As one of the leading countries in foreign investments and migration in southeastern Europe, Serbia has faced the challenge of regulating the status of foreigners that have found themselves in its territory at the time of the sate of emergency due to COVID-19.
With the liberate policy in establishing the company, property ownership and work permits for foreign citizens, Serbia is a country that, over the past years has welcomed a lot of foreigners to its territory providing them with the residency and work permits.
These individuals differ by their residency status and can be distinguished in several groups:
1. Foreigners on temporary residence permit in Serbia
2. Foreigners on permanent residency in Serbia
3. Foreigners on the tourist visits in Serbia.
Each group of foreigners must comply with the norms of the Law of Foreigners in order to regulate and maintain their status, however, given the fact that the immigration authorities in Serbia are currently closed for any operations with the parties, lot of foreigners located in Serbia are faced with their residency permits and identification documents expiration.
What are the consequences of missing the deadline for your residency permit renewal? Will you face any charges? Are foreigners forced to leave Serbia in the time of emergency state due to COVID-19 pandemic?
The Government of the Republic of Serbia has recognized that the status of foreign citizens on its territory must be adjusted and regulated to comply with other urgent measures issued in this fight against the corona virus.
In this means, given the fact that foreigners are unable to act in accordance with the norms in order to regulate their status, the Republic of Serbia has issued directives and decisions that refer to foreign citizens living on the territory of the Republic of Serbia during the state of emergency.
Hence, regardless of the obligations under the Law of Foreigners, during the state of emergency, Serbia is applying:
1. Decision On Status Of Foreigner Citizens During The State Of Emergency, issued on March 24, 2020,
2. Decision On Validity Of Issued Work Permits to Foreigners During The State Of Emergency, issued on March 27, 2020,
3. The Directive On The Application Of Deadlines in Administrative Procedures During the State Of Emergency, issued on March 24, 2020 and amended on March 27, 2020.
Temporary residence in Serbia is issued to the foreigners that have one of the legal grounds, proclaimed by the Law Of Foreigners, for living in Serbia temporarily.
The permit is issued for the limited period of time and the longest term of its validity is the period of one year.
Given the fact that in order to have a continuous residency, a foreigner must renew its permit 30 days prior to the expiration date, it is evident that a lot of individuals will be disabled from their right to prolong the permit.
Recognizing this issue, the Government of the Republic of Serbia has issued the act, the Decision On Status Of Foreigner Citizens During The State Of Emergency, on March 24, 2020, which enables foreigners with the temporary residence permit to lawfully stay in Serbia, regardless of the date of expiration of their permit.
Furthermore, these foreigners are not obligated to undertake or initiate any of the administrative steps and procedures in order to maintain the acquired status. As the result, after the state of emergency ends, foreigners that had their temporary residence permit expire during the state of emergency will not face any consequences such as misdemeanour proceedings, penalties, bans or breaks in the continuance of their residency.
The Decision from March 24 also refers to the foreign citizens, who are permanently living in Serbia.
Foreigners with the permanent residency permits, even though they do not need to extend and renew their permits, they still have the obligation to apply for the extending their personal identification document, Serbian ID card.
Personal ID card is issued for 5 years period, to the foreigners who have been approved the permanent residency in Serbia. However, in case any such document expires during the state of emergency, it will still be considered valid, while the state of emergency lasts and permanent residents will not dace any unwanted consequences.
A significant worry has certainly come across, not only foreigners but also employers who are employing foreigners in Serbia.
Namely, all foreign citizens resining in Serbia, whether they are on their temporary residence or they have obtained the permanent residency, also have their work permit. Or they should have it.
For further details of the work permits for the foreign citizens in the Republic of Serbia, please see our blog “Guide to Getting a Work Permit”.
Work permit validity depend on the validity of the foreigner’s residency permit, therefore, many of them will have their work permit expire during the state of emergency.
Given the fact that any kind of work of foreign citizens, which is not in accordance with the Law On Employment of Foreigners and the work without the specific work permit is against the law, has certainly left many employers worried if they can keep their foreign employees during this state and will they bear any consequences if they do.
On March 27th, the Government of Serbia has issued the Decision On Validity Of Issued Work Permits to Foreigners During The State Of Emergency, proclaiming that all work permits issued by the authorities that are or will be expired during this state of emergency, will be considered valid until the Directive on the state of emergency is in force.
While it is nice to have all these issues solved, for the time being, it is also useful to know, upon the state of emergency ends, how much time do we have to react in order to regulate the residency status and don’t miss the deadlines.
By the Directive On The Application Of Deadlines in Administrative Procedures During the State Of Emergency, from March 24, 2020 and March 27, 2020, the Government of Serbia has found that any individual shall not bear any consequences for the inability to meet any deadlines in the administrative proceedings and not undertaking required activities in the administrative proceedings. According to this Directive, all administrative deadlines in the administrative proceedings will be postponed for 30 days upon the day the emergency state ends.
Relying on the Government measures in questions, the Foreigners Department within the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia has issued the notice that all measures under the Directive On The Application Of Deadlines in Administrative Procedures During the State Of Emergency also apply to the procedures proclaimed by the Law On Foreigners.
The effect of force majeure will, again, depend on a contract. Typically, there will be a contractual term that stipulates an extension of time to perform those obligations or suspension of contractual performance for the duration of the force majeure event. Most commonly, if the force majeure event extends over a longer period, some provisions may entitle the parties to terminate the contract.