Divorce And Right To Acquire Serbian Citizenship
DOES DIVORCE LEAD TO THE LOSS OF THE RIGHT TO ACQUIRE SERBIAN CITIZENSHIP?
The Law on Citizenship of the Republic of Serbia (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 135/2004, 90/2007 and 24/2018, the “Law”) regulates the matter of acquiring citizenship, and it is the Law that has been characterized by some legal experts as a liberal one because, above all, it allows for numerous grounds for acquiring Serbian citizenship.
One of these grounds refers to the possibility of acquiring citizenship on the basis of marriage.
Namely, the Law stipulates that “a foreigner who has been married to a citizen of the Republic of Serbia for at least three years and who has been allowed to take up permanent residence in the Republic of Serbia may be accepted into the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia if he or she submits a written statement that he or she considers the Republic of Serbia to be his or her own state”.
While this eliminates additional conditions that “other categories of foreigners” must meet, it nevertheless raises the question what happens if the marriage ceases to exist during the process of admission to the Serbian citizenship?
In such context, we may consider hypothetical or rather real-life examples where foreign citizens which have permanent residences in Serbia, are married to Serbian citizens for more than three years and have applied for citizenship on the stated grounds. Now, it may be the case that, in the meantime, some of those couples decide to divorce before a decision on admission to Serbian citizenship for a spouse who is a foreign national was passed.
In the described situation, regardless of the fact that the condition of marriage lasting at least three years has been fulfilled, successful ending of the procedure of admission to citizenship is brought into questions because, from the point of view of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, the marriage must exist at the moment of admission.
Even though the Law is not explicit in this regards, in support of this stance is yet an obligation of an applicant to, at the moment of receiving the Decision on Admission, sign a statement by which she/he guarantees under full criminal and material responsibility that the marital union, as the basis for admission to the citizenship of Serbia, still exists.
In other words, the marriage must not be lawfully ended until the admission to the citizenship procedure is over.
Anyhow, the reason for such a legal solution lies in the intention of the legislator to prevent frauds or abuses of the law (fraus legis) through conclusion of “contracted marriages”, i.e. marriages whose purpose is not to establish a marital union but to gain the benefits that the institution of marriage carries.
Therefore, as said above, the marriage must exist during and at the end of the entire procedure of admission to the citizenship of the Republic of Serbia on that grounds.