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Employment of Foreigners in Serbia Is Undergoing Radical Changes

Employment of Foreigners in Serbia Is Undergoing Radical Changes

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Serbian Parliament is currently deciding on two laws of major importance for foreigners seeking job opportunities or establishing businesses in Serbia. The first proposal concerns the Law on Foreigners, and the second the amendments to the Law on Employment of Foreigners. These two legal acts form general criteria for entry, movement, stay, and return of foreigners, as well as the conditions and procedures for the employment of foreign citizens in the Republic of Serbia.

Adoption on Amendments to the Law on Employment of Foreigners is proposed in order to further simplify the procedure for the employment of foreigners. A unique single procedure is introduced for residence and work permits, which are both to be issued simultaneously, as a single permit. Provided that the amendments get approved by the Parlament, the work permit as we know it will no longer exist in the Serbian legal system. Moreover, with changes and additions to this law, certain provisions are being improved, like the ones regulating the referral of foreigners, i.e. the issuance of a single permit for referred persons and unique permits for movement within the company.

Who will be exempt from obtaining a single permit (work permit)?

This category includes, among others:

  • foreigners who have been granted temporary residence on the basis of:
    • family reunification with a member of the Serbian citizen's immediate family, i.e. a foreigner who has been granted permanent residence,
    • ownership of real estate,
    • humanitarian stay;foreigners who have been approved for permanent residence;
  • foreigners who have been granted asylum or temporary protection, as well as the asylum seekers, in the period preceding six months upon submitting an application for asylum, if the decision on that application has not been made without their guilt;

There is no obligation of obtaining the single permit for the categories of foreigners staying in Serbia for a period of no more than 90 days in 180 days, on condition that they are owners, founders, representatives, or members of a legal entity that is registered in Serbia, if they are not employed in that legal entity, as well as foreigners looking for business connections and opportunities.

How will the applications be submitted?

The amendments introduce an entirely electronic procedure. The single permit application shall be submitted through a special Government portal. Temporary residence requests, however, can be filed in person as well as electronically.

A labor market test is initiated when a single permit application is submitted

Employers interested in hiring foreigners were obliged to initiate a labor market test before even considering this kind of endeavor. The purpose of the test is to establish whether there are any persons registered with the Serbiant Employment Agency compatible with the employers’ criteria free to work. With the proposed changes, the test shall not be an action separate from the procedure of obtaining the permit, but it will be initiated with the submission of the single permit application itself. The Serbian Employment Agency shall issue the results in term of four days after the application submission.

Are there any provisions regarding the contents of the employment contract?

Employers are obliged to submit the proposal of the employment contract with the application. The employment contract itself can be concluded for a definite or indefinite period of time, and in case of its termination, the foreigner is obliged to conclude a new contract within 30 days from the termination.

New terms - assessment and approval

The amendments introduce two terms with new meanings. The assessment is an evaluation of the fulfillment of the conditions for employment of a foreigner, special cases of employment of a foreigner, and self-employment of a foreigner, which is carried out by the Serbian Employment Agency.

Consent is a decision brought by the Serbian Employment Agency that enables a foreigner to change the basis of work, employer, or to be employed with two or more employers during the period of validity of the single permit.

Both decisions are brought in term of 10 days from the day the application was submitted. The evaluation is conducted on the basis of the single permit application, while consent is given on the basis of a separate request. The evaluation shall also be conducted as a part of the procedure for the issuance of Visa D (long-stay Visa). This means that those who got a negative result of the evaluation will not even be able to enter the country.

New conditions for movement within the company

International companies interested in moving their employees to daughter companies or branches in Serbia shall be met with additional conditions. The employees coming to Serbia from other countries must be employed in foreign companies for at least one year, the movement must be regulated via a special act brought by the foreign employer and there must be a guarantee that the foreign employer will return to their country. In addition, only an employee engaged in the position of manager or specialist can be assigned to work in Serbia, while a special exception applies to interns, who are also allowed to be assigned under certain conditions.

The validity periods of the permits have been extended

The single permit can be valid for a maximum of 3 years, which is a significant improvement compared to one year term prescribed by current legislation. A single permit is issued in the form of a card.

To conclude, even though the proposed amendments are yet to be approved by the Parliament, its adoption is expected to further facilitate and digitalise employment of foreigners which Serbian labor market badly needs at the moment.

By Marija Cvjeticanin, Partner, Cvjeticanin & Partners

Serbia Knowledge Partner

Committed to redefining a law firm's role in an emerging regional market, Gecić Law is a full-service law firm that advises international and local clients from the public and private sectors in navigating the complex legal landscape of the region across multiple practice areas. Members of the Gecić Law team have graduated from leading universities in the US and Europe. They have extensive local and international experience, with a particular focus on EU regulatory frameworks and international trade and a proven track record in providing innovative and practical solutions in the most complex of matters.

Gecić Law is an exclusive member of two leading global alliances, TerraLex and TAGLaw, extending its international footprint. The firm and its lawyers have continuously been recognized in several practice areas by elite global directories, including The Legal 500, Chambers and Partners and Benchmark Litigation. Gecić Law was named Law Firm of the Year: South Eastern Europe 2021 and Law Firm of the Year: Eastern Europe and the Balkans 2020 at The Lawyer European Awards and was repeatedly nominated in other practice areas.

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