Intermark's webinar focused on Serbia's updated immigration laws

We recently hosted a webinar “Serbia – the new immigration hotspot in Europe.” During the webinar we discussed significant changes to the immigration legislation that highlighted Serbia’s efforts to create a more attractive environment for foreigners’ nationals and investments.

Amended Immigration Laws enter into force on 4 August 2023, with certain changes in the immigration procedures being applicable as of 1 February 2024.

Why Serbia?

Serbia maintains relatively positive and stable environment for the foreign investments. Foreign companies are engaged in main infrastructural projects countrywide. We have seen examples where management team and the entire labor force of the foreign companies are relocated to Serbia for the project duration. 

Lack of local workforce in Serbia, predominantly in construction industry, transportation, maintenance, cleaning, and courier services also are attracting foreigners to Serbia.  It is hard to believe, but there is also a shortage of seasonal workers in agriculture.

Serbia promotes open politics regardless external limitations and challenges that we were able to witness during the COVID pandemic when Serbia was open for immigrants and tourist.

Key changes to the Immigration Laws:

1. SIMPLIFICATION OF THE PROCESS

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”). 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 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).

2. DIGITALIZATION OF THE PROCEEDURE

The procedure for employment and self-employment of foreigners will be fully 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.

3. VISA D SERVING AS WORK PERMIT

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 issued on the ground of the employment will also be entitling foreigners to both live and work in Serbia, but for a limited period of 90-180 days. During the validity of their Visa D, foreigners can obtain the Unified Permit to continue their stay and work in Serbia.

4. PERMANENT RESIDENCY

Starting from 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).

5. RIGHT TO WORK WITHOUT THE UNIFIED PERMIT

From 1 February 2024, foreigners who do not hold the Unified Permit will be allowed to work in Serbia only 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.

6. CHANGES REGARDING TEMPORARY RESIDENCE PERMIT

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.

7. BIOMETRIC DOCUMENTS

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.

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