Work permits for foreign nationals

As a general rule, foreign nationals working in Russia are required to have a work permit. There are a few exceptions to this rule, mainly related to certain CIS nationals and other foreign nationals who possess residency permits. Work permits are not always required for the employees of suppliers or manufacturers of equipment imported into Russia for the purpose of installation, supervision of installation or servicing of the equipment.

The standard work permit application process is quite a lengthy and burdensome procedure consisting of several stages. Each stage involves the submission of applications together with an extensive list of documents. The stages include:

  • Registration with the local employment authorities;
  • Submission of notification on vacancies available in the company to the Employment
  • Service for subsequent conclusion of the authorities on the expediency of the engagement of foreign citizens for such vacancies (Conclusion);
  • Application for a corporate Permit for engagement of foreign labor at the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation (FMS) or the Department of the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation (Corporate Permit);
  • Application to the FMS for each expatriate’s individual Work Permit (Individual Permit).

Typically it takes about four months to obtain an individual work permit. The individual permit is issued for a period of up to one year.

Separately, based on the work permit, a work visa must be obtained. Its procurement also involves several stages, where a certain set of documents should be submitted to the immigration authorities.

Further, with respect to the regular category of the work permit, each year by May the 1st, companies must report the number of foreign employees they anticipate to engage in the next calendar year. This procedure effectively constitutes a quota application. If the employer does not comply with this and does not receive notification of the approval of a quota, the employer will have work permit applications rejected. A company that fails to file a quota application or whose application was denied or partially approved has the right to use a list of quota-exempt positions when applying for a work permit, only if the application meets all the quota exempt requirements.


Work permit application for Highly-qualified Specialists (HQS)

From the 1st of July, 2010, a simplified procedure of obtaining work permits for HQS came into force. An HQS is a highly-skilled professional who is a foreign employee and has work experience and skills or achievements in a certain area and whose annual salary generally exceeds RUB 2,000,000 (approx. USD 67,000). It should also be noted that Representative offices of foreign legal entities cannot apply for employing HQS professionals.

Obtaining work permits for foreign national as per HQS has the following benefits:

  • Obtaining an employment permit for the Russian employer is not required;
  • The quota system is not applied to HQS professionals;
  • The work permit can be issued for a term of up to three years;
  • An HQS professional has the right to obtain multiple work visa for a term of up to three years;
  • The procedure of obtaining a work permit for HQS professionals takes about fourteen business days from the moment of submission of complete package of documents;
  • Income tax rate of 13 percent applies to salary paid to an HQS under the relevant employment contract irrespective of their tax residence status in Russia;
  • Extended lengths of business trips outside the region/regions for which the HQS work permit was obtained as compared with the standard work permit.


Migration registration procedure

Migration registration is the process of notifying the immigration authorities of a foreign citizen’s whereabouts (international travel, as well as internal trips within Russia). It is the hosting party which is responsible for such registrations. The hosting party for this purpose is either the hotel or the employer (visa sponsor) or a landlord, if the foreign national is not staying in a hotel. Upon arrival in Russia, each foreign national must be registered in Russia at their host location. This process should be completed within seven business days of arrival every time a foreign national arrives in Russia or travels to another region (changes location) within Russia for more than seven business days.

HQS professionals and their family members are exempt from registration procedures, if they arrive and stay in Russia for a period not exceeding 90 days, and 30 days if they travel to another region in Russia. If HQS professionals and their family members stay in Russia for more than 90 days (or 30 days traveling in another region), they are required to be registered with the immigration authorities.


(Based on the report of KPMG IN RUSSIA AND THE CIS “Doing Business in Russia: Your roadmap to successful investments. 2013.”)