Serbia’s Parliament Approves Amendments Allowing Simultaneous Residence and Work Permits for Foreigners

The Parliament of Serbia has approved amendments to the laws concerning foreigners and their employment, allowing for the issuance of residence permits alongside work permits, as reported by Nova ekonomij.

According to the amendments, the document will be known as a “Unified Permit” (jedinstvena dozvola). The maximum validity of the residence permit will be extended from the current one year to three years. Additionally, foreigners will be eligible to apply for permanent residence in Serbia after three years of residency, down from the current five years. Citizens will be able to obtain the “Unified Permit” through the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), streamlining the process for both employees and employers, as noted by Nova ekonomij. Self-employed individuals can also apply for this permit through the Serbian unified portal.

Moreover, according to the amendments, entry visas to Serbia will be issued electronically, easing entry for citizens from countries where Serbia lacks diplomatic representation, as reported by Nova ekonomij. Regarding citizenship, the amendments simplify the registration in the citizens’ registry, allowing foreigners to apply for citizenship after three years of continuous residence in Serbia, compared to the current requirement of five years.

In the initial version of the draft law, published in March, the Serbian MIA proposed allowing foreigners to apply for citizenship after one year of residency with a residence permit and official employment in a Serbian company. President Aleksandar Vučić stated that authorities are prepared to expedite the citizenship process for Ukrainians and Russians due to a shortage of workforce in the country. However, this initiative was slowed down after the European Union threatened Serbia with the cancellation of visa-free travel, as reported by the Financial Times.

During the first six months of 2023, Serbia issued 24,785 work permits to foreigners—1000 more than the total issued in the entire year of 2021, according to 021 with reference to data from the National Employment Service. In 2022, a total of 35,168 permits were issued. The majority of foreign workers come from China, Russia, Turkey, India, Cuba, Belarus, Ukraine, and Nepal.

In 2022, more IT professionals arrived in Serbia than workers in other industries, as highlighted by Biznis Kurir. Labor Minister of Serbia, Nikola Selaković, stated that 2529 programmers and 2787 IT specialists came to the country, outnumbering rebar workers, carpenters, and bricklayers combined. He expressed confidence that the influx of foreign IT specialists will accelerate the growth of the industry in Serbia.

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