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I entered Serbia a few days ago, and my first hotel registered me with police within 24 hours of my arrival as required by law. The hotel owner gave me a completed address registration card signed and stamped by a police officer. The card is commonly known in Serbia as БЕЛИ КАРТОН or, officially, ПРИJАВА БОРАВИШТА СТРАНЦА.

A couple of days ago I moved to another hotel and asked the owner of that hotel to renew my address registration card, but he politely refused. He said that I can stay in Serbia with my original address registration card for 30 days without worrying about anything, and added that he was too tired and busy to go to a police station to do something that wasn't really needed at the moment. He vaguely added we could talk about the matter later if really needed.

I am very much worried about the situation because I am really unsure about the address registration requirements and their practical implications in terms of risks of getting in trouble. I've read on the Internet that many hosts in Serbia are reluctant to register their guests, thereby exposing them to risks.

My understanding is that I can't renew my address registration card at a police station on my own. Only my host can do that for me.

My question: Do I need to push the hotel owner to renew my address registration card? What might happen if I don't?

Additional details:

  • I entered Serbia without any visa as my citizenship allows a visa-free entry for visits of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

  • I negotiated a deal for a two-week stay at my current hotel and will probably stay at this hotel even longer than that. The price is good, about a half of what would be calculated using the daily rate. I have to stay in Serbia about two months.

  • There are two reasons why I am concerned about the address registration card. First, I want to exclude the possibility of having to pay a fine for violating the Serbian immigration law. Second, I want to open a bank account in Serbia as a non-resident, and they will surely ask me to show my address registration card.

  • The original address registration card, i.e., the one I currently have, doesn't contain any departure or end-of-stay date. It contains only two dates - the date of my entry to Serbia and the address registration date, which is the next day after the entry date. In other words, nothing in this card says or implies that the card is invalid or expired.

  • The address in my original address registration card is in the same city as the address of my current hotel, and I intend to try to open a bank account in the same city.

I did some research and found the following information on an official governmental webpage:

PLEASE NOTE that a foreign national shall not change his/her residential address if short-term residence address is registered at another address for personal, business or other reasons, and if such short-term residence address does not last for longer than 15 days.

This statement apparently means that I don't need to renew the address registration card as long as I don't stay more than 15 days in a row at any single address different from the originally registered address. In an attempt to confirm my interpretation, I found the corresponding paragraph in the Serbian immigration law:

Сматра се да странац не мења адресу становања уколико је боравиште пријављено на другој адреси из личних, пословних или других разлога, а то боравиште не траје дуже од 15 дана.

This seems to corroborate my interpretation, but I don't really speak Serbian, so I'm still unsure. I was unable to find any confirmation of my interpretation in plain English. I was also unable to find any confirmation of the hotel owner's words that the original address registration card is valid for 30 days. I only found a couple of webpages saying that tourists generally don't bother renewing their address registration cards after getting one at their first place of stay.

I thought about going to a police station and asking them for advice, but I'm afraid it might prove to be tantamount to self-reporting and result in both me and the hotel owner getting fined. Two days have already elapsed since I moved to my current hotel.

I am confused as to how to deal with this situation, so I am posting this question in the hope to get information and advice.


UPDATE: Now almost two weeks have elapsed since I moved to this hotel. I am still staying at this hotel and still don't know the answer. I will appreciate any information.

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    I'm not familiar with Serbia in particular, but in Russia and most ex-Soviet countries, registration is 100% the host's responsibility and they, not you, are the ones theoretically in trouble if it's not done. I say theoretically, because nobody ever checks. Sep 20, 2022 at 12:51
  • This question borderlines on asking for legal advice - in practice, as a tourist, you won't get into trouble for not registering your address or using an incorrect address, but as you pointed out, it is against the rules to do so. Whether this is relevant for opening a bank account likely depends on the bank itself.
    – fstanis
    Oct 8, 2022 at 14:08
  • Very unlikely for you to get into trouble because of missing / incorrect registration in Serbia. I spent a week there a few years ago, didn't register at all (stayed with friends) and didn't have any problems whatsoever. I know a lot of people who travel regularly to Serbia and none of them ever mentioned problems related to registration. @lambshaanxy on the contrary, a missing or incorrect registration can be a big deal in Russia, but Sebia is not Russia nor an ex-Soviet country. Dec 14, 2022 at 16:22

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I lived in Serbia for a bit, and frankly skimmed your question, as there's a lot of details, but the heart of the matter remains the same. So let me try to share how this works in practicality, as you can go mad trying to understand intricacies of any law, let alone the laws of a country with which you're unfamiliar, printed in a language with which you're unfamiliar.

To start, don't worry about the address registration. Yes, it is the law you should be registered, and frankly, every tourist property is supposed to do this, whether hostel, hotel, or Airbnb. However, in practice, most don't. When it comes to Airbnbs, this is mostly related to avoiding taxes. I don't know how it works, specifically, with the hotels and hostels, but if the hotel refused, I wouldn't worry. You're not going to get asked this on departure. If anything, the hotel could face a fine, but probably not even that. This kind of practice goes on all the time in Serbia. The police, however, might threaten to fine everyone if it's not done promptly, so don't go into the police station. Your honesty is admirable, however in this case, it may only complicate things. You DO need the property owner or representative to do the form for you, so if the hotel refuses, there's nothing you can do.

ALSO worth mentioning, and I guess this is 10 months old now, but sharing all this for others, is that a couple years ago, they started phasing out the "white papers," and while there was a lot of confusion about this among government officials, you aren't even supposed to be required to have the white paper, anymore. I won't spend hours digging for that info, but it was published in expat forums back when it happened.

In short, if you have the registration from the first place, hold on to it in case, but I'd say 99% chance you never hear a thing about this. They can't prevent you from leaving the country over it, in any case. Worst case would be a fine, but I doubt you even faced that.

Regarding the bank account as a non-resident.... why? Getting a bank account is a lot of legal paperwork, and with the dinar what it is, I don't understand why you'd want to open a bank account there if you're just a tourist. If you're planning on residing there, you will need a bank account as part of the residency process, most likely, but then you would have a more permanent address registered. I'm not sure a bank would care about the white papers being fully updated (and again, because of the more recent laws, banks may or may not require this now), but you will need to put an address on the bank account that you can verify, along with a lot of other documentation. I would advise ANYONE, in ANY foreign country, not to bother with opening a local bank account unless necessary. It is generally a large headache of bureaucracy that can simply be avoided if not needed. I've had bank accounts in more countries than I'll start to count, and the "simplest" case was a matter of a few hours, and several documents. The other end of that spectrum I don't even care to think about, let's just leave it at that.

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    This does not seem to answer the question.
    – Willeke
    Aug 1, 2023 at 8:14

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