Changes and amendments to two regulations regarding foreigners in Serbia have been proposed, which would lead to a streamlined administrative process for obtaining a work and residency permit. The proposed changes would greatly liberalize the entry of foreign nationals into Serbia, according to the reasoning behind the draft amendments to the Law on Foreigners, which is open for public discussion until March 1st.
What changes are being proposed?
• foreign nationals would be able to simultaneously obtain the right to temporary residency and the right to work through a single procedure (with the Ministry of Internal Affairs),
• temporary residency, or a unified permit for temporary residency and work, would be issued as a biometric document,
• temporary residency (instead of the current one-year term) would be approved for up to three years, with the unified permit also valid for three years,
• the responsibility of the inviting party, who typically invites foreign nationals to Serbia as labor from high-risk migration countries, would be strengthened.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans’ Affairs and Social Affairs have published draft amendments to two laws regarding the stay and work of foreigners in Serbia: the Law on Foreigners and the Law on Employment of Foreigners. Both drafts were opened for public discussion since February 9th and the discussion period ended on March 1st.
The draft amendments to the Law on Foreigners, published on the Ministry of Internal Affairs website, propose the introduction of two new institutes: the unified permit and the permit for temporary residency and work of foreigners in Serbia.
The proposal is for foreign nationals to be able to obtain the right to temporary residency and work in Serbia through a single procedure (with a single state authority, the Ministry of Internal Affairs). According to the proposal, state authorities would conduct necessary checks through a unified procedure related to the issuance of both temporary residency and work permits. If the legal requirements are met, a unified permit for temporary residency and work in Serbia would be issued. The request for a unified permit would only be submitted electronically.
“Such solutions would enable a unified (consolidated) procedure, which would change the previous obligation of a foreign national to first regulate temporary residency, and only then the employer or the foreign national would submit a request for a work permit,” reads the reasoning behind the amendments to the Law on Foreigners.
By submitting a request for a unified permit, which is resolved within 15 days of the submission of proper documentation, the time period for a foreign national to legally begin conducting business in the country after entering would be shortened, according to the reasoning. This would, according to the proposal, reduce the costs of the employer and the foreign national related to their accommodation and stay in Serbia from the moment of entry until they obtain the necessary permits for their stay and work.
Among other things, it is stated that there is a great need in Serbia for attracting foreign labor, due to the implementation of a large number of primarily infrastructure projects.
Changes to temporary residency regime
The proposal also suggests that temporary residency (instead of the current one-year term) be approved for up to three years, depending on the reasons and evidence provided in each individual case. The unified permit would also be valid for up to three years.
A certain number of foreigners would have the right to work without a single permit. This right would be granted to foreigners who have been granted temporary residence on the basis of family reunification with a Serbian citizen, property ownership, or studying (within the timeframe prescribed by the Law on Employment of Foreigners).
Furthermore, foreigners who have been granted temporary residence on the basis of scientific research, volunteering, foreign journalists, foreign experts engaged in projects in Serbian state bodies, religious officials, foreigners on humanitarian stays, foreigners who are victims of human trafficking, and permanently settled foreigners would also have the right to work without a single permit. The permits would be in the form of a biometric document.
Temporary residence or a single permit for temporary residence and work would be issued in the form of a biometric document, replacing the temporary residence sticker that is stamped in the foreigner’s passport. Biometric data (photo, fingerprints, and signature) would be taken from all foreigners who are granted temporary residence or a single permit, according to the draft amendments to the Law on Foreigners.
This raises standards related to the security aspect and control of the movement of foreign nationals on the territory of Serbia, and aligns domestic legislation with European standards regarding the security of documents issued to foreign nationals, as explained in the proposal.
It is also proposed that proof of means of subsistence and proof of health insurance during the planned stay in Serbia not be submitted by foreigners who are family members of Serbian citizens and foreigners who apply for employment.
Serbian residency after three years
The proposed amendments to the law suggest that settlement can be granted after three years of continuous residence in Serbia, instead of the previous five. A permanently settled foreigner (in accordance with the provisions stipulated in the amendments to the Law on Employment of Foreigners) has the right to work in accordance with that law, without the special formalities that previously applied to the obligation to obtain a personal work permit, according to the explanation of the draft Law on Foreigners.
Additionally, Serbian origin is stipulated as a basis for submitting an application and granting permanent settlement in Serbia. As explained, the state wants to facilitate the legal position of foreign nationals with Serbian origins in Serbia and enable them to integrate more easily into the country’s social and economic life if they wish to live and work in the land of their ancestors.
Control of entry of foreigners from risky countries
To control the entry of foreign nationals from highly risky migration countries, whose citizens require a visa to enter Serbia, the obligations of the inviter who invites a foreigner to Serbia have been specified. In the event of illegal migration occurring after the visa has been issued, the method of charging the foreigner for the costs of accommodation in a reception center for foreigners and the costs of returning the foreigner to the country of origin, if they have the means, or from the inviter based on whose invitation the foreigner came to Serbia, is prescribed in the explanation.
The legal solutions related to the unified permit and issuance of biometric documents for foreigners will begin to be applied on February 1st, 2024, considering that it is necessary to prepare the technical conditions for their implementation.