How people fleeing a conflict can stay and work in Serbia

While the European Union has introduced special temporary protective measures for people fleeing the war in Ukraine, Serbia is currently not faced with a mass influx of displaced persons from that country. As a matter of principle, people fleeing the war in Ukraine or persecution in Russia may avail themselves in Serbia of the asylum procedure. Individuals from these two countries may also enter and work in Serbia based on general rules applicable to foreigners.

Asylum

Foreigner is eligible for the refugee status in Serbia if they have a well-founded fear of being persecuted in their country of origin based on race, gender, language, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political belief.

Serbian authorities may approve subsidiary protection status if they determine the asylum seeker does not meet the requirements for the refugee status but faces, if returned to the country of origin, real risk of serious harm (the death penalty or execution; torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or serious and individual threat to a civilian’s life or person by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict).

Asylum seeker needs to register with a police office at the border when entering Serbia. They are then directed to an asylum center or another facility for accommodation of asylum seekers, where they must appear no later than 72 hours after registering at the border. Alternatively, asylum seeker can go straight to an asylum center or another facility for accommodation of asylum seekers and register for asylum there.

The procedure for asylum approval must be initiated within 15 days from the registration, by submitting an asylum request to the Asylum Office. Each applicant is interviewed (except if there are reasons prescribed by the law which allow the issuance of the decision without the interview). A decision should be rendered within three months from the request. This deadline can be extended to maximum of 12 months in certain situations. If the Asylum Office dismisses the asylum request, it will set the deadline for the applicant to leave Serbia.

In case of mass influx of displaced persons, when individual asylum procedures cannot be efficiently pursued, the Government of Serbia may grant temporary protection, based on which each eligible displaced person is issued a separate decision on temporary protection status.

Asylum seekers, and persons granted the refugee, subsidiary or temporary protection status, can apply for a so-called personal work permit, which entitles them to freely access Serbian legal market. Personal work permit is issued usually within two weeks from the request.

General rules for employment of foreigners

As a matter of general rules, Ukrainian and Russian citizens can enter and stay in Serbia for a period of 90 days on visa-free regime. Professionals who are able to start their own business in Serbia or individuals who receive an offer for employment in Serbia can avail themselves of regular procedures for residence and work permits, which are relatively simple and last for approximately 45 days in total.

Photo by Ivan Aleksić on Unsplash

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