Introduction to the immigration framework
Slovenia is a small country, located in Central Europe. It has been part of the European Union from 2004 onwards as well as a member of the Schengen Area. Therefore, its immigration policy is shaped to accommodate those features.
Generally, Slovenia allows migration of EU citizens as well as migration of citizens of third (non-EU) countries, with the latter being more burdensome for applicants in terms of conditions that have to be fulfilled to obtain a relevant permit. Slovenian immigration legislation also differentiates between short-term business visits, short-term provision of work in Slovenia and temporary or permanent relocations as a result of employment in Slovenia, with each having a different set of applicable rules. Generally speaking, rules on labour market tests and other eligibility criteria such as non-conviction for criminal offences are strictly observed for citizens of third countries. On the other hand, citizens of EU and European Economic Area (EEA) Member States and Switzerland have a free access to the Slovenian labour market, which makes their immigration process easier.
Slovenia is a signatory to EU treaties and acquis, a member of the EEA, signatory to the Schengen Agreement as well as a party to bilateral agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia on migrations for purposes of employment. Therefore, the Slovenian immigration landscape is vibrant and takes into consideration many different statuses. Therefore, applicants should be very diligent in reviewing what permit may be applicable for them and if all conditions to obtain such a permit are met.
For corporate immigration from third countries, the key type of permit is the 'single permit'. The single permit, which is a joint residency and work permit, has many different subtypes. The question of which subtype is applicable and which holds the most benefits for a particular applicant depends on the specifics of each individual case.
At a glance, the following permits and authorisations are available for corporate immigrations (certain types of permits and authorisations are excluded as they are not applicable to corporate immigration):
- single permit for employment;
- single permit for self-employment;
- single permit for seconded workers;
- EU Blue card (subtype of the single permit);
- EU ICT permit (subtype of the single permit);
- single permit for daily migrant workers;
- work permit under the bilateral agreement with Bosnia and Herzegovina (a separate residency permit is required);
- work permit under the bilateral agreement with Serbia (a separate residency permit is required);
- posted worker notification from another EU Member State;
- short-term provision of work notification (visa may be required for entry);
- short-term legal representative work notification (visa may be required for entry);
- business visit (no permit or notification is required if conditions are fulfilled; however, a visa may be required for entry);
- different types of visas; and
- residency permits for family reunification.
The key piece of legislation in regard to corporate immigration to Slovenia is the Foreigners Act.2 The Foreigners Act sets out the basic rules regarding the entry, exit, residency and work of third-country nationals. More specifically, the Foreigners Act among others sets outs the rules on how foreigners can enter Slovenia and in which cases entry may be denied, on grounds for the entry, on types of visas, on types of residency and work permits, on family reunification and on the procedure and authorities responsible for certain procedural steps within the immigration process.
Certain conditions regarding the work of third-country nationals, as well as measures aimed at the protection of the Slovenian labour market, are set out in the Employment, Self-Employment and Work of Foreigners Act.3 The Employment, Self-Employment and Work of Foreigners Act is a supplementary act to the Foreigners Act, focusing mostly on the area of employment of foreigners. Among others, it sets the rules on free access to the labour market,4 on the labour market test,5 on the involvement of the Employment Service of Slovenia,6 on the consent to the work of a foreigner under different types of work permits, on short-term work of foreigners (third countries) and on quotas for work permits (currently no quotas are set).
Rules on temporary provision of natural and legal persons from another EU Member State are set out in the Transnational Provision of Services Act.7 This act serves as the key legislation implementing the EU rules on migration within the EU. It sets the rules under which Slovenian natural and legal persons may perform work in another EU Member State as well as the rules under which natural and legal persons from other EU Member States may perform work in Slovenia.ii The immigration authorities
Competences of immigration authorities are distributed between the administrative units, the Employment Service of Slovenia and to a limited extent to Slovenian embassies and consulates in foreign countries. The administrative units are the main point of contact, they handle the cases, gather required documents, communicate with the applicants or their representatives and in the end make the official decision if the relevant permit may be issued or not.
The role of the Employment Service of Slovenia is limited only to cases that involve any type of work or employment. In such cases, the Employment Service of Slovenia reviews if employment-related conditions are completed (for example, if appropriate contracts are concluded, if minimum employment standards are fulfilled, etc.), performs the employment market test, if applicable, and if all conditions are fulfilled, the Employment Service of Slovenia issues its consent to obtain a relevant permit. Even in cases when the involvement of the Employment Service of Slovenia is required, in most cases the applications are handled by the administrative units and the role of the Employment Service of Slovenia is a supporting one. The Employment Service of Slovenia has a special role in cases of EU posted worker notifications, short-term work notifications and special procedures for Bosnian and Serbian citizens, as in these types of procedures the Employment Service of Slovenia is the case handler and primary point of contract.
Slovenian embassies and consulates in foreign countries play an assisting role and are in certain cases authorised to accept on file the applications for permits, to assist with certain tasks in some immigration procedures (for example, with fingerprint collection) and to assist with the service of the permits once they are issued.
As Slovenia is a member of the Schengen Area, border control is limited to its border with Croatia and to international airports. Border authorities are responsible for reviewing whether conditions for entry into the country are fulfilled and to allow entry into Slovenia.iii Exemptions and favoured industries
As a result of Slovenia being a part of the EU, EU citizens have a favoured status when entering, residing and working in Slovenia.
Citizens of EU Member States (this also applies to citizens of EEA states and citizens of Switzerland) do not need a visa or a residency permit to enter Slovenia. They may enter for any reason and do not require any authorisations for residing up to three months. For a stay exceeding three months, citizens of EU Member States need to obtain a residence registration; however, the procedure is not too burdensome. Citizens of EU Member States also do not need any kind of work authorisation to assume work in Slovenia. Swiss citizens should obtain a residency permit in the case of a stay exceeding three months.
Beneficial status is also given to employees of third countries who are employed by EU-based companies. Such companies may also post their employees with regulated status in another EU Member State to Slovenia without having to obtain a work authorisation, if conditions for such posting are fulfilled; however, such employees are still required to arrange for residence grounds.
Under certain conditions, business visits of third country nationals may be exempted from obtaining work authorisations.8 Also, beneficial status may be obtained for certain cases of short-term provision of specific work of third-country nationals (applicable only in cases of supply of machinery and equipment, maintenance services or elimination of defects in supplied machinery or equipment) or in cases when third country nationals act as legal representatives of Slovenian companies for a limited period of time. In all such cases, provision of services should be registered in advance; however, obtaining a work permit is not necessary.
Lastly, beneficial status is granted under certain conditions to citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia under bilateral agreements concluded with Slovenia.
The year in review
In 2021, Slovenian immigration legislation underwent a significant reform. In March 2022, the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia adopted an amendment to the Foreigners Act (ZTuj-2F)12 as well as an amendment to the Employment, Self-Employment and Labour of Foreigners Act (ZZSDT-C).13 Both amendments entered into force on 27 April 2021 and became applicable on 26 May 2021, save in the part of a new Slovenian language requirement for residence (as further described below), which is to come into effect on 27 April 2023.
The main changes relevant to corporate migration were implemented in the following fields:
- the right of entry and residence of third-country foreigners for the purpose of research, study, internship, volunteer work, study exchange;
- requirement of knowledge of the Slovenian language for residence;
- obtaining first permit for temporary residence in Slovenia;
- conditions for family reunification;
- evidence of sufficient means of subsistence; and
- residence rights and residence permits for citizens of the United Kingdom and their family members who legally resided in Slovenia on 31 December 2020 and continue to reside in Slovenia after this date, as well as issuance of a certificate on the rights of frontier workers.
The amendments transposed the Directive 2016/801/EU (Students and Researchers Directive)14 into national law. New regulation was introduced on the conditions for entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of research and higher education, study, study exchange, educational projects, internship and volunteer work, with the aim of simplifying the immigration formalities for such individuals, following the recast of regulation at EU level.15
The implementation of the Directive 2016/801/EU, for example, introduced short and long-term transfers of researchers and their family members as well as accommodation of student mobility within the EU, following the example of regulation of intra-corporate transfers.16 The amendments also introduced new types of single permits and temporary residence permits:
- a temporary residence permit for seeking employment and self-employment for researchers having completed research work in Slovenia and for students having completed studies at a higher education institution in Slovenia;17
- a temporary residence permit for carrying out voluntary work;18 and
- a single permit for internships.19
The amendments to the immigration legislation newly introduced an entry-level condition of Slovenian language proficiency for the extension of a temporary residence permit in case of family reunification (at A1 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and a basic-level condition of Slovenian language proficiency for the issuance of a permanent residence permit on the basis of five years of continuous lawful residence of a foreign national in Slovenia (at A2 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). Fulfilment of this condition may be evidenced by a certificate of successful completion of the examination in the Slovenian language. The required test of Slovenian language proficiency is conducted before an expert commission appointed by the government of the Republic of Slovenia. The foreign national shall be deemed to have fulfilled the knowledge requirement of the Slovene language if they are admitted to officially recognised educational or study programmes in Slovenia conducted in the Slovene language or they have completed education at any level in Slovenia.20
The provisions relating to the Slovene language requirement are not yet in force; they shall apply as of 27 April 2023.iii Obtaining first permit for temporary residence in Slovenia
Generally, foreign nationals are required to pick up the first permit they requested for their stay in Slovenia at the Slovenian consulate in their home country prior to entering Slovenia. However, an exception to this rule was available in certain circumstances. The legislation reform also redefined the option for foreign nationals to pick up their first permit in Slovenia from competent Slovenian authorities if they lawfully entered and stay in the country on lawful grounds. Prior to the reform, this option was limited to unexpected circumstances that had to be evidenced to Slovenian authorities, whereas the condition of unexpected circumstances has now been dismissed. Foreign nationals may now pick up the first permit in Slovenia only under the condition that they entered the country lawfully and stay in the country on lawful grounds, such as visa-free short-term stay or short-term visa, and provided they had already submitted their permit application along with their fingerprints at the Slovenian consulate in their home country prior to entering Slovenia.21iv Family reunification
The reform tightened the general conditions for family reunification available to foreign nationals residing in Slovenia on the basis of a permit for temporary residence (single permit or other, with the exception of cross-border migrants and seasonal workers). Prior to the reform, foreign nationals with valid temporary residence permits were able to apply for a residence permit for their immediate family members after one year of lawful residence in Slovenia. With reform, this condition was set at two years, except in the case of holders of EU Blue Cards, intra-corporate transferees and foreigners on temporary residence permit for the purpose of research and higher education, for which the right to family reunification remains available immediately.22v Sufficient means of subsistence
The reform further introduced changes to proving sufficient means of subsistence required for stay in Slovenia. Since the reform, any income a foreign national is entitled to under national law regulating family benefits or the exercise of rights to public funds cannot be used to prove sufficient means even in the case of permit renewal, obtaining a further temporary residence permit or obtaining a permanent residence permit, as was earlier the case only in the event of first residence permit. Additionally, work-related expenses, including lunch, travel to work and business trip expenses, have been excluded from counting towards sufficient means of subsistence in any kind of permit application.23vi Residence rights for citizens of the United Kingdom
The reform also implemented the provisions of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union24 in the part governing residence rights and residence permits for citizens of the United Kingdom and their family members who legally resided in Slovenia on 31 December 2020 and continue to reside in Slovenia after this date, as well as issuance of a certificate on the rights of frontier workers.
Pursuant to the Foreigners Act,25 in Slovenia, the UK nationals or their family members had to submit the application for residence permit with the competent Slovenian authority within one year from the end of the transitional period (i.e., 31 December 2021) or before the expiry of the validity of their residence registration certificate for the EU national, which had previously served as their legal basis for long-term stay in Slovenia. This means that, in principle, the deadline for submitting the application for a residence permit for UK nationals under Article 50 of the TEU26 and Article 18 of the Withdrawal Agreement ('residence permit') had expired on 31 December 2021. However, pursuant to provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement, the competent Slovenian authorities are not allowed to automatically reject an application for a residence permit submitted after the expiry of the deadline ('late application') and are required to assess all the circumstances and reasons for not respecting the deadline and to process also late applications if reasonable grounds for not respecting the deadline exist. There is currently no guidance on what is considered reasonable grounds available from the competent Slovenian authorities and there seems to be no established practice on the subject as of yet.
On the other hand, if the application for a residence permit was not submitted within the deadline and if there are no reasonable grounds for considering a late application, the provisions of the Foreigners Act applicable to third-country nationals and their family members apply to entry, residence and departure for UK nationals and their family members.
Outlook and conclusions
Considering the recent legislative developments, which brought about some important structural changes to the Slovenian immigration framework, it is expected that the focus in the forthcoming year will be placed on its implementation in practice across competent authorities. Nevertheless, because many elements of the legislative reform, particularly those tightening the conditions for migration, have not been well received by civil society, it is not wholly unimaginable that we might be witnessing further regulatory changes to the contrary in a rather short time, especially in light of the coming general elections and potential changes on the political landscape.
Ultimately, lengthy processing times will continue to present the main challenge for an efficient and friendly immigration framework for corporate migration. These have become even longer since the start of the covid-19 pandemic, ranging from two to six or even seven months. It will therefore be essential that adequate technical, personnel and even regulatory support is accorded to the authorities if Slovenia is to stay an attractive destination for corporate migration.