Register with the police in Macedonia or you’ll go to jail

Okay, so you won’t go to jail. 😜

But if you fail to register with the police in Macedonia (officially the Republic of North Macedonia), you could face a stiff fine at the border upon leaving.

If you’ve found this article after a Google search, you’ve no doubt read a few of the horror stories on TripAdvisor. Nice folks who had no idea they even needed to register, who got slapped with a fine by some burly, Balkan border guard.

So what’s this Macedonian police registration all about?

Like some of the other former-Yugoslav countries (here’s looking at you, Serbia), North Macedonia requires all visitors to register at the local police station within 24 hours of arrival in the country.

You’ll obtain a white cardβ€”a small, stamped receipt which proves your registration in case you’re stopped by the police.

The whole thing sounds like some twisted, bureaucratic nightmare dreamt up by a sinister dictator. When I was considering a visit to Skopje back in 2018, the idea put me off so bad I passed on the trip and went to Ukraine instead.

No doubt plenty of would-be tourists have found the same horror stories online and decided to skip Macedonia.

It’s less-than-inviting and bad for the economy.

So if anyone from the Macedonian tourist board is reading this, please take the hint and shitcan this bad law for an immediate boost in tourism revenue. You can thank me over some rakija next time I’m in town. 😎

What’s the reality?

Okay, before I’ve scared you out of going, or get bombarded with angry Viber messages from my friends in Skopje, I should tell you in reality this law is rarely enforced.

I stayed in Skopje for a full 90 days and left via the land border to Serbia. I’d diligently unregistered myself that afternoon (more on that below), and had my receipt tucked away in my passport wallet.

The friendly border officer didn’t even ask for it as he waved me right on through (a far cry from the Serbian border police who emptied my entire bag onto the rain-soaked ground in search of drugs).

My friends had the same experience only a couple of months earlier.

No receipt, no questions, no problem.

It seems unlikely the Macedonian border police will ask (I’ve heard from unreliable sources it’s even more unlikely at the airport).

But still, I have to recommend you register.

Register with the police in Macedonia
A regular stop on my long walks around the city.

So if it’s not enforced, why should I register?

As many wise mothers have said, “better safe than sorry.”

It’s nice to know you’re in compliance on the odd chance that something comes up. And you’ll need your white card if you want to move forward with a residence permit in Macedonia or open up a local bank account.

Besides, the process isn’t nearly as intimidating as it sounds.

Macedonians are warm, friendly, and helpful. From this day forward, I promise to stop cracking jokes about burly border guards. Both of the officers I dealt with (first at the airport and then the land border) were kind and professional.

Out of the 30+ countries I’ve traveled to, Macedonia makes the top three list, simply because of how inviting and relaxed the people are.

I highly recommend a visit.

If you happen to stay in a hotel, they’ll register you online with the police in Macedonia. You won’t receive a white card, but if anyone hassles you (unlikely), you can always say you’re staying in a hotel.

If you rent a private apartment like I did, the landlord/host will take you to the local police station and get you registered in just a few minutes.

It’s free, but don’t forget to take your passport.

How to register with the police in Macedonia

  1. Go with your AirBnb host/landlord/friend to the local police station. Skopje has more than one. Make sure you go to the station for the municipality (district) where you’ll be staying.
  2. Present your passport.
  3. Your host will speak a few words to the police in Macedonian (mine also filled out the card for me).
  4. That’s it! Celebrate your official status with a rakija (or two, or three). πŸ₯ƒ

But wait! You’re not finished yet.

If you move to another address, you need to update your registration.

And when you’re preparing to leave Macedonia (less than 24 hours before your departure), you need to go back to the police station and unregister.

My host didn’t go with me to unregister, but the officer manning the desk spoke good English and had everything sorted in just a few minutes. Another officer even brought me hot coffee while I waited.

I told you Macedonians are friendly! πŸ‡²πŸ‡°

Yes, it’s a bit of an inconvenience, and I hope they’ll do away with this requirement as they look to increase tourism in Macedonia.

But the process isn’t intimidating, and it’s certainly not a reason to skip your visit to this little Balkan gem.

Read next: Skopje, Macedonia for digital nomads