May 2022

Contact: Marija Medić

What does the term work permit mean in Serbia?

If you are a foreign national and wish to work in Serbia, you will need a work permit, which is often called a work visa.

But, what is work permit actually? Essentially, it is an act, a document issued by the National Employment Service (hereinafter: NES) based on which you can work in the Republic of Serbia. The employment of foreigners is regulated by the Foreign Nationals Employment Act (hereinafter: Act).

A work permit is sometimes confused with a temporary residence permit. These permits are completely different!

A temporary/permanent residence permit is the precondition for a work permit. The joint procedure is prescribed for the temporary residence permit and works permit applications, which is favorable for the applicants since the joint procedure is easier as well as time-saving.

A work permit will be issued for a time period that must not be longer than the time frame of the residence permit. Both the temporary and the permanent residence is regulated by the Law on foreigners.

Types of work permits in Serbia:

  • personal work permit;
  • work permit.

For the same time period, you may obtain only one type of a work permit – either a personal work permit or a work permit.


A personal work permit may enable you employment, self-employment and the use of all rights provided by the law in the event of unemployment. This permit may be issued to

  • a foreigner who possess a permanent residence permit,
  • a foreigner who has the status of a refugee;
  • a foreigner who belongs to a special category of foreigners.

As you can notice, this work permit is related to the personal status of a foreigner and therefore is bound to that status. That is even more evident if we know that this work permit may be issued also for the purpose of family reunification.


Unlike the personal work permit, a work visa is not related strictly to the personal status of a foreigner. This permit may be issued for:

  • employment;
  • special cases of employment;
  • self-employment.

In order to simplify this, let us illustrate the types and subtypes of work permit in Serbia


In the joint procedure, two different authorities consider the applicant’s requests for issuance of temporary residence permit and work permit, with mutual cooperation as well as the information exchange.

First of all, when the employer wants to hire a foreigner, the employer has to conduct the so-called “labor market test”. This test is to show whether there are candidates in the Serbian labor market who are on the NES’s list of unemployed who fulfill the conditions set by that employer. If such a profile exists, these persons take priority.

However, that does not mean the employer has to hire a person the NES found while performing the labor market test. In that case, the employer should explain in writing why no one found by the NES is suitable for the job at their company. That report of the employer must show the biographies of the persons found by the NES were taken into account.

It is important to know that this test can be initiated as soon as the request for temporary residence is submitted. Moreover, the test may be initiated as soon as the employer realizes that the engagement of a foreigner will be necessary. That shortens the time period in which the entire process will be conducted.

Labor market test is not required in the event of work permit extension when the “previous” labor market test was conducted and the work permit was issued based on the new version of the Act.

A foreigner may perform only those activities for which the permit was granted under a work visa. That is particularly important because of the inspection control.


WHO? Based on our experience in practice, we thought it would be useful to provide the answer to this frequently asked question. Namely, foreign clients often contact us with the request for a work visa for employment, thinking that they, as the future employee, have to submit this application. However, it is important to know that the work permit is to be issued at the request of the employer, and not the (foreign national) employee. That is why the Act prescribes that the employer bears the costs of work visa issuance. Also, this is why the NES insists that the employer pays the fee for application exclusively by using the transfer order.

WHERE AND TO WHOM? In this case, the employer should submit the request for issuance of a work permit to the organization for employment affairs, which is located in the place (city) of the employer’s registered office. That means, if the employer has a registered office in Novi Sad, the application for issuance of a work permit (for employment) should be submitted in the organization unit of NES in Novi Sad.

In the case of self-employment and independent professionals, the request is submitted to the organizational unit of the NES, according to the location of the employment.

Finally, regarding the personal work permit, the application is submitted to the organizational unit of the NES according to the place of temporary or permanent residence of the foreigner and upon their request.

In conclusion, we must emphasize that the type of a work permit determines the process. Therefore, the first question to answer in order to enter into the procedure for obtaining a work visa is: Which type of work permit is suitable for me?

Serbia Work Permit Processing Time

Let us illustrate the process of who and when submits what to whom. Please note that this illustration concerns a process for obtaining one type of work permits – permit for employment. In other words, the procedure is different when it comes to getting the personal work permit or permit for self-employment.

work permit process


  • the employer must register a foreign employee for compulsory social security;
  • the employer has to submit the proposal of an Employment Agreement or another contract whereby work-related rights are exercised;
  • they were unable to find Serbian citizens or a foreign national with a personal work permit (of course, those persons need to have free access to the labor market and the required qualifications);
  • the employer may not send a foreign national employee who was granted a work visa to work for another employer;
  • the employer is obliged to bear the costs of a work permit issuance.


Why should you be careful with this issue? Namely, when you read the Act, you can see that the citizens of the EU have the right to free access to the labor market in Serbia. That would certainly lead to a conclusion that the EU citizens are not obliged to have a work permit in order to work in Serbia. But, when you come to the final provisions, you will see that certain articles will be applicable only when Serbia becomes part of the European Union. Until then, their citizens must obtain a work permit under the same circumstances as the citizens of other countries.


1) Is a shareholder (foreign national) of a company obliged to have a work permit?

Again, it depends whether a shareholder will perform business activities and establish work employment. If YES, a work permit is required. Of course, the same condition is required regarding the time of residence in Serbia.

2) Is the manager (foreign national) of a company obliged to have a work permit?

The answer to this question depends whether a manager who is a foreign national will stay in Serbia for a time period longer than 90 days within a 6 months period. Also, it is important whether a manager will be “hired” for that position based on the Employment Agreement or as a Manager, i.e. without forming the employment relationship (in that case company and director are concluding a contract on mutual rights and duties). According to the Act, manager, i.e. representative of a company registered in Serbia is not required to have a work permit when the following requirements are met:

  • a manager will not reside in Serbia longer than 90 days in a period of 6 months;
  • a manager will not be employed by the company.

If a manager will be employed in the company, the answer is clear – they need the work permit.

Let’s try to simplify understanding of the process. Well, we know that a temporary residence permit is necessary when foreign national wants to stay in Serbia longer than 90 days in a 6-months period. If a manager is planning to reside in Serbia for 20 days in a period of 6 months, they do not fulfill the conditions for a temporary residence permit. If a manager does not obtain a temporary residence, they will certainly not be in a position to obtain a work permit. The calculation is simple: no temporary residence permit – no work permit.

3) Is the manager/employee of the foreign company’s branch obliged to have a work permit?

If you have a company abroad, but you want to establish a branch in Serbia and bring your employees to work for you in Serbia, the Law now provides for this possibility. That is because the term “employer” now has a broader meaning. It now includes (besides the domestic) foreign legal or natural persons registered for performing activities in Serbia, as well as branches and representative offices of a foreign employer. In case the branch’s manager or employee is planning to stay in Serbia for more than 90 days, he is obliged to obtain a work permit.

We hope that this blog will help you understand better the notion of a work permit as well as the entire procedure for obtaining it. However, please note that the aforesaid cannot be considered to be legal advice. That is why we recommend you consult an attorney at law specialized in this area. That way, you will prevent any mistakes on the road to a work permit.

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