About the City
With a population of around 320,000 in 2014, Sarajevo is not only the capital, but also the largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A diverse city, it has often been named the Jerusalem of Europe or the Jerusalem of the Balkans due to its diverse religious and ethnic makeup, with Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy having coexisted peacefully in the city for centuries.
The city covers 141.5 square kilometers of area that was traditionally known solely as Bosnia before gaining independence from Yugoslavia and unifying with Herzegovina in 1992.
The demographics of Sarajevo are somewhat uncertain, as there has been no official census carried out since 1991. However, estimates made in 2011 suggest that most of its population identify as Bosniaks, with Serbs as the second largest community.
The remainder is made up mainly of Roma, Croats, and Sephardi Jews, and there is also a small but growing expatriate community that is developing as more people move to Sarajevo for work. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitution does not specify any official language, but many inhabitants speak Bosnian, Croat, Serbian, or English.
The Climate in Sarajevo
Sarajevo has a moderate climate with four distinct seasons and precipitation spread evenly throughout the year. Although it does show some signs of oceanic influences, the proximity of Sarajevo to the Adriatic Sea and the Dinaric Alps to the southwest keep the climate moderate and balanced.
On average, expatriates living in Sarajevo can expect June to be the hottest month of the year, with an average temperature of 19.7°C, and January the coldest at around −0.5°C. The average yearly temperature is around 10°C. Snow is to be expected in the winter, particularly in the mountainous regions south of the city.
Visas for Bosnia and Herzegovina
Expatriates looking to obtain a visa so that they can move to Sarajevo should be prepared for a long process. There are currently three types of visa you can apply; a transit visa, a short term visa (90 days), and a long term visa (180 days).
You must apply for your visa 30 days in advance of arrival, except for long term visas, which should be applied for three months prior to arrival. You will be required to attend an interview at the relevant embassy for your country and provide documentation. More information can be obtained from your embassy.
As Bosnia and Herzegovina is not an EU member, citizens moving to Sarajevo from an EU nation will also need to apply for visa before arriving. Visa-free entry may be granted to a number of states for stays of less than 90 days.
Life in Sarajevo
Culture and Leisure
Sarajevo is a culturally diverse city. As a melting pot of different faiths and ethnicities, it has much to offer those interested in history, art, and film. It has many museums and galleries covering contemporary and historical art, religion and spirituality, as well as Bosnian culture.
There is also The Sarajevo Film Festival, established in 1995, which draws some of the biggest names in Hollywood and independent film to the city every year, and the famous Sarajevo Jazz and International Music Festivals, as well as the national celebrations that take place at the Sarajevo Winter Festival.
Also Sarajevo provides a well know casual lifestyle which can offer you a fun and relaxing time during you stay.
Sarajevo is also a famous sports city, having hosted the Winter Olympics in 1984. Its fascination with sport continues to this day, with three football teams, a basketball team, and a handball team all based in the city. Sarajevo is a lively, friendly city with much to offer expatriates working in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Education in Sarajevo
Education in Sarajevo is taken in three stages. All children receive free, compulsory education from the age of 6–15 at a Primary School where they study a wide curriculum. Upon graduation they can then choose to enter the workforce or proceed to a Secondary School until they are 19, where they continue their education and are prepared to study at university level.
The University of Sarajevo, the oldest and most prestigious in Bosnia and Herzegovina, offers courses in a wide range of subjects across the arts and humanities, sciences and technical subjects.
Those living in Sarajevo for only a shorter time will be pleased to hear that Sarajevo has a number of international schools that offer lessons in English and would be suitable for the children of expatriates. These schools include the International School of Sarajevo, the QSI International School of Sarajevo, and the Druga Gimnazija Sarajevo.
Transportation in Sarajevo
As Sarajevo is located in between two mountain ranges, the narrow streets and roads can make driving larger vehicles very difficult. The main roads, however, are well kept and rarely congested, and provide links to many other surrounding towns, villages, and cities.
If you wish to drive as an expatriate whilst living in Sarajevo, you will need to apply for a Bosnian driver’s license. You must also drive with low beam headlights at all times, and you will need Bosnian insurance to drive on the roads.
Sarajevo also has a great public transport system, including an extensive tram and trolley network and numerous bus routes that reach all over Sarajevo and beyond. There is also a frequent train service that links Sarajevo to other Bosnian cities.
Employment in Sarajevo
As the capital and largest city in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo is the economic focal point of the country and in 2011 generated 6.30 billion USD, almost 40% of the country’s overall GDP. This is due to Sarajevo’s strong market economy, and the successful economic rehabilitation programs that were carried out after the country was formed.
Whilst under communism, the city had been known as an industrial stronghold, but it has since adapted to the requirements of liberal market economy, and now combines industry like tobacco production, automobile manufacturing and communications equipment with a strong service and financial economy.
As the governmental center of the country, many people working Sarajevo are also employed in political and administrative roles by the local and federal government. It also has a strong tourism economy, and is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the region.
Sarajevo has further been named the 43rd Best City in the World by travel publisher Lonely Planet in 2006, and has been consistently listed in their top ten European destinations since 2010. In 2013, over 300,000 tourists visited the city, a rise of 18% from the year before.
A large amount of this tourism is related to winter sports, a trend that started when Bosnia and Herzegovina hosted the Winter Olympics in 1984, whilst others make pilgrimage to its religious and spiritual landmarks. Its vast number of museums, art galleries and historical sites also attract many visitors.
Work Permits for Sarajevo
As with visas, getting a permit to work in Sarajevo can be a long and complicated process. Once you have obtained your visa and have found prospective employment you can then begin the work permit application by contacting the Bosnian Service for Foreigners Affairs.It,s very important to know that in the case of a long-term visa (Visa D), you will need to acquire a work permit first, before you can actually apply for the visa.
You will then need your employer to submit the correct documents to the Service; you will also need to pay the required fees for the application. Be warned that this can be a lengthy process, so start it way in advance of needing to begin working in Sarajevo.
You will be able to extend your work permit by following the same steps again 30 days before the expiration of your current permit. Anyone working in Sarajevo should also be aware that due to the high unemployment rate, it is common that spouses and partners of those applying will not be given work permits unless they can confirm that they too have employment lined up.
Income Taxation in Sarajevo
Unlike a lot of European countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina has a flat rate for income tax. This means that whatever you earn as an expatriate working in Sarajevo you will pay 10% tax on it; this includes income from employment, royalties, and capital gains. You will also pay towards social security from your employment income.
Value Added Tax (VAT) is set at 17% in Bosnia and Herzegovina for all products except for medical care, education, postal services, and financial services.