27 Apr 2023

Proposed Changes Set to Ease Rules for Foreigners in Serbia

Migration is a phenomenon as old as humanity itself.  In modern times, a good life today means a good job.  Since industrialization and globalization, it has become increasingly more accessible and more efficient for people to move around and satisfy the needs for labor in different parts of the world.  Today, due to demographic and economic trends, in addition to the growing demand for jobs in digital and technology, there is also a need for more traditional occupations.  Numerous, mainly developed countries, have already taken measures to ease the conditions for the employment of foreign nationals.

Serbia is increasingly becoming a destination for foreign nationals as the country is increasingly facing the problem of a lack of available domestic labor force, and the list of occupations with a labor shortage is getting longer.  According to some estimates, Serbia could lose up to one-fifth of its domestic workforce in the next 30 years.

The Open Balkans initiative could be part of the solution, enabling a seamless flow of labor across the member countries.  The latest news is that soon the abolition of work permits is expected within the framework of the Open Balkans, which is one of the fundamental aspects of cooperation between the member countries.

After going through public consultations, changes to the Foreigners Act and the Foreigners Employment Act were announced to open the doors of the labor market to a wide range of occupations.

In terms of changes that will significantly facilitate the position of foreign citizens in the Republic of Serbia and enable more accessible employment, which will allow Serbia to respond to the growing need for additional labor generated by the growth of the domestic economy, the following stand out in particular:

Introduction of a single work permit

The most significant change concerns the introduction of the electronic submission of requests for temporary residence and work permits, which the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia would be obliged to decide within 15 days.  This procedure, where the requests for temporary residence and work permits would be combined, entails that the Ministry of Interior issue a single permit for temporary residence and work to foreign citizens.

The amendment to the act intends to combine the approval of temporary residence and issuing a work permit into a single procedure that would be conducted entirely before the MUP, making the process much more straightforward and shorter.

Changes in temporary residency

Amendments to the act extend the maximum duration of temporary residency for foreign citizens on all grounds to a period of up to three years, with the possibility of extending it to the same period instead of the previous year, with the possibility of extending it for the same period.  The proposed changes also provide a more effortless procedure for specific categories of foreigners who apply for approval of temporary residency in Serbia in that proof of means of support and evidence of health insurance during the planned stay in Serbia are not required for foreigners who seek temporary residency based on employment.

The possibility of employment, even without a permit

With the proposed changes, certain categories of foreigners are allowed to work even without a work permit, eliminating doubts regarding the existence of such a possibility that arose with the current act.  The new amendments stipulate that foreign citizens may work in the Republic of Serbia if granted temporary residence based on real estate ownership in Serbia.  A foreign national is granted temporary residency based on family reunification with a citizen of Serbia.  The same right is enjoyed by foreigners with approved temporary residency based on studies, scientific research, studies, and international exchange of students.

Easier conditions for approval of permanent residency

The draft proposes that permanent residency may be granted to a foreign citizen after three years of continuous residency on the territory of the Republic of Serbia (instead of the previous five years).  In addition, a new basis for approval of permanent residency is introduced: the Serbian origin of a foreign citizen, based on which a foreigner can be granted permanent residency without the requirement to fulfill the conditions regarding the period of stay on the territory of Serbia.  Finally, foreign citizens with approved permanent residency in Serbia can work freely in Serbia, without needing a personal work permit.

Simplified procedure for foreigners with D visa (long-stay visa)

With the adoption of the proposed changes, foreign nationals who need a visa D to enter, stay and work in the territory of the Republic of Serbia the same visa will be the basis for residency and work for its duration (180 days), without the need to go through a double procedure that has existed until now.  Foreigners could then legally work in Serbia by obtaining a D visa upon arrival without the need to apply for a work permit separately.

Introduction of a biometric document

Another novelty is introducing a special biometric document containing the issued single work permit and approval for temporary residency instead of stamping a temporary residence sticker in the travel document of a foreign citizen.  This is also significant because of the introduction of the possibility of using administrative services through the e-Government portal for foreign citizens, such as an electronic signature.


Authors: Luka Đurić, Miloš Petaković