Croatian Employers Hire Third Country Nationals, Wait Months for Permits

Lauren Simmonds

As Novac writes on the 6th of August, 2019, the now burning problem of a lack of qualified personnel in the Croatian tourism industry began escalating to unseen levels last year, and this year it has only intensified.

Labour import quotas have been increasing owing to the now rather desperate demand in the tourism sector, and as it has become difficult to find people from the Balkans, let alone people from the European Union, all of whom can work in Croatia without needing a work permit (apart from Austrian citizens, who still require one because of the barriers to Croatian nationals on the Austrian labour market).

Even third country nationals from other, nearby Balkan countries (non-EU countries such as Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina) have been hard to come by. Therefore, third country nationals from distant lands such as Filipinos, Indians and even seasonal workers from African countries can often be seen working in Croatian hospitality establishments. Raising quotas has somewhat solved the issues of this tourist season, in a sense, but the problem now, as Novi List writes, continues to be Croatia’s mundane, draconian and utterly senseless processes for registering workers from outside of the territory of the European Economic Area.

Although we now in the very height of the Croatian tourist season, Robert Marić from the popular coastal town of Crikvenica still can’t get the papers he needs for his employee from neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina to work, who is still awaiting approval of his residence, he is also experiencing the same issues with his workers who come from Serbia. Both of these countries are outside of the EU.

”Two months ago, I handed over the papers to the police for two of my employees, one is a woman from Bosnia and Herzegovina and the other is Serbian. To this day, this hasn’t been resolved. I guess I’ll get them in early September, when I don’t even need them anymore. It’s now early August, and we don’t have people yet. The fact is that people can’t be found for work, and in many hospitality establishments, grandparents, parents and uncles are having to come to the rescue… And when you find staff from outside [of Croatia and the EU], you can’t get their paperwork done,” this rightfully angry employer explained, adding that one such form he submitted to the police took twelve days to reach another floor of the same building. Something which is utterly unjustifiable given the workforce issues Croatia now faces.

Srećko Blažević, the husband of a tourism worker who lives in Croatia, said he came to live in Crikvenica from Vrbovec, and he married his wife thirteen years ago, who is originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina and has citizenship of that country.

”In Croatia, we have our own property, among other things, we’ve got a house in Vrgorac. However, we came to live in Crikvenica, we rented an apartment legally… However, the problem arose with the police where we asked for a residence permit [attesting to that new address] and they asked us for a wedding certificate to prove that we were married, as well as proof of having deposited 35,000 kuna in a bank in order to guarantee that my wife would have something to live on.

We already had a work contract to show she was starting work the next day, and thus in a month’s time she’d receive a salary, and regardless, we own property in Croatia. But the worst part is that we submitted this request two months ago and we’re still waiting. I don’t know when we will get the approval,” said Blažević in total disbelief, pointing out that it was not a problem at all that they had to pay, but just that these very necessary papers were taking such a ridiculously long time.

He also pointed out that his wife even wanted to open a cleaning service, in perspective, but if she has to wait for the most basic paperwork for three whole months, then that doesn’t make any sense at all. Croatia has lost out once again with its draconian paper-loving policies, as their idea was to hire two more employees in that would-have-been cleaning business.

Robert Palić, who has several catering establishments and a hotel in Crikvenica said that as many as forty employees had to be sought from outside of Croatian territory this year. But luckily for him, the issue of paperwork went relatively painlessly, and everything was resolved and done in about twenty or so days.

”I found 90 percent of my people in Belgrade. All my chefs are from there. I found them upon recommendation. Otherwise, I even have an employee from Tanzania, a waiter who graduated in political science in Belgrade, and who worked on a cruiser, so we’re pleased with that,” concluded Palić.

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