The announced amendments to the Law on Foreigners and the Law on the Employment of Foreigners contain significant novelties. The most important changes relate to the simplified and digitized procedure for obtaining a residence and work permit for foreigners, new categories of foreigners who will be able to work and/or establish employment only based on residence permit, as well as the extended period of validity of permits. For now, the amendments are still in the stage of draft bills in the process of public discussion, but if the changes are ultimately adopted as announced, it is expected that from 1 February 2024 the process of approving residence and employment of foreigners will be radically changed and simplified.
- Single permit instead of work permit
In the line with the proposed amendments, the work permit will no longer exist and it will be replaced by a single residence and work permit (“Single Permit”). Single Permit will be obtained only electronically from the competent Ministry of Internal Affairs (“MIA“). The National Employment Service will receive documentation electronically from the MIA and it will evaluate whether the applicant meets the conditions for working in Serbia (without issuing a separate decision as before), and if necessary, it will automatically perform a labor market test. After this the MIA adopts a decision on issuing the Single Permit. The deadline for resolving a request for permit is only 15 days, and the Single Permit (as well as the residence permit) will be issued in the form of a personalized card with biometric data, a chip and a qualified electronic certificate, similar to the identity cards for domestic citizens and therefore can be used for e-Administration and e-Tax services. The Single Permit and temporary residence permit will be valid for 3 years (currently temporary residency can be approved for up to one year) and can be extended for the same period.
- The right to work without obtaining a permit
The categories of foreigners who will be allowed to work in Serbia without obtaining the Single Permit will be significantly expanded. Thus, in the future, foreigners who need a visa to enter Republic of Serbia will be allowed to work in Serbia only on the basis of visa D (long-stay visa), which is issued for a maximum of 180 days. Same applies to foreigners who receive a temporary residence permit based on family reunification, property ownership or for the purpose of studying. It is quite certain that digital nomads will be able to work in Serbia without obtaining the Single Permit (i.e. solely on the basis of residence permit). This will be known for certain when the by-laws are passed, for which the deadline for adoption is 6 months from the date of adoption of the amendments to the law.
- Permanent residency
When it comes to permanent residency, the time period for acquiring the right to apply for permanent residency will be reduced to 3 years (currently, in order to be eligible a foreigner needs to reside in Serbia for at least 5 years). Also, foreigners with approved permanent residency will no longer have to obtain a personal work permit, but will be able to work solely on the basis of the permanent residency permit, and like foreigners with the Single Permit and temporary residency, they will receive an identity card with a chip containing a qualified electronic certificate. Eligibility for permanent residency will be extended to “foreigners of Serbian descent” in addition to “foreigners with origins from the Republic of Serbia” (which is the current wording).
- Other amendments to the law
Some of the novelties refer to the fact that the obligations of the inviter (the person who submits the invitation letter) are now regulated in more detail as well as the collection of accommodation costs for foreigners who are forcibly removed. The issuance of visas in electronic form will be made possible and in case of change of the basis of work or the employer it is envisaged that the National Employment Service will issue consent to that change electronically (currently issuing of a new work permit is necessary).
All these novelties should significantly liberalize the labor market in the Republic of Serbia, which means that in the future foreigners will be able to resolve their residence and labor legal status more easily. According to the explanation of the proposer of the law, the need to liberalize the labor market arose due to the frequent occurrence of deficit jobs and decrease of the unemployment rate. It remains to be seen whether the drafts law will be adopted, as well as what the envisaged by-laws will bring about.
Damjan Despotović, partner
Milorad Glavan, partner
Srećko Vujaković, partner
This text is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We are at your disposal for any additional information.