Work authorisation documents
Generally, foreign nationals must obtain work authorisation documents in order to work in Russia. A notable exception is the regime for foreign nationals from EEU member states (i.e. Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan), who can work in Russia without work authorisation documents. However, employers of foreign nationals from EEU countries must still comply with certain requirements of Russian immigration law.
Under Russian immigration law, the specific type of work authorisation document required varies depending on the category a given foreign national belongs to.
Foreign nationals who enter Russia for employment purposes on work visas (e.g. nationals of EU countries, the United States, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, and other countries) must have a work permit to work in Russia. Work permits are valid for one year only. Additionally, foreign nationals in this category must take and pass tests on the Russian language, Russian history, and the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as undergo specific medical examinations, including COVID-19 tests.
Employers (e.g. Russian legal entities, branches/representative offices of foreign legal entities) are entitled to recruit and employ foreign employees in this category only if they hold valid employment permits (i.e. a permit allowing a specific company to recruit foreign personnel).
The procedure for obtaining these work authorisation documents can be rather slow and time consuming (i.e. taking approximately from 3 to 3.5 months to complete).
Work permits for a 'highly qualified specialist' (HQS work permit)
When employing an HQS, the employer must guarantee that it will pay the given foreign national a gross monthly salary through the Russian payroll of at least RUB 167,000. Employers may use a simplified application procedure for obtaining HQS work permits both for foreign nationals entering Russia for employment purposes on a work visa (e.g. nationals of EU countries, the United States, Japan, the People’s Republic of China, and other countries) and foreign nationals entering Russia for employment purposes under a visa-free regime (e.g. nationals of Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and some other countries).
HQSs are exempted from taking the tests on the Russian language, Russian history, and the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as from undergoing medical examinations. An HQS work permit can be valid for more than one Russian region and issued for a maximum term of three years. The Russian immigration authorities must approve (or reject) applications for HQS work permits within 14 business days. Applying for the HQS work visa, for applicants from those countries that have a visa regime with Russia, can take another week or so. Upon receiving an HQS work permit and HQS work visa, the foreign HQS employee can legally start working in Russia. The HQS work permits are granted based on local employment contracts.
Foreign nationals entering Russia for employment purposes under a visa-free regime (i.e. nationals of CIS countries that are not EEU members, e.g. Ukraine and Uzbekistan) must obtain a specific work authorisation document known as a work patent.
A work patent can be formalised by a foreign national independently without the involvement of an employer. The period of validity of a work patent is determined by the number of fixed monthly payments made by the foreign national personally to the relevant authorities, but should not exceed one year (it may be extended). Foreign nationals must make such fixed payments on account of their PIT to be paid by their employers during employment. Once the work patent is obtained, a Russian employment contract must be concluded with the patent holder.
According to the applicable Russian immigration legislation, the type of Russian entry visa should correspond with the type of activity performed by the foreign national in Russia. For the purpose of going to Russia on a business trip (e.g. to conduct negotiations, conclude contracts, participate in conferences), a foreign visitor should obtain a Russian entry business visa. For the purpose of performing employment activity (i.e. performing an employment function on a regular basis), a foreign employee should obtain a work visa and a work permit as a general rule.
Under the HQS simplified procedure, a foreign national has the right to apply for a multi-entry work visa valid for the period of three years.
Russian entry business visas can be issued for a period of three months (i.e. single or double entry visa) or for a period of one year (i.e. multiple entry visa). Russian entry work visas are valid for the period of validity of a work permit (with a maximum period of one year).
Due to certain amendments to the Russian immigration legislation, rules with regard to business and humanitarian visas have changed. Thus, a foreign national with a multi-entry business or humanitarian visa (valid for a period of one year) can stay in Russia for a maximum of 90 days during any period of 180 days. If a foreign national is going to stay for a total of over 90 days, that individual must leave Russia and wait until the 180-day period has expired before re-entering the country.
Measures against COVID-19 spread
The effective regulations do not allow for Russian companies (employers) to formalise the HQS work permits and visa invitations for new foreign qualified specialists (who are currently staying abroad Russia).
Foreign citizens who stay in Russia can formalise work authorisation documents or prolong them for a new term without undergoing the standard procedures.
In addition to regulation related to visas and work authorisation documents, it should be noted that generally all categories of foreign nationals visiting Russia are subject to immigration registration rules. Starting 8 July 2018, the rules on immigration registration were significantly changed. At the moment, the law does not allow organisations to register expatriates and their family members at organisations’ addresses (with a very limited number of exemptions). From a practical perspective, this means that only landlords or their representatives (depending on the practice of the immigration authorities) will be able to register expatriates and their family members at the address where expatriates and their family members actually stay.
It is worth mentioning that HQSs are exempted from the obligation to formalise immigration registration within 90 calendar days upon arriving to the place of staying in Russia from abroad. Once this period is expired, the foreign national must be registered with the immigration authorities within seven business days.