'

True. Stupidity (and bureacracy) is universal.

Well, Buffalo

is heaven on earth compared to Nuevo Laredo, where many from the USA go in order to satisfy immigration requirements.


...I was required to do the same until I got my permanent status. Crossing over to the U.S. didn't really bother me. I live close to the border. Being treated like sh_t by GED-holding, ghetto-ass, $5.75/hr U.S. "customs officers" did.

Scenario B for keeping foreign visitors from staying in Serbia

My family and I (2 adults + 2 children) were untroubled by travelling to Bijeljina for the purpose of getting another 3-months visa stamp in our passports. The favoured treatment was just because of the fact that my husband was the head of the mission for the int´l organisation he worked with in Belgrade. Nevertheles we had to prolongue our "boravak" every half a year at the concerned police station in Belgrade. Beside paying between 100 and 150 Euro pro person each time, which makes 400-600 Euro twice a year; it included humiliation of different forms from the responsible and randomly met civil servants (police officers and their colleagues in the police station). We understood at an early point that they wanted to make sure we understand who was the boss/the bosses there and what to expect in the case we misbehave.
Our attendances at the court, all due to visa related issues as well, happened because it was COMPLETELY impossible to obtain and prepare all necessary papers in officially designated time. Probably no need to say that the combination of documents that we needed for the prolongation of our stay was EACH time different from the previous one.
I wish you more luck and pleasure in Belgrade than we have had in respect of visa issues!

East Croydon

Home Office, endless queues.
But I did not have a blog to weep in public. Why can’t the (fill in the developed country to your liking) authorities take a more sensible approach to such administrative procedures?

Maybe it all depends...

...On who you ask!

I'm really surprised to read about your problems - obviously I've been lucky. Like you, I've suffered the rigours of temporary exile - in my case to Visegrad (and to be honest, there are worse places to be exiled to) but after only two or three of these day trips, I received my resident's visa. I don't think it cost me very much, if anything and it lasts for a year after which apparently, it's likely to be renewed without much fuss and bother unless I've committed some unspeakable crime.

Maybe I was lucky when I met a less than usually bureaucratic official who gave me accurate, helpful and relevant advice and who guided me - without the need for any presents or promises of favours, through the complexities of my application. You see, it is possible, but if you want to navigate successfully through the intricacies of Serbian regulations, maybe you have to be somewhere other than Belgrade. Out here in the sticks there are still lots of bureaucrats, but maybe they've a little more time to attend to the unusual needs of we foreigners?


...maybe it all depends on the fact your are 58, retired and married to a Serbian? :)

Let me ask you something

Have you ever been foreigner in your country?


I AM foriegner in ALL my countries. And you?

Nicholas, sorry for the interruption, the question was obviously for you, but I couldn´t resist...

You're right about that -

You're right about that - 99% people living here understand that.
But if I was working in some foreing country I would definitly have similar problems(there was an example of Canada upward). And I would certainly find some way to present my issues, like Nicholas is doing here. It is normal if talk about it, but he must be aware that's not problem only here in Serbia.
I completely understand him. I understand that there are so many administrative procedures that are comletely nonsense, but its something we have to live with.


radujem se da se razumijemo.

The matter of fact is that I have had this problem (obtaining visa, see my story above, if of any interest) ONLY in Serbia nowadays.

And it used to be my country too ... long ago, it seems.

Just to make it clear

I am not down-playing the problems faced by others in my country. I haven't experienced those difficulties and so can't really speak of them. I know the problems that Serbs face. My blog was to raise the issue to let Serbs know you are not alone.


Sorry, but it just didn't sound like that...

Immigration problems?


I see your point and IMHO, in an ideal world, you could, as you can in the EU, just go and live and work in any country without any problems. I also understand why you are frustrated at having to do the 4 hour round trip - it must be very very annoying. But why would Serbian authorities make life easier for you? Is there any reason apart from human decency?

Someone further up mentioned the Home Office in Croydon. It is one of four offices in the UK where you can go and renew your visa/residence permit etc. You can also send it by post which is cheaper but can take 6 months in which time you have no possibility of traveling. In some instances you can't renew it in person, which was my case. Basically, I have been without passport for six months now, and I have no way of finding out when I will get my passport back (try calling the IND information number, it is hilarious). My job requires a certain amount of travel and I have not been able to do this - and that is frustrating.

Dunjica (sorry if I am wrong on this) complained here about the treatment that she and her family received and how the bureaucrats want to make you realize who is in charge. Obviously she has never been to IND Croydon! It is not even the immigration officers that are the worst, but the security staff at the door, which treat anyone as if they were criminals.

So Nick, you find it frustrating that you have to go and renew your permit every three months? I would gladly swap with you and travel to Calais every 3 months if that was the system, which it is not!

Now for the good news - the Brits are ok. My wife is Italian, and I will spare you the details of the treatment I get every time I need to get a visa for us to go and visit family there. Not to mention the trouble that people go through and the treatment they receive when they want to get a residence permit.

Courtrooms - you say you have been there 3 times. In your own country you would have probably been deported by now (although, seeing the efficiency of the HO, it might not be true).

This is too long of a comment, so I'll wrap up by saying this: if you said why can't all countries be sensible about the issue of immigration, I would be 100% with you on this. But you complain about Serbia, not sparing a thought for people who, like you liked Belgrade and decided to come and live there, might like London or Liverpool (less likely) and decide to go and live there. Their options are much more limited than yours.

But thank you for point out the problems – hopefully some will resolve it and make life much easier for foreigners in Serbia. After all, there is no reason not to.

Ivan Z

Stiff upper lip....

It could be much worse.... I could tell you a story or two.


And simple administrative procedure is...what?

Geting documents for visa for Serbs...??

That is not complicated procedure, that is biggest advanture ever. Extreme sport or something.. new discipline..

"If you want to visit our beautiful country, to get visa, you have to take:

1. copy of ID.
2. passport
3. one pic (not older then six months)
4. six months salary report
If you are unemployed (if you are, and you are from Serbia? 'If' is no needed) you have no chance, but try with:
a.) six months selary report of your parents
b.) statement that you living with your parents and you have no any other inocomes
c.) copy of ID (mom`s or dad`s)
5. Hotel reservation
6. 35 euros bill
7. Norm no. 32343
8. Norm no. 32343 a (for unemployed)
9. Norm no. 32434....

And, on the end, you have a little conversation with staff:

-What is the reason you want to go to Italy? (exmpl)
-Just want to see Roma, Milan...
-That means, pleasure?
-Yes madame, that means pleasure.. i guess so..
-Are you sure you wanna visit Italy ?
-No madame, that was stupid idea, i will stay here.. for little bit more.. or forever...

I don`t know who is owner of stores in Knez Milos street but he is a rich guy. Every single day thousands of people waiting there for 'something', and they have no any idea would they get it..

So.. Ser, I don`t think that is complicated...

A couple of comments on

A couple of comments on this.

Firstly, a specific point, why don't you go to Batrovci on the Croatian border - it takes less time to get there and is on a better road.

Secondly, whilst understanding your frustration with the regular trips and periodic court visits you describe, this inconvienience does ultimately come down to your unofficial status in Serbia. It is fully possible for foreigners to get residency visas, and work permits in Serbia (I have one). To get this, as you probably know, you need a job, taxed income, employer support, and a raft of other paper work. Without these items, you must face the regular trek that you describe to update your 90 day tourist visa, which affords some limited status, albeit even this is probably inconsistent with the facts, as this is a tourist visa and, in common with most countries, doesn't allow you to work. In the end, the Serbian system seems to be looking the other way on this, and continues to allow a large number of foreigners to carry on repeatedly renewing their status in this, ultimately, irregular way. Assuming you like being here and profit from it, I guess these 3 monthly trips are a small price to pay.