Thinking about repatriation as a phenomenon, the most frequent question is probably – why do people come back? And the answer is (almost) always the same – for the same reason they left. Be it love, finances, family, or quality of life, the reason for changing the place of living always implies making several big decisions and making compromises. And usually, this is a logistically demanding process as much as it’s emotionally draining.
Observing the challenges repatriates go through and the ways in which people throughout the Serbian diaspora think about return, a group of like-minded professionals and experienced repatriates gathered to establish the Returning Point – an organization imagined as a help desk for all of those who have difficulties in finding their place in Serbia, administrative, social or otherwise. Facilitating repatriation lies at the base of the Returning Point’s goals, as our team knows how valuable and how necessary support often is.
For this reason, one of the key focuses of Returning Point is providing services to repatriates, either through direct assistance or through our programs and initiatives.
Having experienced various obfuscations repatriation can bring about, we know how important it is to have someone to reach out to, and what kind of feeling it awakens in those seeking their place in our country and society. We are happy and excited to hear about the good experiences of the people we helped and keep our ears open to any feedback repatriates send our way. We are here to extend a helping hand, as we continuously learn from that experience.
This Is How We Help
There are different ways in which the Returning Point team can aid a repatriation process. As we keep our doors and inboxes open to various inquiries, we’ve come to know that sometimes just being ready to listen and provide basic information can be very helpful. Sometimes, we connect people with similar stories and aid in forming new collaborations, and we constantly work on new initiatives that make the settling-in process easier or more appealing.
1 on 1
The first and the most natural way of support we provide is 1 on 1. From the time when thousands of people reached out to our team during the coronavirus crisis to this day, our main inbox is filled with miscellaneous inquiries regarding administrative and regulatory repatriation processes. Our team reads every inquiry carefully and we make an effort to verify and provide wholesome information to the inquirers. The questions we receive vary from – “on what grounds can I apply for Serbian citizenship”, to “how can I import my possessions when I return?”
The email or phone call exchange process is a two-way street and a precious space in which we receive crucial information about the needs and the confusions future repatriates have, which in return helps us to better work on our programs and in finding resolutions.
To date, Returning Point’s open inbox is filled with dozens of inquiries every day.
Falling into a new place of residence, even if it’s your “old” country, can be very hard without a good network, as we’ve experienced firsthand. Knowing how important networking is in today’s world, we aim to facilitate connections between experts, professionals, and people with similar stories whenever possible. That is why we organize several events throughout the year, striving to create links and make a stronger network for our repatriates to lean on.
The biggest event Returning Point organizes is surely the annual Talents MeetUp conference focused on supporting successful returnees and promotion of circular migration. The year 2022 will see the fifth installation of this popular international event, where through short presentations and a dynamic mixer many fruitful connections will be created, just like in the past.
Additionally, we seek to spread our net as wide as possible, by organizing different events and mixers throughout the year – in Belgrade as well as abroad. The goal of our events is meaningful socialization, awareness spreading, and giving thanks to our benefactors, while we enjoy congregating groups of successful people, circular migrants, and repatriates. Some of the results are better relationships with people from the diaspora, facilitated collaboration or recruitment processes for better business solutions, and many, many creative ideas and initiatives that are born out of thoughtful conversations between our guests.
In line with our affinity for connecting people, we’ve established a Mentorship Initiative, dedicated to people, especially recent graduates or young professionals, who may need to hear about the similar experience of someone who has already returned to Serbia.
Under this program, successful repatriates we’ve met or helped volunteer their time to help others make a decision to return and assist with their reintegration into our society. This may be especially useful for young people seeking professional practice or employment in their field of study, but also for families or experienced individuals with hazy outlooks on how the returning process looks.
So far, we’ve helped more than 30 people by connecting them with suitable mentors thus facilitating their repatriation to Serbia.
Returning Point Initiatives
Along with our daily efforts, we work on a number of projects designed to support and simplify the administrative repatriation process.
One of the most recent, and hopefully one the most impactful initiatives Returning Point realized is the Carta Serbica project. Intended for individuals from the Serbian diaspora who do not hold Serbian citizenship and are interested in living, working, or retiring in Serbia, the Carta Serbica program was specially designed for foreigners of Serbian origin. It introduced a streamlined procedure for obtaining temporary residence and work permit based on Serbian origin alone, realized in collaboration with the Office of the Prime Minister of Serbia.
Prior to the inauguration of Carta Serbica in August 2022, obtaining temporary residence in Serbia based on Serbian origin was not possible. Today, the situation has changed, allowing second or third-generation Serbs from the diaspora to come and experience life in the country of their ancestors.
To date, 10 people have secured temporary residence in Serbia through the Carta Serbica program.
A different initiative we started brought the creation of a financial product to benefit non-residents and potential repatriates in Serbia. Ideated by the Returning Point team, the housing loan for non-residents was developed by the Postal Savings Bank as a unique product on the local financial market, enabling, for the first time, tax non-residents to locally take out a bank loan to purchase real estate. The people who may benefit from this loan are those in the diaspora who are considering repatriation to Serbia in the future but have no real estate here. Initially, this loan may facilitate an investment, but in time, the purchased piece or real estate could serve as their local residence, whether they decide to return permanently or continue to circulate in and out of the country.
We Remain at Your Service!
In addition to our open policies and continuous communication with people from the diaspora and repatriates, we make an effort to keep and update our website and especially the Guides for repatriates, as key online places that concern the return to Serbia. Our website and the Guides for repatriates contain an abundance of information, details, and relevant links answering just about any question a repatriate could have, from how to find housing or employment, to what tax reliefs are available and in which instances. By listening and learning from our people living across the world, we will continue to update and improve our online spaces, working to deliver the freshest relevant information to all who are concerned.
In the meantime, we remain active, open, and available for all of the repatriates’ questions and concerns and look forward to new meaningful partnerships with institutions and new fruitful initiatives.