On 26 July 2023, the Serbian Parliament adopted amendments to the Law on Foreigners and the Law on Employment of Foreigners (“Immigration Laws”), aimed at further facilitating employment of foreigners in Serbia, simplifying and shortening immigration procedures.
Amended Immigration Laws enter into force on 4 August 2023, with certain changes in the immigration procedures being applicable as of 1 February 2024.
Key novelties to the Immigration Laws are listed below.
As of 1 February 2024, the Foreigners’ Department within the Serbian Ministry of Interior (“Foreigners’ Department”) will act as a one stop shop for issuing temporary residence and work permits in the form of a single permit (“Unified Permit”). This applies to employment of foreigners with Serbian employers within the meaning of the Law on Employment of Foreigners (including, for example, secondment to work or professional training at a Serbian company), as well as self-employment based on, for example, incorporation of a Serbian company.
The Unified Permit will allow the foreigner to live and work in Serbia for a period of up to three years, with a possibility of renewal.
The Serbian National Employment Service (“NES”) will not be issuing work permits anymore. Its role will be limited to reviewing the fulfillment of statutory conditions for employment of foreigners and providing the Foreigners’ Department with its assessment. NES will continue issuing labor market test reports, whereas the labor market test request will become a part of the application for the Unified Permit.
The legislative amendments are supposed to significantly shorten the permits’ procedure, as the total statutory deadline for issuing the Unified Permit will be 15 days from the application date; Currently, the average duration of the procedure is 45-60 days, increased by additional 10 days for receiving the labor market test report from the NES (if applicable).
Changing employers or type of employment contracts and entering into additional employment will also be significantly easier for holders of the Unified Permit, as they will be able to do so on the basis of a prior electronic approval from the NES and without applying for a new Unified Permit.
The expiry of the Unified Permit will automatically lead to the termination of the foreigner’s employment. To avoid having to repeat the entire procedure for obtaining a new Unified Permit, the foreigner must enter into a new employment contract within 30 days following the date of termination of its previous employment. These rules will be applicable starting from 4 August 2023.
The procedure for employment and self-employment of foreigners will be completely digitalized. As of 1 February 2024, foreigners will need to submit their applications for the Unified Permit to the Foreigners’ Department exclusively via designated web portal.
Foreigners who need a visa to enter Serbia and intend to stay and work in Serbia need to apply for visa for longer stay, so-called Visa D.
As of 1 February 2024, much like the Unified Permit, Visa D will also be entitling foreigners to both live and work in Serbia, but for a limited period of 90-180 days. Upon expiry of their Visa D, foreigners can obtain the Unified Permit or a temporary residence permit to continue their stay and work in Serbia.
As of 4 August 2023, a temporary residence permit can be issued for a period of up to three years (compared to the current maximum one-year validity period), with a possibility of renewal. Foreigners will be able to apply for temporary residence permit renewal prior to its expiration, which is more flexible than the current application deadline of no later than 30 days before the permit’s expiry.
Additional rules for obtaining temporary residence permits for specific categories of foreigners not covered by the amended statutory framework (such as foreign investors, talents, digital nomads, etc.), are supposed to be set by the beginning of February 2024.
From 1 February 2024, foreigners who do not hold the Unified Permit will be allowed to work in Serbia solely based on holding specific types of temporary residence permits (e.g., based on owning property in Serbia, family reunion with the holder of the Unified Permit, etc.).
Practically speaking, this means that a foreigner who is lawfully staying in Serbia based on, for example, a property purchase can at the same time work in Serbia (e.g., based on employment with a Serbian company), for as long as its temporary residence permit is valid, without obtaining the Unified Permit.
As of 4 August 2023, foreigners are entitled to receive a permanent residence permit if they have continuously resided in Serbia based on a temporary residence permit for three years, compared to the previously required five-year period. Certain categories of foreigners can be granted permanent residency irrespective of the previous stay requirement (e.g., foreigners with Serbian origin).
The permanent residence permit will also be the only immigration requirement for foreigners working in Serbia, as the so-called personal work permit (lična radna dozvola) has been done away with and is no longer needed.
As of 1 February 2024, the Unified Permit, a temporary residence permit and ID card for foreigners (serving as a permanent residence permit) will be issued in the form of biometric documents with a possibility for the qualified electronic certificate to be incorporated therein.