Immigration law

Providing effective solutions for staff mobility

Key terms and definitions

A work permit is a document that provides foreign citizens who enter Russia on a work visa with the right to work in the country.

For a standard work permit, there are no specific salary criteria, except that salaries may not be lower than the federally mandated minimum wage. To be eligible to hire foreign employees on a standard work permit, employers must apply for a quota slot and obtain an employer permit. Foreign employees, meanwhile, will need to undergo a medical examination and pass exams on their knowledge of Russian language, history and basic laws.

Standard work permits are valid for one year.

The general procedures for obtaining standard work permits is complicated. For highly skilled workers, employers typically follow a different set of procedures. Nonetheless, in certain cases, employers and foreign workers may wish to apply for and receive a standard work permit.

A work visa is a document that provides a foreign citizen with the right to reside temporarily in Russia for work purposes.

Standard work visas are valid for one year. However, certain categories of foreign employees are eligible to receive visas for longer periods.

For highly qualified specialists (HQS), a special category of foreign employee, visas may be valid for up to three years, with the option of multiple renewals for additional three-year periods.

PwC Legal has extensive experience in designing strategies to obtain employment-related documents across a variety of industries. We also have practical experience in preparing and submitting documents to receive, renew, transfer or extend work visas for HQS employees and their accompanying family members, as well as for other categories of foreign employees.

In 2011, Russia added a new, privileged category of foreign employee called highly qualified specialists.

The simplified procedures for hiring HQS employees have a number of advantages. The employer does not have to apply for a quota slot or obtain an employer permit. All documents are valid for longer periods. The employee does not need to undergo medical screening or pass exams on Russian language, history or basic law. The employer independently evaluates the foreign worker’s qualifications and must offer a minimum monthly salary of RUB 167,000.

Nonetheless, there are still certain nuances that must be appreciated when hiring HQSs employees, including:

  • Registering HQS employees and their accompanying family members for immigration control purposes (HQS employees are given more time to register than non-HQS employees);
  • Obtaining residence permits for HQS employees and their accompanying family members (if need be);
  • Complying with employment and immigration law when calculating and paying salaries for HQS employees;
  • Organising business trips for HQS employees inside Russia.

HQS employees have the right to bring accompanying family members to Russia, including spouses, children (adopted children), children’s spouses, parents (including foster parents), parents’ spouses, grandparents and grandchildren.

This list is not exhaustive, however. We have managed to obtain accompanying family member status for other relatives of HQS employees. Another issue is whether accompanying family members may work in Russia.

The immigration regulations on employment were amended on 1 January 2015 (see Article 13.8 of Federal Law No. 115-FZ of 25 July 2002, “On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation”).

Employers must file a notice with the immigration authorities upon signing/terminating an employment contract with a foreign employee. Previously, the law stipulated numerous other circumstances when employers had to file notices. Moreover, some notices had to be filed with both the tax and labour authorities.

Immigration authorities in different regions of the Russian Federation have established different requirements on the content of such notices, as well as on how the notification rules should applied to the HQS employees and other categories of foreign workers.

A patent is a document that provides foreign citizens who do not need a visa to enter Russia with the right to work in the country.

The number of advance personal income tax payments made by the foreign worker determines the validity period of their patent.

Obtaining a patent is a somewhat more complicated process than obtaining HQS and standard work permits. The most common complications involve:

  • Refunding the advance personal income tax payments paid by the foreign employee;
  • Determining the legal status of the foreign employee’s family members and their registration for immigration control purposes;
  • Handling long-term immigration registration depending on the amount of advance personal income tax payments paid.

Immigration cards are issued at border control points. For foreign citizens entering Russia under a non-visa regime, their immigration card validates the term of their temporary stay.

Foreign employees must be sure not to lose or damage their immigration cards, as they could face problems at border control points. It is possible to receive replacements for lost or damaged cards, but the process is not simple.

On 29 May 2014, the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signed a treaty creating the Eurasian Economic Union. In 2015, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan joined the treaty.

The treaty covers aspects of economic integration for the member states and contains, among many other provisions, regulations on immigration for employment purposes.

Citizens of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan who come to Russia to work must be employed in compliance with the treaty.

The treaty regulates only employment immigration issues, while other immigration issues are governed either by other international treaties or by the national laws of the member states.

A residence permit is a document granting the right to reside in Russia and later apply for Russian citizenship. HQS employees can receive residence permits through a simplified procedure, and certain employers and HQS employees have begun using this option. While obtaining a residence permit might cause the HQS employee’s tax position to deteriorate, some HQS employees may have reason to apply.

The general procedures to obtain a residence permit are quite complicated, although Russian law and international treaties allow for simplified procedures under certain circumstances.

When hiring foreign employees, one important issue is their salary, particularly with respect to whether the income originates in Russia or abroad, or if the employee is still under contract in their home country.

Russian immigration and employment law stipulates the minimum wage to be paid in either case. For instance, highly qualified specialists must have a minimum base salary of RUB 167,000 per month.

One important issue to resolve is the taxes that a foreign employee and their employer must pay on the foreign employee’s salary.

When bringing foreign employees into Russia, one of the first questions to solve is selecting an official inviting organisation (for the official invitation that is then used to apply for a visa). Then, the appropriate type of visa must be selected.

Business visas are relatively flexible and allow foreign citizens to enter Russia for temporary stays for the purposes of conducting certain business activities without obtaining a work permit or a work visa.

Business visas are generally valid for up to one year and allow visa holders to make business trips to Russia. In certain cases, these visas may be valid for significantly longer periods.

When using business visas, it is important to take immigration law and practice into account and to design optimal strategies for obtaining such visas as well as for entering and operating in Russia.

Every Russian region, including Moscow, Moscow Region, Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast, has local immigration control divisions that are subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation.

Immigration officials have the authority to conduct regular and ad hoc inspections of employers that hire foreign citizens, per Article 32 of Federal Law No. 15-FZ of 25 July 2002, “On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation”.

During these regular inspections, immigration authorities typically request a list of documents from the employer.

In response, the employer must prepare a package of documents, file it with the immigration authorities, conduct negotiations and participate in drafting documents on the inspection.

During inspections, immigration officials are authorised to issue instructions to resolve violations and to prepare reports on administrative offences.

Decisions and instructions issued by the immigration authorities may be appealed through pre-trial and court procedures.

If an administrative offence is tried in court, the employer has the right to engage an advocate (representative), present evidence and motions, and exercise other rights in order to defend its position and end the trial (if that is impossible, then to minimise liability).

Please bear in mind that the established timelines for submitting appeals to the court must be observed.

When sending Russian citizens to work in your company’s foreign divisions or subsidiaries, you must comply with the immigration law of the host country and, in some cases, with Russian immigration law.

Russian immigration law obliges Russian citizens to notify the Russian authorities of they hold foreign citizenship, residence permits or other documents granting the right of residence in a foreign state.

Choosing the services of a major global firm like PwC Legal, which has immigration experts in many jurisdictions, can help to ensure that you comply with immigration law in Russia and abroad.

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) is focused on simplifying trade conditions among member states.

Russian immigration law provides foreign employees of companies registered in WTO members states with simplified procedures for receiving immigration documents in order to work their company’s branch, representative office or subsidiary in Russia.

On 13 July 2015, Federal Law No. 212-FZ “On the Free Port of Vladivostok” was adopted, whereby the residents of the port were granted privileges in certain entrepreneurial activities, including simplified procedures for hiring foreign citizens.

In practice, there have been numerous delays in implementing the privileges, particularly those on obtaining immigration-related documents and the new rules allowing short visits of up to eight days to the port using an electronic visa.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s Business Travel Card simplifies business travel to APEC member states and frees travellers from the need to obtain separate visas for each country (if needed).

The cards are issued for a five-year term, but cannot be valid beyond the expiration date of the traveller’s passport.

The procedures for issuing the card are governed by the APEC Business Travel Card Operating Framework. Russia joined this framework following a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 16 May 2013.

The procedures for obtaining the APEC Business Travel Card in Russia is supported by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation.

In 2018, Russia will host the FIFA World Cup. Foreign citizens who are involved in organising or participating in the events will be granted certain privileges. For example, the procedures for entering and staying in Russia will be simplified, as will those for obtaining immigration-related documents.

At the same time, unprecedented security measures are being taken for the FIFA World Cup. Foreign citizens who arrive in host cities will need to register with immigration control within one calendar day of entering Russia.

PwC Legal has worked out seamless procedures for preparing documents and registering foreign citizens with the immigration authorities within 24-hour windows across a number of regions when Russia hosted the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

If your company is interested in learning more about PwC Legal’s experience in immigration law, especially our hard skills (i.e. filling out and filing documents in a particular Russian region and applying immigration law practically), ask us about organising a workshop for your staff.

Contact us

Gennady Odarich

Managing Director PwC Legal, Business Set-up and Corporate Secretarial Services Practice Leader

Tel: +7 (495) 232 5758

Ksenia Dyakova

Senior associate, PwC Legal, Immigration Practice

Tel: +7 (495) 232 5744

Ivan Popov

Associate, PwC Legal, Business Set-up and Corporate Secretarial Services Practice

Tel: +7 (495) 967 6000

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