Key amendments to Serbia Immigration Regulations

Key amendments to Serbia Immigration Regulations

Serbian government has recognized a need for streamlining, shortening, and simplifying procedures of obtaining residence and work permits for foreigners in the Republic of Serbia. Although, the immigration process has not been very complex and lengthy as compared to some of the neighboring countries in the region, still certain improvements were needed for Serbia to become even more attractive for foreign investments and foreign workers who seek employment in the country. With relatively positive economic development and growth, Serbia has also faced shortage of skilled and semi-skilled workforce in both public and private sectors. Newly announced amendments in regulations will benefit foreigners as well as employers who intend to hire foreigners.

Prolonged duration of Temporary Residence Permit

Effective August 4th, 2023 Temporary Residence Permit is issued with validity of maximum three years. As frequent renewals will not be necessary due to extended validity, less bureaucratic procedures will be valuable for all, foreigners, employers and government officials who process the applications. Due to the fact that duration of employment contract may limit the duration of Residence permit, foreigners can now sign indefinite or multiyear employment contracts. 

Introduction of a Single Permit that combines both Residence and Work permit 

The Single Permit will be issued by the Ministry of Interior Affairs with prior consent from the National Employment Agency. The Agency will be responsible to check the fulfillment of the conditions for the employment of a foreigner including primarily conducting a labor market test. Total processing time for Single Permit approval will be reduced to 15 days. 

Single Permit applications can be submitted online even when foreigner is outside of Serbia. The new Single permit will allow more flexibility as foreigners would be able to change employer, employment type or work for multiple employers during the duration of the permit, without the need to change the permit. 

Maximum duration of Single Permit will be 3 years with possibility of renewal. This change will come into effect on February 1st, 2024. 

Introduction of Biometric documents

Starting from February 1st, 2024 foreigners will receive their Single or Residence Permits in a form of biometric document – a foreigner identity card with a chip including foreigner’s personal information, photo, signature, finger print, registered address, work permit information, type of the permit and other important details. 

Switching to the biometric cards is one of the major improvements aiming at increasing security, durability, and minimizing and ideally eliminating possibility of human errors.

Shorter path to Permanent Residency   

Permanent residence in Serbia can be obtained after holding continuous temporary residence in Serbia of 3 years, instead of previous 5 years requirement. Continuous stay starts from the effective 1st day of stay of the foreigner on valid Residence permit in the territory of the Republic of Serbia, whereby period of multiple stays outside Serbia do not exceed 10 months in total or do not exceed 6 months in case of one-time leave, in the period of three years. 

Foreigners who hold Temporary Residence Permit issued for educational purposes (studies) cannot apply for Permanent Residence. This could be possible only when the basis for Temporary residence is changed. Furthermore, only half of the period spent on Temporary Residence permit while on studies in Serbia will be counted into total time needed for Permanent residence. Permanent residents will have the right to work without a Single/work permit. Foreign nationals will be in position to acquire Permanent residence faster, eliminating the need for multiple renewals. 

Faster and easier access to the labor market for certain categories 

Foreigners holding Residence permit based on ownership of property, studying, family reunion, volunteering and other grounds will have the right to work without the need for a Single/work permit. Currently, such categories of foreigners are not allowed to work without additional work authorization. This amendment will provide work opportunities for new groups of foreign nationals in Serbia and will also increase number of available workers’ profiles that are in deficit. 

Having in mind that the number of foreigners in Serbia is increasing every year and with the expectation for the trend to continue, Serbian government has shown readiness to significantly improve the immigration processes and make a cut on the bureaucracy. Serbia has issued 24.785 work permits for the first half of 2023, which is approximately 40% higher vs same period last year. The majority of foreign workers come from China, Russia, Turkey, India, Cuba, Belarus, Ukraine, Nepal, Sri Lanka, followed by neighboring countries such as Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia.

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