In August 2022, the Returning Point organization presented a new initiative that enables people who don’t possess Serbian citizenship but are of Serbian origin, to obtain temporary residence in Serbia. The name of the program is Carta Serbica and it represents a new regulation created to facilitate and inspire our people across the world to come and experience life in Serbia.
Potential beneficiaries of the program are, for example, people of Serbian origin who fled the country during the 1990s without getting a refugee status in Serbia or exercising their right to citizenship; then, the second- and third-generation emigrants born abroad who would like to reconnect with their country of origin and strengthen their bonds with relatives and friends in Serbia; and finally, people who relinquished their Serbian citizenship in the past in order to obtain citizenship of a country that does not allow dual citizenships. The last instance primarily concerns emigrants who went to Germany where they lived for a long time but would like to spend their pension days in their home country.
The process of obtaining temporary residence in accordance with the Carta Serbica program and the documentation needed are described in detail on a special page on our website. In this blog, we’ll be describing how the initiative happened, and what steps needed to be taken to realize it and we’ll also share the experience of the first recipient of the Carta Serbica residence.
How Did Carta Serbica Come to Be?
The conceptualization of Carta Serbica happened spontaneously through the work and activities of the Returning Point. “We recognized the problem for the first time during the Talent MeetUp conference in 2019 when a girl from the audience asked if there was a plan to help people of Serbian origin who are not necessarily citizens,” said Aleksandar Jakovljevic, ideator of the program and a member of the Returning point team until recently.
Next year, a repatriate from the United States sent an International organization for migration publication titled “Diaspora handbook” to Jakovljevic, where different examples of good practice were listed. One of the examples was Karta Polaka – a document issued to people of Polish origin who do not have Polish citizenship. It was this program that served as an inspiration to create the concept for the Carta Serbica project.
“Aleksandar was sitting right there, by the window, and I was in the yard next to it when he first shared this idea with me, and I liked it right away,” said Ivan Brkljac, program director of the Returning Point.
From an Idea to Reality
“It was important for us to harmonize the Carta Serbica program with the existing laws and legal practice so that the application would be simple, with the least amount of potential problems,” Jakovljevic continued. Based on a thorough legal analysis, a project was drafted and presented at the initial meeting with the Government of Serbia and the key partner institutions.
Simplified documentation and streamlined procedure essentially represent another option, another basis, upon which people of Serbian origin can regulate their residence.
It’s important to mention that people not of Serbian descent who wish to realize the right to temporary residence in Serbia must have concrete grounds for it – whether it’s work, family ties, or a diploma for a talent visa. Thus, Carta Serbica enables members of the Serbian diaspora to omit this one step.
The road to program realization took a relatively long time, but not longer than usual – in concordance with the existing systemic procedures and regarding the socio-political circumstances heavily influenced by the global pandemic crisis. With the support of the General Secretariat of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and the Prime Minister Cabinet, the team communicated well with all the relevant authorities, which helped bring the regulation change this year.
“I know many people who will benefit from this program. Many of them live in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and America, and one of them is even a member of our Management Board,” Jakovljevic continued. He also added that he would like to see many pensioners who will spend their retirement days in our country and that he very much cares about creating better connections with the diaspora and displaying ourselves as an open society.
The First Recipient’s Experience
After months of work on the Carta Serbica project, an inauguration at the Government of the Republic of Serbia followed, where the first Carta Serbica was ceremoniously handed to Aleksandar Zurovac, a repatriate from the United States that returned with his family. The event caused a stir in the local media and the story can be found in most of the major media outlets.
Recently, we reached out to Zurovac, curious to find out what his impressions are and how he settled in the land of his ancestors so far.
Happy and in a good mood as always, Zurovac promised to call back right after he finds a parking spot – one of the rare negative remarks he has on life in Belgrade. We asked how Carta Serbica influenced his life, and he highlighted the main benefit right away – time.
“After four or five months of living here, we got to a normal point only now. A person needs to have enough time to take care of all the administrative things and papers concerning housing, work, et cetera. When I learned that I would have only three months to do that, I got really worried,” said Zurovac, adding how he wanted to apply for Serbian citizenship from the get-go.
“It means a lot to me that I have this whole year to put everything in place, to figure out my priorities, and to plan. I can do it calmly, without pressure. And, of course, I’m very happy we are here as a family,” he concluded.
Together, the Zurovac family plans to connect with relatives and friends through many family events and celebrations, but also through organized events. They have a goal to get to know the country better, while Aleksandar would like to organize “Wim Hof” workshops throughout the country, from Valjevo to Novi Pazar.
“In a nutshell, everything is going great, but if I have to complain about something, that would be parking in New Belgrade and the Old Town,” he continued saying that driving and traffic organization is significantly different than in America. In the end, he mentioned that informing customers and tourists better, in general, would be beneficial to all, especially to repatriates from western countries.
As he claims, people here are lovely, and his network of friends is growing fast. A promoter of a healthy lifestyle, he added one small critic in the end, which is – the omnipresent smoking.
Carta Serbica in the Future
One of the practical consequences of the Carta Serbica program is the strengthening of the connections between permanent emigrants with their country of origin because it has been proven that these ties weaken over time.
From our daily diaspora communication experience and as we found out from the authorities, there is a lot of interest in Carta Serbica.
Until October 2022, ten temporary residences following this program were approved, and we hope that its popularity will continue to grow, soon attracting more and more of our people from all over the world.
You can find a detailed description of the program and all the practical information on the Carta Serbica page.