AmCham Macedonia Summer 2015 (Issue 46) - Page 17

ADVOCACY NEWS Bureaucratic, Inflexible Visa & Work, Residency Permits Process Despite impressive efforts by Macedonian authorities to attract FDI over the years, the small number of expats who need to live and work in the country continue to face significant problems obtaining and maintaining work visas, work permits and residency permits. Despite some improvements to these processes, it still takes at least 2 months to process a work permit, visa and local residency permit. This June, AmCham gathered detailed feedback from 11 international organizations in order to identify common issues and submit structured feedback to the relevant institutions. A summary of these findings follows. Due to a lack of public investment in modern IT infrastructure to support modern and efficient processing of payments and applications, expats are frustrated by the need to: • Submit many of the same hard copy documents to multiple ministries and agencies (MOI, MFA, ESA) with original signatures, stamps and court-approved translations, which is expensive and time-consuming; • Re-complete and resubmit documents when they are lost or processing mistakes are made; • Make time consuming trips to banks and maintenance of hard copy proof of payment; • Make ID photo appointments within just 2 work days per week; • Travel to third countries to apply for and pick up their Macedonian visa/permits, since the network of consulates is limited and use of electronic communications is rare; • Resubmit much of the same documentation when renewing work and residency permit renewal application requirements; and • Follow the same visa and work permit procedures for very short-term (<1 month) consultants. • The inability to obtain a visa for accompanying family members if their work contract last less than 1 year; • The inability to obtain a visa for accompanying unwed partners; and • Difficulties proving a legal connection between the local entity and the group, even when both entities have the same name. In certain cases, visa and work/residency permits procedures are seen as non-transparent and unpredictable. For example, • Detailed visa and work permit application requirements are not consistently published by all Macedonian consulates and consulate staff does not consistently advise applicants on proper completion of the application process; • There is inconsistent treatment of cases by different officers and depending on the country of origin of the applicant, even when applying to work in the same organization; • Some foreigners report lengthy wait times (e.g., 3-6 months) for the issuance of their first residency permit from MOI after arriving in country despite care- AmCham gathered detailed feedback from 11 international organizations to identify common issues and submit structured feedback to the relevant institutions. Other complaints include: • Having to produce a notarized lease agreement and prove health insurance coverage, as though employed expats are likely to seek local welfare benefits; fully following MOI timelines and instructions. By law, residency permits must be issued within 25 days, however this does not always happen in practice, leaving some expats in an uncomfortable “grey zone”; and • A number of expats report lengthy wait times for the renewal of their residency permit from MOI (e.g., 3 months) despite carefully following MOI renewal timelines and instructions. Summer 2015 Issue 46  17