The Law on Amendments to the Law on Foreigners of BiH, published in the Official Gazette of BiH No. 63 of 15 September 2023, entered into force on September 23, 2023.

Amendments to the Law on Foreigners are aimed at harmonizing BiH legislation with the regulations and directives of the European Union in this area. The law introduces a considerable number of novelties and various solutions compared to the previous legislative framework. The following text indicates some of the most significant changes.

In the process of determining the legality of a foreigner’s stay in BiH, as well as during the process of imposing measures against a foreigner for non-compliance with BiH regulations, the Department for Affairs with Foreigners of BiH may temporarily confiscate the foreigner’s travel document until a decision is made, for a maximum of 15 days. Formerly, the Department could confiscate a travel document for a maximum of 7 days. In addition, foreigners residing on the territory of BiH may be collectively and temporarily restricted in their freedom of movement in BiH, to the extent necessary for the protection of public health.

In the process of determining the identity of a foreigner, determining the legality of his/her stay in BiH or determining the place of residence in BiH, the Department may detain a foreigner for a maximum of six hours if it is necessary to establish the stated facts. A foreigner whose identity cannot be determined immediately or there are grounds for doubting the veracity of his/her statement about his/her identity or whose identity cannot be determined with certainty within six hours may be placed under surveillance and a measure of expulsion from Bosnia and Herzegovina may be imposed on him/her.

Furthermore, in the part of the Law regulating the conditions for the entry of a foreigner into BiH, the provision regarding the special conditions for entry was amended so that, in addition to those already prescribed, there are additional conditions for foreigners i.e., that the one does not pose a threat to public order, the security of BiH, public order and peace or international relations of BiH, as well as a threat to public health in BiH.

Visa D for long-term stay, according to amendments to the Law, is issued exceptionally, in situations where the purpose of staying in Bosnia and Herzegovina requires a period longer than 90 days in a period of 180 days. In the part of the Law related to visas, amendments were made to the provisions governing the conditions, jurisdiction and place of visa issuance, invitation letter, visa extension, refusal of visa application and exceptional visa issuance for humanitarian reasons, as well as visa cancellation and cancellation.

When it comes to the part of the law regulating the grounds for granting temporary residence, the provisions of the Law governing temporary residence on the basis of family reunification, temporary residence on the basis of education, with regard to primary, secondary, and higher education, and temporary residence of trainees and volunteers were amended, as well as temporary residence based on humanitarian reasons, temporary residence based on work without a work permit, temporary residence for the purpose of highly qualified employment, as well as for the purpose of transfer within a legal entity, for the purpose of scientific research, work without a work permit and confirmation of work registration. The provisions regulating the right to work in BiH without a work permit, as well as the issuance and work on the basis of a so-called blue card, were also changed.

With regard to permanent residence, amendments were made to the Law regarding the conditions for approval of permanent residence, as well as residence that does not belong to the basis for permanent residence.

In the part of the Law which regulates the decision-making on the request for approval and extension of the temporary stay, an amendment was made so that if the request is accepted, the foreigner is issued a notification about the accepted request and a temporary residence permit, which the foreigner takes over personally or through an attorney, i.e., a legal representative for the business incompetent person, in the organizational unit of the Service or DKP BiH. As an exception to the above, when temporary residence is approved on the basis of work with a work permit or blue card, the foreigner is issued a decision on approved temporary residence and a temporary residence permit. In this part of the Law, changes have been made that relate to rejection and refusal of requests for approval and requests for extension of the temporary stay.

Finally, through amendments, the question of reasons for imposing a measure of expulsion of a foreigner, the principle of prohibition of return, the determination of supervision, the central database on foreigners, and the question of misdemeanour liability and punishment for violating the provisions of the Law is regulated differently.

Bearing in mind all of the above, it can be concluded that fundamental amendments have been made to the Law, which regulates numerous issues of conditions and procedures for the entry of foreigners into BiH, including the visa and visa-free regime, the stay of foreigners in BiH, the removal of foreigners from BiH, the placing of foreigners under surveillance and others are regulated in a different way comparing to the previous legislation. Some provisions have been amended in order to clarify their meaning and remove dilemmas and doubts that arose in the practical application of the law, while others represent the introduction of completely different solutions and mechanisms, the effectiveness of which will be assessed only after the amendments to the Law have taken effect in practice.

Author: Igor Letica, attorney-at law at the Law Firm SAJIC

E-mail: [email protected]

About the author