Conditions eased to hire foreign workers
The National Assembly has passed two bills that simplify procedures in order to make it easier for employers to recruit workers from non-EU countries, including in the public sector. There will also be less red tape for foreigners.
Amendments to the foreigners act and amendments to the employment, self-employment and work of foreigners act have been drawn up by the government and rushed through parliament to address acute staff shortages. They were passed on 28 March.
The amendments to the foreigners act preserve a controversial provision, passed under the previous government, that requires of adult family members of non-EU workers to pass a basic Slovenian language proficiency test to extend their residence in Slovenia after they have been here for a year already.
However, the implementation of the provision is being delayed by 18 months. Instead of 27 April this year, the provision requiring family members aged over 18 to pass the A1 Slovenian language test will not come into force until 1 November 2024.
NGOs providing support for foreign workers or asylum seekers, the advocate of the principle of equality, as well as one of the coalition parties, the Left, oppose this provision, warning it could lead to separation of families. They also pointed to a lack of Slovenian language courses. Activists and asylum seekers staged a protest in Ljubljana prompted by the provision.
Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar noted that the amendments reinstate free Slovenian courses for foreigners and task the ministry with drafting an integration strategy of non-EU foreigners in six months. The bill also expands the range of providers of language courses.
Less red tape
The minister expects the amendments will reflect positively on the work of administrative units, as well as foreigners and employers. They seek to eliminate red tape hindering employment of foreign workers and integration of foreigners.
While their single residence and work permit is valid, foreigners will be able to change the employer, job or be employed with several employers merely with the consent of the Employment Service, and would no longer need the written approval of the relevant administrative unit.
The amendments will speed up the processing of applications for a single permit for jobs in the public sector as the government wants to address the shortage of staff, which is particularly acute in healthcare and social services.
The Employment Service would no longer issue its approval for jobs in the public sector because its procedures to determine education, language skills and qualifications of foreigners are complicated.
The time asylum seekers need to wait to exercise their right to free access to the labour market after obtaining the asylum seeker status is being cut from nine to three months.
Fingerprints submitted for the first residence permit will be used when extending the permit. The fingerprints will be kept for five years.
The administrative unit will no longer check every six months whether foreigners have sufficient means for survival. Foreigners will need to demonstrate they have enough money in the application for the first permit and for each renewal.
The serving of extended temporary residence permits and permanent residence permits will now be possible by post.
Concerns about abuse
Amendments to the foreigners act were carried by 45 votes in favour and 31 against, while amendments to the foreigners employment act passed by 56 votes to 20.
The opposition raised concern about risks of abuse of social transfers because the administrative units will no longer have to issue a decision for a worker to change employer or job.
The Democrats (SDS) argued that once a foreigner receives the single permit, no one checks whether they still meet the conditions to work and reside in Slovenia, which opens the door to abuse of social transfers.
The SDS and New Slovenia (NSi) also opposed the idea that administrative units will no longer periodically check whether foreigners have enough means to live in Slovenia.