Also, additional tweaks and improvements were made to make the process more flexible and less time-consuming, while also allowing foreigners to obtain permanent residency much sooner (e.g. prerequisite of residency was reduced from five to three years).
These changes were, however, tempered with increased monetary fines for breaches of the underlying laws.
Unified permit for foreigners – as of February 2024
The key concept surrounding the two amendments is the introduction of a unified procedure that results in issuing of a unified permit that replaces what were previously residence and work permits.
- Fully electronic applications – the unified procedure can only be initiated by an electronic application at the web portal. All evidence regarding the application must be presented in electronic form. The application includes a filing of a request for the labour market test (which still remains a necessary prerequisite before a foreigner can be allowed employment).
- Deadline for issuing the unified permit – 15 days as of receiving a complete application.
- Biometric ID document – the unified permit will be issued in the form of a biometric document, with personalized data (photograph, fingerprints and signature). This will also enable foreigners to exercise some other rights more easily (such as obtaining an electronic certificate, i.e. electronic signature).
The foreigner must personally receive the biometric ID document.
- Extended duration for the unified permit – the unified permit and temporary residence permit can be issued for a period of up to three years (instead of one year period under the previous regime).
- Easier process of changing the employer or basis of employment under a unified permit – during the term of the unified permit, an electronic request can be made via the unified portal to amend the employer or basis for employment, whereas the organizational unit of the National Employment Service must decide on this request within 10 days by issuing an approval via the unified portal. After receiving the approval, the employee can immediately start working in line therewith.
- Suspended application – all provisions regulating the online-based unified procedure are set to come into force on 1 February 2024, which means that the current procedure of filing two separate requests for a residence and work permit will continue to apply until said date.
Amendments with immediate effect
- Prolonged deadline for renewing existing residence permit – foreigners currently residing in Serbia will be pleased to hear that the request for renewal of residence can be submitted until the expiration date of the previously valid permit (previously, the deadline is 30 days before the expiry of residence permit).
- Statutory possibility for extended duration of temporary residence permits – in line with the amendments, the Foreigners Administration has legal grounds to issue/renew temporary residence permit for a period up to three years (instead of one year period under the previous regime). However, it remains unclear whether this option will be used prior to the introduction of the new unified permit system in February 2024 due to potential administrative challenges.
- Grace period for finding new employment – foreigners are granted a grace period to continue their stay in Serbia 30 days after the termination of their employment for which they received a work and residence permit (i.e. unified permit after February 2024), during which period they are given an opportunity to enter into new employment and apply for a new work permit (i.e. unified permit) to legally be allowed to work.
- Minor reduction of documents needed for a residence permit – proof of financial means for subsistence and proof of health insurance do not have to be submitted in the process of obtaining the residence permit procedure for:
(i) a member of the immediate family of a citizen of the Republic of Serbia;
(ii) a foreigner who is being employed in Serbia; and
(iii) immediate family members of a foreigner who is being employed in Serbia.
- Reducing the conditions for permanent residency – a total of three years of temporary residency is needed for a foreigner to apply for permanent residency (reduced from five years under the previous regime).
- Amendments regarding the seconded employees and intercompany mobility – the conditions for obtaining work permits for seconded employees and intercompany mobility are amended, primarily by specifying more detailed requirements of the secondment acts by which the persons are assigned to Serbia.
- Minimal local labour rights guaranteed to seconded employees – the laws expressly guarantee that seconded employees cannot be afforded fewer rights than is guaranteed under the Labour Law of Serbia with regards to key employment terms (minimum salary, working hours, annual vacations, health and safety, etc).
- Higher fines – proscribed fines are increased for breaches of the Law on Foreigners and Law on Employment of Foreigners.
As a rule of thumb, the minimum fine range under the Law on Foreigners is increased tenfold, whereas the Law on Foreigners only doubled the maximum fine range for fines proscribed for employer misdemeanours (increase to RSD 2,000,000).
The information in this document does not constitute legal advice on any particular matter and is provided for general informational purposes only.