Russian Immigration Law Requirements on Hiring Foreigners

Ilya Makartsev
Associate, Employment, pensions & benefits
Goltsblat BLP

The number of foreigners employed in Russia has increased dramatically over the last 10 years. Unlike before, when low-paid workers without any special training were in demand, the current trend is toward a greater number of qualified specialists being engaged.

One way or another, foreigners working in Russia lie at a legal junction, in other words, they are regulated by different branches of law, each having their own requirements binding both employers and foreign employees.

One of the basic requirements is that foreign individuals have a work permit authorizing them to work in Russia.

This does not apply to, among others, foreigners with permanent residency in Russia but is equally applicable to those temporarily staying or residing in the country.

In order to obtain a work permit for a foreign employee, the employer has to comply with a number of requirements.

The first step is to file a manpower request, since permits are issued on the basis of an established quota for issuing entry invitations to foreigners to work in Russia. This quota is approved annually by the government. Manpower requests should be filed before May 1 of the year before a foreigner is expected to be employed.

Subsequent steps depend on whether the foreign worker comes to Russia on a visa or otherwise.

Foreigners arriving in Russia on a visa still have to go through a multistage work permit procedure. The key stages include the employing company obtaining a permit to engage foreign manpower a personal work permit issued directly to the employee.

Once a work permit has been issued, an entry invitation has to be obtained for the foreign worker to come to Russia on a single-entry, three-month work visa. This is a separate procedure.  After the foreigner has arrived in Russia on the single-entry work visa, the visa needs to be extended for a year or until the expiry date of the work permit.

In order to obtain a permit to engage foreign manpower, the employer has to file a manpower request to fill vacancies and newly created jobs with foreign employees. The number of employees to be engaged, their countries of origin and the positions they will take up have to be determined right away. The request will be kept in the current vacancy database of the employment service for 30 days.

Further to this manpower request being filed, a permit to engage foreign manpower will be issued – normally within 30 to 45 days. It is important to remember that a permit to engage and use foreign manpower may not be assigned to another employer. Nor may employees engaged on the basis of such a permit be transferred to another employer. The employer may only engage foreign workers to practice the professions, in the constituent entity (or entities) of the Russian Federation specified in the permit.

Once the permit to engage foreign workers is in hand, the employer must, before employment commences, obtain a personal work permit (a plastic card) for each foreigner employed. On average, two to three weeks are needed for this.

Thus, the total time required to obtain a work permit for foreigners coming to Russia on a visa is from three to three and a half months on average, subject to all the documents being collected and the procedures for preparing the documents completed. Otherwise, the process of obtaining a work permit may drag out. Given that a work permit is issued for a term of one year, 3.5 months is quite a long time for obtaining one.

When a work permit is issued, it should be remembered that the foreigner may not work outside the constituent entity of the Russian Federation for which the work permit is issued, except as allowed by current law.

For foreign individuals coming to Russia without a visa, a simplified work authorization procedure has been introduced. No visa is required for citizens of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine. The work permit is, once again, the main document needed by citizens of these countries in order to work in Russia, but unlike foreigners coming to Russia on a visa, visa-free entry means that the individuals should obtain work permits themselves, although their employers often assist them in this. On average, it takes such individuals around two weeks from the filing date to obtain a work permit.

A general requirement neglected by many employers obtaining work permits for their foreign workers is, among others, that of notifying the tax authority of the foreign worker’s employment. This notification should be submitted within 10 business days of employment commencing. In addition, the employer is also required to submit similar notifications to the employment service and its local office within 30 calendar days.