Serbia Visas, Work Permits and Migration
If you are thinking of expanding your business into Serbia, companies can take advantage of the growing economy which has plenty of the opportunities, challenges, and advantages of a developing country. However, one of the areas where you cannot risk cutting corners over is work permits, visas, and residency. There are strict border controls, so do not risk fines, sanctions or even having your staff deported through lacking knowledge of the rules.
Serbia has many bilateral agreements with other nations. Around 96 countries’ citizens can enter without a visa. When Serbia becomes a member of the European Union – planned for 2025 – its members’ citizens will have the right to ‘free movement’ to visit, live and work in Serbia with just their national ID or passport. Until then, expatriates wanting to work in Serbia need a work permit and temporary residence permit.
Serbia is also a member of the mini-Schengen agreement – the Open Balkan as it is known. By 2023 Albania, Serbia and Macedonia are looking to open their borders for business and travel.
What Types of Work Visas, and Permits for Serbia are there?
There are around 96 countries’ citizens who do not require an entry visa. For some countries, the rule is 90 days in a 180-day period, for others it can be as little as 14 days, so this needs to be checked. Those who are not visa-exempt need to apply for a C-Visa for less than 90 days. Foreigners who want to stay for longer, should apply for a D-Visa.
Those wanting to work in Serbia require:
- An entry D-Visa (for work) for stays from 90 to 180 days which allows for a temporary residence stay
- A work permit – valid between three – 12 months
- A temporary residence permit for up to one year which can be applied for once in Serbia and the D-visa expires
The law that governs foreigners wanting to live and work in Serbia is the Law on Employment of Foreign Nationals which covers the need for a Temporary or Permanent Residence Permit and Work Permit and also gives foreigners the same employment rights as local Serbians.
It is important to note that there are high level unemployment levels in Serbia, and therefore it is better to find a job before entering the country. This can be done through the ‘National Employment Service (NES), through the press, agencies and the internet. The more qualified the applicant, the more choice there will be, and language also plays an important part; so, a good working knowledge of Serbian may be a pre-requisite.
Visas for Serbia
- Short Term C-Visa: For stays of 90 days in 180-day period. This can be single or multiple entry and for tourist or business purposes but not for paid employment
- Long Term (Work) D-Visa: which gives permission for a temporary stay, for foreigners who intend to apply for a temporary residence permit when in Serbia
There are two types of work permit.
- Personal Work Permit: persons with permanent residence or with refugee status or who have family connections in Serbia
- Simple Work Permit: which is the more common permit for foreigners applying for work in Serbia from home country with an employment contract; self-employment; special cases for employment e.g., intra-company or assigned to a company in Serbia
Foreigners entering Serbia using the visa-exemption route cannot apply for a Temporary Residence Permit directly, they must first apply for the D-Visa. On entering Serbia, they also need to register within 24 hours with the police for hotel guests, or when staying with a tax resident. They are given a ‘white card’ which is important when leaving the country and also carries fines if foreigners do not have one – RSD 5,000-25,000 (€42-210) (US$480-240). They are also a pre-requisite for a 12-month Temporary Resident Permit.
Foreigners must check they have an entry stamp in their passports even if they do not require a visa to enter Serbia.