IMPLEMENTATION OF THE OPEN BALKAN INITIATIVE: FACILITATED EMPLOYMENT PROCEDURES

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE OPEN BALKAN INITIATIVE: FACILITATED EMPLOYMENT PROCEDURES

In pursuit of greater regional cooperation and integration, the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of North Macedonia, and the Republic of Albania have embarked on the Open Balkan Initiative. A very important aspect of this initiative involves enabling free access to labor markets in the three countries.

To formalize this commitment, the participating countries came together to sign several key documents:

  • Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation Related to Free Access to the Labor Market in the Western Balkans of July 29, 2021;
  • Agreement on Conditions for Free Access to the Labor Market in the Western Balkans of December 21, 2021;
  • First Protocol on the Implementation of the Agreement on Conditions for Free Access to the Labor Market in the Western Balkans of January 22, 2024.

Following announcements made by the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia and the Employment Agency of the Republic of North Macedonia, effective March 5, 2024, the service for free access to the labor market has been activated and citizens of the three participating countries are able to commence employment procedures in accordance with the provisions outlined in the aforementioned documents.

Key aspects of the said procedure are given below:

1. Conditions for exercising the right

To be eligible, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Possess a valid ID card or biometric travel document, with validity extending for at least 90 days from the expiration date.
  • Not be subjected to any entry or stay bans within the territory of the other country.
  • Not present a threat to public order, national security, public health, or international relations of the other country.

2. Procedural steps

  • The applicant must first register on the national e-services portal of their respective country of citizenship in order to request an Open Balkan ID number.
  • Subsequently, the applicant accesses the electronic administrative portal of the destination country to submit an application for free access to the labor market. The application form includes personal data such as name, surname, phone number, address, educational background, prospective employment information, self-declarations regarding minor children and/or spouse, judicial status, financial resources, details of any registered vehicles intended for use and other data. The applicant shall also attach a recent photograph not exceeding 6 months old and a copy of the valid ID card or biometric travel document.
  • The competent authority of the destination country undertakes an examination of the application within a period of 30 days.
  • Upon approval of the application, the applicant is issued an electronic Approval for free access to the labor market in the destination country, along with a unique personal identification number for foreigners
  • The applicant can subsequently access the labor market of the of the destination country.

3. Validity of the Approval

  • The Approval allows the applicant to stay in the territory of the destination country and access the labor market under the same conditions as any local citizen for up to 2 years with the possibility of re-registration;
  • The applicant may initiate re-registration within 60 days prior to the expiry of the Approval.

4. Costs

According to the Agreement on Conditions for Free Access to the Labor Market in the Western Balkans, application fees are excluded for this procedure.

5. Key Benefits

  • No physical presence required for obtaining the Approval;
  • No need to obtain a work and residence permit based on numerous documents;
  • No administrative fees.

Elena Kuzmanovska

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