Visas for foreign employees
Foreign nationals must apply for a visa. Citizens from the following countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States are exempt from Russian visa requirements: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Types of visas
There are five categories of visas: ordinary, official, transit, diplomatic and temporary residence. There are seven subcategories of an ordinary visa: business, tourist, work, student, private, asylum and humanitarian. The most important types of visa for legal entities are considered below.
Business visas are intended for foreign nationals who wish to conduct short-term and temporary business activities in Russia. Examples of these activities include business trips, negotiations, market studies and preparations to set up a company or any other type of establishment in Russia. Foreign nationals with multi-entry business visas are permitted to stay in Russia for up to 90 calendar days within a period of 180 calendar days.
Five-year business visas can be applied for in respect of employees or representatives of (i) large foreign companies investing in Russia which satisfy certain criteria established by the Russian Government; or (ii) companies taking part in Government projects such as Skolkovo or the International Financial Centre.
Foreign nationals who obtain Russian business visas are not allowed to undertake any type of work activities in Russia. This requires a work visa.
Work visas are required for foreign nationals who intend to conduct professional activities in Russia.
A foreign national who has been issued an official invitation from an employer must first obtain a single-entry visa. The visa is valid for up to three months and may be exchanged for a one-year multi-entry work visa once the individual is in Russia, although this is not applicable to highly qualified specialists (please see the Highly qualified specialists section below). The family members of a work-visa holder may obtain visas of the same category marked “accompanying person”. This visa allows family members to stay in Russia, but does not entitle them to work in Russia. It expires on the same date as the principal holder’s visa.
Work visas are issued only after the employer has received general authorisation to recruit foreign nationals and a quota of foreign persons they may employ. Each foreign employee must also be granted a work permit (please see the Individual work permits section below).
The Main Department for Immigration Issues of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation (the “Immigration Department”) registers the employer as an inviting party for foreign nationals when the latter applies for a visa invitation for the first time.
The process of obtaining a work visa usually takes from 12 to 14 weeks.
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Procedures relevant to an employer
An employer who recruits foreign employees to work in Russia has to comply with the following procedures.
All legal entities wishing to employ foreign nationals must apply each year for a quota of foreign employees whom they may employ. The deadline for filing the quota application is established separately in each region of Russia. Certain professions and some categories of foreign employees (e.g. highly qualified specialists, foreign nationals who are exempt from the requirement to hold a work permit) are quota-exempt.
The quota allocated to each legal entity depends on the general quota set each year for all foreign employees. This quota differs between regions, different categories of employees, as well as different professions, countries of origin and other economic and social criteria.
General authorisation for the recruitment of foreign nationals
The general rule is that any employer intending to recruit one or more foreign nationals must obtain a prior general authorisation from the Immigration Department to recruit foreign employees within its allocated quota. By way of exception, no such authorisation is required for highly qualified specialists and for foreigners from CIS1 countries.
In its application for this authorisation, the employer must justify the use of foreign employees.
Individual work permits
Once the general authorisation for the employment of foreign employees has been obtained, the employer must apply for a work permit for each employee.
A work permit is required for any foreign national who wishes to perform any “work activity” in Russia, including temporary work.
However, the following categories of foreign nationals are exempt from the work permit requirement:
- citizens of countries which are members of Eurasian Economic Union (the “EEU”) (currently Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have joined the Union with Russia);
- those holding a permanent residence permit or a temporary residence permit; and
- those holding a temporary residence permit, which allows them to work only in the region of Russia where they reside.
These categories of permit-exempt foreign nationals are not taken into account in their employers’ quotas and general authorisations to recruit foreign employees.
Employers are obliged to notify the Immigration Department on conclusion and termination of employment and civil law contracts with all categories of foreign nationals within three working days following the date of conclusion or termination of the contract.
Language command requirements
Applications for work permits for non-visa foreigners need to include a dedicated certificate proving their command of the Russian language, Russian history and fundamentals of Russian law (the “Russian Language and Civilisation”), unless they hold a relevant Soviet or Russian certificate of education.
Distinct rules apply to foreigners subject to a visa regime. They are given more time to prove they meet the Russian Language and Civilisation requirements. Proof must be submitted to the authorities within 30 calendar days from the issuance of the relevant permit (rather than upon application). If they fail to do so, their permits will be cancelled.
Certain categories of foreigners are exempt from the Russian Language and Civilisation requirements, such as highly qualified specialists and their relatives, and full-time foreign students with accredited educational institutions in Russia.
Personal accreditation of foreign employees of representative offices and branches
If the employer is a representative office or branch of a foreign company in Russia, it must apply for approval for the relevant number of foreign employees from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation as part of the accreditation process for the representative office or branch. Within that approved number, the employer must apply to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for a personal accreditation card for each foreign employee.
Personal accreditation does not relieve the employer from having to obtain a general authorisation for the recruitment of foreign nationals, a work permit and a work visa for its foreign employees.
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There is a notification procedure which foreign nationals and their hosting parties must follow. This procedure also applies to highly qualified specialists.
It is based on the following principles:
- The Immigration Department must be notified of arrivals and of any travel within Russia.
- Foreign nationals can be registered at the address of the organisation where they carry out employment (or other activities not prohibited by Russian law) in the following cases only: (i) when they actually live at the address of the relevant organisation or (ii) when they live at a place of residence provided by an organisation which does not have a permanent address (e.g. a makeshift barrack). As most foreign employees and their families live in rented accommodation, their landlords are responsible for registering them.
- A highly qualified specialist and the members of his/her family are allowed a period of 90 calendar days from the date of entry into Russia, during which they are not required to register with the migration authorities. Once the foreign specialist has been in Russia for 90 calendar days, he/she must be registered at his/her place of residence.
- Armenian, Belarusian, Kazakh and Kyrgyz employees and the members of their family have to register within 30 calendar days.
- For all other foreign nationals, the registration procedure with the Immigration Department must be completed within seven working days.
- Foreign nationals staying in Russia or travelling to another Russian region for less than seven working days, who are not staying in a hotel or in “a hotel-like residence”, are exempt from the notification procedure.
- Heads of State, heads of diplomatic missions, members of parliamentary or governmental delegations, heads of international organisations (and family members of these persons) are exempt from the notification procedure. Ship, train or aircraft crew members are exempt from the procedure under certain conditions.
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Business trips within Russia
A foreign employee is permitted to go on business trips outside the Russian region(s) in which his/her work permit is valid only if he/she occupies a position which is included in the list of occupations approved by the Ministry of Health and Social Development.
In addition, the duration of foreign employees’ business trips is regulated as follows:
- a total of ten calendar days during the validity of a general work permit; and
- 30 consecutive days during the validity of a highly qualified specialist work permit.
Different rules apply to foreign nationals who hold temporary or permanent residence permits.
The duration of business trips of highly qualified specialists having a travelling character of work regime fixed in their employment agreements is not limited.
Foreign employees holding “patenty” for work in Russia (this is a special type of authorisation for work issued to nationals of CIS countries who are not eligible or not willing to apply for a highly qualified specialist work permit) are allowed to work only in the Russian region in which their patent for work is valid. They are not permitted to go on business trips outside of such region.
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Highly qualified specialists
Highly qualified specialists are foreign employees with professional skills, knowledge and the proper qualifications in a specific area to which a specific regime applies.
The monthly remuneration paid to a highly qualified specialist must be at least RUB 167,000 gross (EUR 2,386), unless a lower amount is set by law or in international agreements for certain nationals.
The highly qualified specialist regime is available to Russian commercial legal entities as well as to Russian-based duly accredited branches and representative offices of foreign legal entities.
When the above criteria are met, a simplified procedure applies for obtaining a highly qualified specialist work permit and work visa. Accordingly, a work permit may be obtained within 14 working days and the employer is exempt from fulfilling a significant number of formalities (obtaining a quota, general authorisation to recruit foreign employees, etc.).
In addition, opting for a highly qualified specialist regime provides employers and highly qualified specialists with increased flexibility, such as:
- A work permit is valid for up to three years, whereas an ordinary one is valid for only one year.
- A work permit may be valid for multiple Russian regions rather than just the region where the employer is based.
- There are fewer restrictions on business trips (as mentioned above).
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Bilateral and multilateral international agreements
There are several international agreements regulating foreign workforce issues. They affect in particular French, South Korean, Armenian, Belarusian, Kazakh and Kyrgyz citizens.
Arrangements applying to French employees in Russia
On 1 March 2011, the Agreement “On the Temporary Employment of Citizens of One Country on the Territory of the Other”, as signed on 27 November 2009 between the Russian Federation and France, came into force.
Special filing procedures and review processes for obtaining authorising documents for employment have been established, with the goal of simplifying the temporary employment of the citizens of the two signatory countries.
In particular, documents allowing French citizens to enter and work in the Russian Federation have to be processed within one month.
Arrangements applying to Korean employees in Russia
An Agreement has been in force since 1 January 2012 between the Governments of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) on the temporary work activity of their respective citizens.
This Agreement simplifies the rules and procedures applicable to the stay and employment of (i) Korean employees of representative offices of legal entities in Russia; (ii) Korean employees working at or for Russian organisations belonging to a Korean group of companies; (iii) Korean top executives managing Russian enterprises; and (iv) some family members.
In particular, quotas limiting work activities do not apply to these persons.
Arrangements applying to Armenian, Belarusian, Kazakh and Kyrgyz employees in Russia
In accordance with the Agreement on the EEU signed in Astana on 29 May 2014, simplified rules of employment of foreign nationals apply to citizens of countries which are EEU member states. As commented above, currently, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have joined the Union with Russia.
The Agreement introduces reciprocal preferences, thereby simplifying significantly the conditions of stay and employment of the countries’ respective citizens.
Quota, general recruitment authorisation and work permit requirements do not apply to EEU employees in Russia. These migrant employees and family members are allowed to stay in Russia for the duration of a migrant employee’s employment agreement. The timeframe for notification of entering Russia is 30 calendar days from the entry date (rather than seven working days).
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Sanctions for violating migration legislation
If an employer fails to comply fully or in part with the relevant migration procedures, it risks a fine (calculated per breach) of up to RUB 800,000 (EUR 11,440) and/or the suspension of its activities for up to 90 calendar days. The employer’s officials may be liable to fines of up to RUB 50,000 (EUR 715). A foreign employee may also be fined up to RUB 5,000 (EUR 71), and may be deported from and banned from entering Russia. An entry ban can also be imposed on a foreign national who has been held administratively liable two or more times, including for violations of legislation other than in the field of migration (such as, for instance, road traffic regulations). Foreign nationals are therefore strongly advised to be as compliant as possible in view of the risk of an entry ban.
Stricter sanctions apply to the violation of migration law requirements in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, the Moscow Region and the Leningrad Region, namely: individuals will pay fines of RUB 5,000 - 7,000 (EUR 71 - 100) and be deported from Russia, officials – RUB 50,000 - 75,000 (EUR 715 - 1,071) and companies – RUB 800,000 - 1m (EUR 11,440 - 14,300) and/or have their operations suspended for 14 to 90 calendar days.
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