The Serbian parliament has adopted the amendments to the Foreigners Act and Employment of Foreigners Act, which aim to liberalize the conditions for the entry of foreigners into Serbia and shorten the procedures for obtaining residence and work permits. With tax incentives already in place for digital nomads, the new rules easing the administrative conditions for residence and work permit make Serbia an attractive place for mobile workers.
Integrated biometric permit for temporary residence and work in Serbia
The key novelty, which will become applicable starting from 1 February 2024, is the introduction of the concept of integrated permit for residence and work in Serbia. Under the current regime, foreigner who is coming to work in Serbia has to obtain a temporary residence permit from the police before they can obtain a work permit from the National Employment Service. Following the latest amendments, foreigner coming to Serbia for the purpose of employment or professional specialization, training or practice will be getting an integrated permit giving them both the right to stay and work in Serbia for an initial period of maximum three years, with the possibility of a renewal.
The application for integrated permit will be submittable online by the foreigner themselves, the employer on behalf of the foreigner, or another person such as lawyer acting pursuant to a power of attorney. Integrated permit will have to be issued within 15 days from the online submission of a complete application online. This means the foreigner seeking employment in Serbia will not have to start their journey to Serbia before their status is fully resolved. Moreover, integrated permit will not have to be amended or reissued if the foreigner changes employer, changes the type of employment contracts or enters into additional employment during the period of the validity of the integrated permit.
This is going to be a significant improvement. Under the current regime, foreigner has to come to Serbia to physically apply for temporary residence permit even though they cannot start working in Serbia until they receive work permit approximately one month later. If the foreigner changes the employer during the validity of the work permit, they have to obtain a new work permit.
Additionally, instead of the current system whereby the temporary residence permit is affixed into the passport while the work permit is issued as a separate paper document, both integrated permit and temporary residence permit (when issued as a stand-alone document) are going to be issued as biometric documents.
Finally, certain categories of foreigners will be able to work in Serbia solely based on temporary residence permit and without having to obtain integrated permit. This circle includes, but is not limited to, spouse and dependants of the holder of integrated permit, foreigners who own real estate in Serbia and foreigners coming to Serbia to do scientific research.
Termination of foreigner‘s employment
It is clarified that foreigner’s employment automatically terminates upon the expiry of the foreigner’s permit. The employer and the foreigner must renew employment agreement within 30 days. Upon the expiry of this deadline, employment of the same foreigner is possible only if the entire entry procedure and procedure for obtaining integrated permit are repeated. This application of this provision is immediate.
The amendments to the Employment of Foreigners Act specify that the employer has the obligation to retain documents evidencing foreigner’s right to work in Serbia, without specifying the retention period. The difference compared to the previous version of the law is in that it is no longer required that these documents be kept at the premises in which the foreigner in question works. Accordingly, the employers may keep these documents at one place of its choosing and even outsource their archiving.
The amendments to the Foreigners Act reduce the requirement for permanent residence from five to three years. Foreigners who obtain permanent residence will be able to work in Serbia without work permit. This will become applicable as of 1 February 2024.
Secondment of foreign employees
The Employment of Foreigners Act now prescribes more detailed rules for secondment of foreign employees to Serbia. It also allows Serbian employers to second foreign employees to another organization in Serbia or abroad. The rules on secondment are immediately applicable.