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How to obtain work permit in Russia

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Permis de travaille en Russie

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Foreign Migration to Russia: the permit procedure consists of five steps

WHILE RUSSIAN authorities are doing everything possible to restrict the rights of foreign citizens to work in Russia, getting an official work permit for an expatriate remains a catch-22 situation.

All matters related to the arrival of a foreigner in Russia are dealt with in the 2002 Federal Law entitled Оn the rights of foreign citizens in the Russian Federation, also known as the Law on Foreigners. Under this law, all foreigners are free to exercise their capability to work, choose their career and profession, and have the right to freely utilize their personal property in any enterprise or economic undertaking not prohibited by law. Like many other Russian laws, this one certainly sounds appealing and democratic. The dilemma lies in the fact that this law can, at least for the time being, be considered Utopian, but in practice, foreigners in Russia cannot use their means freely, because back in 1993, a procedure was established for employers to attract and use foreign labor. This system is still in force, even with the passage of the new law. In order for a company registered in Russia to have the right to legally employ a foreigner, it has to secure two permits. The first is the permission to invite and employ foreign labor; the second is a work permit for every foreign worker.

The permit procedure consists of five steps and takes an average of five months with the help of a company that specializes in registering foreigners. This time period, it should be noted, is approximate and comes from information garnered from the Stale administration, which essentially means that it could take much longer. If a company decides to seek a permit independently, without recourse to a professional company, the time may drag on indefinitely.

The tour of the offices consists of the following:
The first step for an employer who wants to hire a foreigner is to apply to the district employment office at the place where the company is registered, for a permit to invite and employ foreign labor (IRS), a temporary document that allows receiving the actual permit at a later date. At the Office, it is necessary to explain in detail the reason for inviting a foreign employee and to answer the question, why can the company not hire a Russian citizen; to present registration and charter documents for the Company; to fill out statistical forms on the Company's need for foreign workers and their future salaries; and to provide a copy of the proposed employment contract. The Company must also specify what country the worker will be coming from, and what position he will occupy. This way, the employer is registering not some theoretical worker, but rather a person he knows personally and with whom he has already reached an agreement about a specific position.

The Center can raise an objection if they have information that there are enough unemployed people in their district who have the necessary qualifications to work for the company," said Anna-Stefania Chepik, a lawyer with Pepelyaev, Goltsblat & Partners. Experts feel that this system is designed to protect the interests of Russian citizens. You will agree that it is not necessary to hire a foreign specialist when there are enough local ones at the Center," said Gayar Akhsyanov, director of the Visa department at Andrew's Travel House. "In short, only highly-qualified professionals and top management personnel can meet the requirements of the District Center without question," he added.

After receiving written permission at the Center, the employer takes all the necessary documents to the appropriate department of the Federal Employment Administration, according to the Subject of the Federation, for example, Moscow. According to Akhsyanov, the examination of the documents takes place without the presence of the employer, which on the one hand avoids additional running around, but on the other hand, increases the time necessary for reviewing the documents.

Granted the official permission, the employer must go to the territorial department of the Internal Ministry (MVD). In Moscow, these functions are fulfilled by the Moscow GUVD (municipal police) Foreign Migration Department. The employer will be subjected to more detailed scrutiny, and the list of documents he must present will be substantially longer. In addition to the above documents, the employer will also be asked for his last financial statement stamped by the tax inspector and a number of other documents that testify to the economic state of the company. If all documents are in order, and the GUVD is ready to give its assent, the employer will have to pay a federal fee of 3,000 rubles (about 1100) to obtain the right to invite and hire a foreign worker. Ironically, the actual permission is issued at the next level by the Federal Migration Service of the MVD.

With this permission, payment order and the documents the GUVD demanded in hand, the employer next goes to the Federal Migration Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID) of the Russian Federation. This is the department that will issue a definitive permit to invite and hire a foreign worker, or workers.

Having secured this permit, the employer returns to the territorial department of the MVD, migration section, to receive permission for a specific individual. It is at this stage that the foreign citizen whom the prospective employer is trying to register is checked out. The company must have been in contact with the prospective employee and must have secured several necessary documents from him, including diplomas and a physician's certificate (showing negative results of an HIV blood test), as well as copies of his passport and visa. The employer must also pay a 1,000-niblc (about $35) fee for the issuance of a work permit to a foreigner, as well as provide a written guarantee to reimburse all repatriation expenses in case the foreigner breaks any Russian law, or his employment contract expires.

The work permit is good for no longer than one year, and as soon as a foreigner receives his first permit, he must immediately begin the procedure for obtaining the next one. Because of all the difficulties involved, qualified foreign, experts frequently lose out to illegal immigrants from neighboring countries. Obtaining a permit is so complicated that employees are not always able to complete the renewal process in time. As always, the strictness of Russian laws is compensated by the lack of necessity to enforce them. If an employee is found guilty of violating the conditions of the IRS, he will be fined between 10 and 20 times the minimum monthly wage (MROT). If an individual employee fails to obey the applicable law, his fine will be between five and 10 MROTs. A company that values its highly-qualified specialists, not to mention tens of thousands of dollars per month, the sums of money mentioned above will not be a great problem, but still, not all top-level managers are prepared to feel like migrant workers being unceremoniously kicked out of the country. "The idea has teen advanced more than once recently that it is not possible to equate Turkish construction workers with the heads of foreign companies," said Akhsyanov. "We assume that in the amendments to the law on the legal position of foreigners, this category of employees will be treated separately, and they will receive permits valid for three years."

Obviously, legislators have their work cut out for them. The law passed in October 2002 on the legal position of foreigners in Russia has removed some absurd legal contradictions.

Until the law was updated, work permits for employees of representative offices of foreign companies were a moot point. This caused a conflict between two laws. Presidential Directive No. 2143, date December 16, 1993, established the fact that representative offices of foreign companies are not included in the list of people who must obtain work permits for foreigners, while a directive by the Moscow Mayor dated March 5, 1999, states that foreign representative offices must obtain work permits for westerners. Although the 2002 law is open to different interpretations, it is at least clear on one point: now all companies that hire foreign workers, regardless of any foreign capital or property, are obligated to obtain an IRS permit.

Every year, the authorities calculate how many foreign workers from a particular country may enter Russia. This quota is set on the basis of the number of IRS requests submitted, but experts say that it is not always possible to foretell exactly how many specialists a company will require, nor what countries they will come from. "Suppose a company receives permission to invite one foreigner, let's say, a German engineer. He arrives, serves a probationary period, and the company realizes that he is not right for the job. His employment contract is terminated, and the company has to start the whole permit procedure over again, not only for a new employee, but for the company as well, even though their permit was good for an entire year," Chepik noted. "This is explained by the fact that permits to invite employees are given out on a quota system, and since one employee has already arrived, the quota calculated for one year has been filled. Of course this doesn't make sense, nor does it help good commercial relations."

Expatriates admit that the system is unwieldy and does not correspond to what it is supposed to accomplish. "If the Russian authorities want to protect the rights of their citizens, they have to do it not through administrative methods, but simply institute different fees for permits, for example, 30,000 rubles for a specific specialist rather than 1,000. If a company really needs a top specialist, it will pay this kind of money, and the specialist will pay for himself 10 times over, perhaps even a 100 times," reasons one top-level foreign manager of a large real estate company, who asked to remain anonymous.. "Getting all these permits and talking to the employment office should be for another level of employee, such as lesser-qualified specialists, so a company in need of management staff has to think twice about whether it would be simpler to hire Russians as opposed to filling out a lot of paperwork".

Many experts say that foreigners can avoid all misadventures only if they receive a temporary or a permanent residency permit. With this status, there is no longer a need for a work permit, but even so, certain limitations still exist. For example, a foreigner with a temporary residency permit is not allowed to work outside the subject of the Russian Federation in which he is permitted to live.

As a rule, companies working in this sector offer consulting services for preparing the documents necessary for receiving a permit and represent the employer's interests at every step of the procedure - at an average fee of about $500 per person. This sum includes the IRS permit and a permit for one employee. The more foreigners it has to register, the less it costs per person. But the fee does not include the 3,000-rublc charge per person for the company, or the 1,000-rubles due for registering one foreigner.

The impression I have is that at the level of the administration of the offices involved in the registration process, people understand that the requirements are very difficult to meet, and this is conducive to breaking the law," Akhsyanov opined. "I think that the war against illegal immigration will be reexamined. At the very least, lately I have heard it said more and more that the procedure must be changed for the top level of management".

Published at Residential Property
"Hiring Expatriates, red tape at its utmost"
by Tatyana Lomakina
Rambler's Top100 Copyright © 2007