Refugees’ integration, rights and obligations

Once you are granted international protection in Serbia

A person whom the Government of Serbia has recognized to be in need of international protection may be granted subsidiary protection or refugee status. Subsidiary protection status is initially valid for one year, with the possibility of an extension. Refugee status is granted once for an indefinite period of time.

Persons granted subsidiary protection or refugee status in Serbia are entitled to rights and subject to certain obligations, as set out in the Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection.

Once an asylum-seeker has been awarded subsidiary protection or refugee status, the Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (SCRM) develops an individual integration plan for him/her.  An integration adviser is appointed and he/she provides support and assistance to the refugee in accessing all the rights mentioned in the Law and facilitating integration in the country.

UNHCR supports the SCRM in formulating and implementing these integration plans, including through supplementary assistance provided by UNHCR partners. UNHCR also advocates for the improvement of laws and practices relevant for a successful integration, for a fair and open labour market and encourages companies to manifest social responsibility by employing refugees. UNHCR and partners help to connect job-seeking refugees with potential employers.

What can UNHCR Serbia do to support your integration

Understanding that knowledge of the local language is vital for a successful integration, the UNHCR partners offer free-of charge language classes for asylum-seeking and refugee children and adults.

UNHCR supports refugees to better position themselves on the job market and thus become self-reliant. This is achieved by providing support for: vocational training, contact with potential employers, work permits, and tools/equipment for income generation projects. In addition, UNHCR Serbia supports very vulnerable refugees through cash-based interventions aimed at helping them address their immediate problems. These funds are limited and are intended to assist the most vulnerable and only temporarily.

Obligations:

  • You must respect and observe the laws of Serbia;
  • You must report a change of address, or the loss of your Personal ID to the Asylum Office within 3 days through your lawyer;
  • You must report all significant material or legal changes such as change of address, name, marital status, cash assistance, job to your integration adviser within 15 days;
  • All children up to the age of 15 have a right to and must attend preschool and primary school;
  • In order to work, you must obtain a valid working permit.

For all aforementioned, consult your lawyer and integration adviser.


Identity Card, personal number and passport

Persons granted refugee status are issued ID cards valid for five years. ID cards issued to persons awarded subsidiary protection are valid for one-year period. To renew your ID, contact your legal adviser. You are obliged to report any changes of address or loss of your ID card to the Asylum Office within 3 days, through your legal adviser. In such cases, you will be issued a new ID card.

The identity card contains your name, picture, and address. You must always carry it on you. Police officers have the right to check your identity in the street, as is the case with any other citizen or legal resident.

Persons granted international protection need to obtain a personal number from the Asylum Office. This is a prerequisite for opening a bank account and gaining access to health care.

The Republic of Serbia does NOT yet issue passports to refugees.


Assistance in temporary accommodation

You are entitled to accommodation assistance for one year after being granted subsidiary protection or refugee status. The Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (SCRM) can offer you to choose between residing in one of its Asylum Centres or cash assistance for private accommodation. The amount awarded by SCRM is the same for everyone. Both of these forms of assistance are available only one year following the recognition of subsidiary protection or refugee status. After the expiry of one year, you are expected to have found a durable accommodation solution for yourself.


Access to the national social welfare system

Registration of residence in a city or municipality allows you to apply for financial assistance from the local Centre for Social Welfare. This system supports the most vulnerable citizens of Serbia in meeting their most basic needs. You can apply for: regular monthly cash assistance, one-time cash assistance, child allowance and/or parental allowance. The best way to do so is through your legal representative.


Health care

The health care system in Serbia has three levels – primary, secondary and tertiary. All health care services are provided by the State’s National Health Care Service. If you instead choose a private health care provider you will have to cover all the expenses yourself. The Primary Health Care Centre you turn to seek medical assistance depends on the place of your residence. Keep in mind that some medicines are free of charge while you need to pay for others.


Serbian language classes, free of charge

Serbian Commissariat for Refugee and Migration (SCRM) offers 300 classroom hours/lessons of the Serbian language for a period of one year. Depending on your age and integration plans, you can get extra classes to finish school or to apply for specific jobs. Keep in mind that learning Serbian is a requirement for accommodation assistance. Mastery of the Serbian language also opens many doors and increases job opportunities significantly.


Free of charge primary and high school education and access to higher education

Serbian children usually start going to kindergarten when they turn three, but this is optional and at the expense of the parents.

Six-year-old children are obliged to attend a one-year preschool program. The State may cover its cost, if needed.

A special commission assesses the level of knowledge and enrolls children in school starting from year one. This entails testing of basic knowledge, taking into account age and former academic qualifications.

Primary education in Serbia lasts eight years, is free of charge and mandatory for all children. By getting good marks through 8 grades of primary school, children earn points needed to enroll in secondary school. At the end of primary school, children take a final exam. The secondary school the children will then enroll depends on the combination of the points earned during their primary education and the final test results.

Also Secondary education is free of charge but not mandatory. It can last three or four years depending on the type of school. The academic score obtained in secondary school is important for enrollment in tertiary education.

Tertiary education can last for four or more years and is free of charge only for the best students. There is an entrance test for each faculty, which together with the secondary school scores, will determine whether or not the student will have to pay a tuition fee. The test is in Serbian language and differs for each faculty.

Books, field trips and other equipment are sometimes provided for free by primary and secondary schools levels, but never at the tertiary level of education.

In addition to State schools, students may opt to attend all levels of private academic institutions. The conditions and terms described above apply only to state institutions. Check the applicable rules and fees for each private academic institution individually.

The Ministry of Education is working on inclusive programs for children and supports schools that enroll refugee children. The parents also have a huge role to play in this process and should establish and maintain good cooperation with teachers and the school.


Validation of diploma

Your diplomas can be validated, but this process is NOT free of charge. A special state institution is in charge of this process and the best way to apply for this service is through your legal representative.


Right to work

The right to work is one of your basic rights. To work in Serbia, you have to hold a valid work permit. Obtaining a work permit is NOT free of charge and the best way to get it is through your legal representative. The work permit is valid for the same period as your ID.

• In order to access the job market you must be registered with the National Employment Service in your municipality/city, irrespective of any academic or other qualifications. This institution should work with you to improve your skills and chances at successfully accessing the job market.

• In order to open a private business, you need to be registered with the Serbian Business Register Company. For further information for this process you must consult your integration officer.

Re-training is common in Serbia for persons struggling to find a job in their primary profession. It means that you can be enrolled in some form of vocational training on account of your current skills or else on account of what is most needed within the job market.


Right to open a bank account

Once you get a personal number (JMBG), you can choose a bank and open a bank account. You will also need your ID. For any kind of cash assistance from the state or NGOs. You will need a Serbian Dinar (RSD) bank account. You may also have another bank account, but do check the applicable terms and conditions with the bank directly.


LGBT+

At UNHCR, we work to protect LGBT+ refugees and asylum-seekers in Serbia. We work in close partnership with the Crisis Response and Policy Center, in order to respond promptly and adequately to the specific needs of LGBTI persons.

To get in touch with UNHCR for individual support and assistance, you can reach us at (+381)114155424 or via e-mail [email protected].