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Legalization of foreign nationals

  1. Categories of foreign nationals and their legal status

  2. Entering and staying in the Russian Federation

  3. Types of Russian visas

  4. Immigration registration

  5. Employment of foreign nationals coming to Russia with visa

  6. Employment of highly qualified specialist (HQS)

  7. Liability for violating immigration laws


Categories of foreign nationals and their legal status

The Federal Law “On the legal status of foreign nationals in Russia” divides foreign nationals into three categories in terms of their legal status:
a) Temporary visitors  
b) Temporary residents  
c) Permanent residents
 
 
Temporary visitors
The majority of foreign nationals belong to the category of temporary visitors. This category of visitors is determined in Russia on the basis of visas which limit the length of stay. In order to work such foreign nationals need a work permit and a work visa. Their status is changed to a temporary resident if a temporary residence permit is obtained.
 
 
Temporary residents
Temporary residents are the holders of temporary residence permits (TRP) issued for 3 years. To enter Russia they need a visa. TRP is mainly needed for foreign nationals who intend to live permanently in the country rather than stay for a limited period. This category of foreign national needs a work permit, though there are certain restrictions. Temporary residents may only work and reside within a specific region of Russia where the temporary residence permit was issued. Please note that companies employing temporary residents have no obligation to apply for employment permission. TRP can be annulled if an individual stays outside Russia for more than 6 months.
 
A temporary residence permit may be issued to a foreign national (who has reached 18) from within the quota annually established by the Government of the Russian Federation. The quota is allocated at the discretion of the Federal executive bodies of Russian regions adjusted for the demographic statistics in each region as well as its ability to accept foreign nationals. The allocated quota does not extend to those who:
  • are married to a Russian citizen
  • have a child being a Russian citizen
  • have at least one disabled parent, being a Russian citizen
  • are classified disabled and have a legally acknowledged son or daughter being a Russian citizen
  • were born on the territory of the RSFSR or have citizenship of the former USSR
  • and some other specific instances.
 These categories of individuals undergo simplified procedures to obtain TRP.
 
 
Permanent residents
Temporary resident status is converted to a permanent resident status as soon as a permanent residence permit (PRP) is obtained. The application for a PRP can be filed one year after TRP issue or up to 6 months prior to the expiry of TRP. Entering and staying in Russia is based on a PRP and there is no need to acquire a work permit. PRP is issued for 5 years and may be renewed an unlimited number of times.
 
 
Permanent residency for highly qualified specialists and their family members
According to the Federal Law 115-FZ “On the legal status of foreign nationals in the Russian Federation” highly qualified specialists and their family members can apply for permanent residence in Russia.
 
The following is a brief summary of the main rules:
  • Permanent residency for a HQS/family members is issued without the need to apply for temporary residency (unlike the standard procedure).
  • The decision to issue a permanent residency or not is taken within 3 months following the submission of the necessary applications.
  • Permanent residency is issued for the duration of an employment (civil) contract but for no longer than the validity of ID documents.
  • The basis to initiate administrative procedures with regards to the issue of permanent residency is the submission of an application to local immigration authorities on the intended place of permanent residency.
  • The set of submitted documents should also include a work permit issued to the HQS and an employment (civil) contract concluded according to Russian laws.
  • The validity of a permanent residency issued to a HQS and their family members can be renewed in the following cases:
     - if an employment (civil) contract is renewed, a permanent residency is renewed for a new term;
     - if a contract is annulled early and an employer has applied for a work permit for the HQS with whom a new contract is concluded, a permanent residency is renewed for 14 business days following the submission of the application;
     - if a contract is annulled early and the HQS has concluded a new contract within a period of 30 business days, a permanent residency is renewed for the term of the new contract.
 
Please note that the duration of a permanent residency issued according to the procedure for a HQS is restricted by the duration of the employment (civil) contract in Russia and ends when the contract expires (though it can be renewed). A permanent residency issued according to the standard procedure has no time restrictions related to any contracts and lasts for 5 years and may be renewed an unlimited number of times.
 

Entering and staying in Russia

The Russian government maintains a restrictive visa regime for foreign nationals who visit, pass through, or reside in the Russian Federation. Please be aware that Russian immigration and visa laws change regularly, and the implementation of new regulations has not always been predictable.
 
To enter Russia for any purpose, a foreign national (excluding most nationals of CIS countries) must possess a bona fide visa issued by a Russian Embassy or Consulate and a valid passport. It is impossible to obtain an entry visa upon arrival, so travellers must apply for their visas well in advance. Foreign nationals who arrive in Russia without an entry visa will not be permitted to enter the country, and face immediate return to the point of embarcation at their own expense.
 
A visa is a document issued on the basis of an invitation for entry into the Russian Federation. The visa determines the length of time a foreign national may stay in Russia (please see further details if you wish to enter with a business visa). The first date indicates the earliest day a foreign national may enter Russia, whilst the second date indicates the date by which a foreign national is obliged to leave Russia. A Russian visa is only valid for those exact dates and cannot be extended after entering the country, excluding emergencies. A Russian visa is not a stamp in your passport but a printed page (with a holograph to avoid counterfeit) that is glued into the passport.
 
Foreign nationals who apply for Russian visas in third countries where they do not have permission to stay more than 90 days may face considerable delays in visa processing or may even be denied a visa from that country.
 
 
Documents required for foreign nationals staying in Russia: 
  • valid passport
  • valid visa (if a visa regime is stipulated by Law)  
  • immigration card
  • immigration registration
  • work permit (if the purpose of the visit is employment)
Upon entry, visitors are required to fill in immigration cards (see illustration), which are usually distributed to passengers on incoming flights and available at arrival points in Russia.
 
 
Restricted areas
Foreign visitors should be aware that there are several closed cities and regions in Russia. Travelers who attempt to enter these areas without prior authorisation are subject to penalties. While applying for a visa all areas to be visited should be carefully listed.
 

Types of Russian visas

To enter Russia for any purpose, a foreign national must possess a valid passport and a valid visa. In order to get a visa, a foreigner has to get an invitation first and then apply for the visa at the Consulate of the Russian Embassy. It is impossible to obtain a visa upon arrival. That is why travelers are obliged to apply for visas in advance.



The table below provides a brief overview of visa types in Russia:




Visas highlighted in blue are widely used by foreign nationals. Each type corresponds to the purpose of your visit. So, when choosing the type of visa the only consideration should be the intention of traveling.


Private visas
Private visa is issued to foreign nationals who come to Russia for a personal visit (friends, relatives etc.). It can be valid for up to 3 months and is single entry only.


Business visas
Business visas are granted to individuals whose main objective for visiting Russia is to participate in negotiations, meetings, consultations as well as exhibitions. Business visas are divided into single or double-entry for up to 3 months and multiple entry for up to 12 months. A person who obtained a multiple 1-year business visa can continuously stay in Russia for the period not longer than 90 days every 180 days.
 
Please note that multiple entry visas can be granted if a foreign national has already been to Russia and can confirm it by providing his previous Russian visa. As already stated a visa is issued on the basis of an invitation. Invitations can be issued in 2 forms:
 
a) Letter of Invitation (LoI)
LoI is a special document issued by the Federal Immigration Department upon the request of accredited companies. In this case a foreign national obtains LoI which is then presented to an official in a Russian Embassy who issue a visa. Please refer to the “Required Documents to get a visa” section.
 
b) Telex
A telex is issued by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs upon the request of accredited companies. Only international public organisations can be accredited in Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the case of telex you do not receive a paper document, but get a special number and the name of the inviting organization. This information can be directly passed to the visitor beforehand by phone or email. A foreign national gives this information to an official in the Russian Embassy who issues the visa.
 

Tourist visas
Tourist visa is issued for the travelers who come to Russia for tourism purposes. It can be single or double, individual or granted for a group. The validity period of a tourist visa is up to 1 month.


Student visas
Student visa is granted only to students, who come to Russia for exchange or education. An invitation for the purpose of studying is issued upon application from the educational institution. 
 

Work visas
Those expatriates who have arrived to work in Russia have to get work visas. Such visas are given to foreigners who have an official employment (or civil) contract in Russia and thus have work permits. Work visas are issued for a period of up to 12 months for foreign nationals employed following the standard procedure and for up to 3 years for foreign nationals employed as highly qualified specialists. In both cases, the duration of the work visa is equal to the duration of the work permit issued. The latter visa type can be extended for another 12-month or 3-year period without leaving Russia. A work permit must be renewed in good time. 


Humanitarian visa
Humanitarian visa may be granted to expatriates whose main objective for visiting Russia is to participate in scientific, cultural, sports activities as well as for charity and humanitarian aid. This visa can be single-entry, double-entry and multiple for up to 12 months.

 

Immigration registration

All foreign nationals must observe immigration registration requirements and undertake immigration recording (or immigration registration) within 7 business days upon arrival.
 
To register, a foreign national must submit a copy of their passport with a valid visa and immigration card to the hosting party. The hosting party must then submit a special notification to the relevant executive authorities and provide the foreign national with a tear-off coupon (see illustration). A coupon consists of two parts:
 
A. The first part includes information about the Employee/Visitor, hosting party and address.
B. The second part contains the Employee/Visitor’s address and departure date. The second part of the notification coupon (with stamp) is the confirmation that his or her presence has been registered. The stamped original registration should be kept as proof of immigration recording.
 
A foreign national is de-registered automatically when:
  • the foreign national is registered at a new place of residence after receiving information from the immigration authorities about registration at a new place of residence;
  • the foreign national has left Russia after receiving information from customs authorities about the departure of such a foreign national from Russia;
  • a number of other specific instances.
 
It should be noted that to terminate immigration registration a foreign national no longer has to return the coupon to the hosting party as de-registration is completed automatically.
 
During a stay in a hotel, it is the hotel’s responsibility to complete the registration process.
 
Special attention should be paid to the specifics of registration procedures for highly qualified specialists (or HQS) and their family members:
 
1. A HQS and his/her family members do not need to be registered if their stay in Russia does not exceed 90 days;
2. If the stay of the HQS and his/her family members is more than 90 days, they need to register within 7 business days before the expiry of the 90-day period.
3. If the HQS or his/her family members are already registered, when they travel around Russia and stay at a new location for less than 30 days, such foreign nationals do not need to be registered at the new place of residence;
4. If the period of stay at a new location is longer than 30 days, the immigration registration should be completed within 7 business days before the expiry of the 30-day period.

 

Employment in Russia

The Russian immigration system has changed significantly over recent years. Some of the changes include the amendment of several laws and the introduction of some new regulations to improve procedures and make them more straightforward. However, the current situation concerning the immigration & employment of foreign nationals in Russia is still far from perfect and needs further thorough revision by state authorities and the undivided attention of companies seeking to employ foreign nationals.
 
At the present time, the procedure for the legalization of foreign employees is rather complex and involves obtaining various permits from the Federal Immigration Service, Federal Immigration Department, Employment Center, as well as the Tax Inspectorate and a number of other authorities. The following is the procedure for obtaining employment authorisation for foreign nationals temporarily resident in Russia and having a visa.
 
1. Submission of a foreign labor forecast
2. Submission of an application and its processing in an Employment Center
3. Processing of an employment permit
4. Processing of an individual work permit
5. Company accreditation for visa support
6. Processing of a work visa
7. Notification of tax inspectorate of the employment of foreign nationals
 
1) Submission of a foreign labor forecast
 
According to Government Regulations each company seeking to employ foreign nationals has an obligation to participate in the forecasting campaign by submitting information about demand for foreign specialists. All in all, this demand is taken into account when forming the quota rate for certain regions of Russia and the all-Russia rate. In other words, the Russian Government sets a national quota for the maximum number of available work permits and work visas for each year. Quota numbers do usually vary from year to year and are allocated among professions, nationality as well as regions of Russia. For these reasons an employer should submit a forecast in order to obtain a quota of work permits.
 
Companies which have not complied with the forecasting requirements in the stated terms do not obtain a quota and will be unable to obtain work permits. At the same time, the submission of a forecast does not mean that a company will get a quota. The forecasts are considered by a special Interdepartmental Commission and decisions taken no later than 10th July of the year when the forecast was submitted.
 
Special attention should be paid to the timing: If a company wanted to attract and hire foreign specialists in 2011, the forecast for 2011 had to be submitted before May 1, 2010. Many new companies establishing business in Russia are facing difficulties in applying for work permits because they are not able to submit forecasts in time.
 
2) Submission of an application and its processing in an Employment Center
 
Not less than a month before submitting an application to the Federal Immigration Service a company should inform the Employment Center of newly established positions for which they plan to employ foreign specialists. Should an Employment Center succeed in finding an adequately qualified Russian citizen available to do the job, the application will be rejected. It is evident that companies’ disclosure about new vacancies is being used as a means of solving problems in the national labour market.
 
3) Processing of an employment permission
 
One month later the employer may start filing documents with the Federal Immigration Service to obtain employment permission. This document allows a company to employ foreign nationals and includes information about the quantity of hired specialists, their nationality, jobs as well as the regions where they can work.
 
4) Processing of an individual work permit
 
Work permits are issued individually for each foreign national and are valid for no more than 1 year. To obtain a work permit, a foreign national is obliged to undergo a medical examination and to be free from HIV, drug addiction, tuberculosis, leprosy (Hansen illness), syphilis, Chlamidial lymphogranuloma and chancroid. Certificates should also be provided to confirm professional qualifications. A work permit is issued in the form of a two-sided plastic card.
 
Side A contains personal data such as name, date of birth, nationality, ID, position, photo and validity period of a work permit.
 
Side B specifies the employer and his tax identification number, work permit number, date of issue, etc. (please see illustration).
 
In practice, the acceptance of work permit applications can be denied following the fulfillment of the quota. All applications are then terminated irrespective of positions applied for.
 
5) Company accreditation for visa support
 
A company should also register with the Federal Immigration Department. Obtaining a so-called “record card” enables an employer to apply for invitations for business and work visas, process multiple work visas, and undertake immigration recording of foreign visitors.
 
6) Processing of a work visa
 
A foreign national employed in Russia is obliged to stay on the basis of a work visa. If a visa does not accurately reflect the intentions and reason for the visit, a fine with possible deportation may be imposed.
 
Processing of a work visa consists of two steps:
  • obtaining an invitation and the processing of a 3 month work visa
  • the conversion of a 3 month work visa into a multiple entry work visa after entering Russia
Work visas may be extended if a work permit was processed within time scales for a new period.
 
The immigration recording (or registration) should also be undertaken upon arrival.
 

Employment of highly qualified specialist (HQS)

  A highly qualified specialist (further - HQS) is defined as a foreign national having experience, skills or achievements in the certain sphere if the terms of employment meet the following criteria:
1) Salary of HQS is no less than 1 000 000 Russian Rubles per annum and HQS is going to hold a position of a scientist/tutor invited to the Russian Federation for research and scientific work or teaching in the accredited institutions of higher education, State Academy of Sciences or its regional departments, etc.
2) Foreign nationals employed in Skolkovo are not required to have a certain amount of salary (under the Federal Law “On the centre of innovation “Skolkovo”).
3) All other categories of HQS are required to earn no less than 2 000 000 Russian Rubles per year.
 
IMPORTANT! Foreign nationals entering Russia for predicant or religious activity cannot be employed as HQS.
 
Please pay attention to the following specifics of employment of HQS:
 
A. Highly qualified specialists can be employed by:
  • Russian commercial entities;
  • Russian scientific organizations, educational institutions (except religious institutions);
  • medical institutions and other organizations conducting scientific, technical or innovative activities, research projects, the testing and preparation of staff according to state priority areas of science and technology development in the Russian Federation, if it is covered (as required by Law) by state accreditation;
  • accredited (as required by Law) branch offices of foreign legal entities in the Russian Federation. WHICH HAVE NOT VIOLATED LAWS FOR EMPLOYMENT OF FOREIGN NATIONALS WITHIN 2 YEARS PRIOR TO APPLYING FOR WORK PERMITS FOR HIGHLY QUALIFIED SPECIALISTS
B. To employ HQS the following requirements should be met:
  • payment of a salary in the amount established by law (please see above);
  • HQS as well as his/her family members coming with him/her to Russia are required to have medical insurance contract covering Russia or to have right for getting first medical aid on the basis of a contract concluded with an employer of HQS. The both stated contracts should be valid within the validity of concluded employment (civil) contracts with HQS. Copy of a medical insurance contract or contract for first medical aid with an employer is submitted to immigration authorities along with other documents.
C. Peculiarities:
  • A work permit is issued for the validity of a concluded employment (civil) contract with an employer inviting such a specialist, but for no more than 3 years. A work permit can be renewed for three year periods within the validity of an employment (civil) contract;
  • If a highly qualified specialist is planning to work in several regions of Russia, one work permit covering these regions can be issued;
  • A work permit is issued without quotas regularly established by the Russian Government.
 
The following is the procedure for employment of highly qualified specialists.
1. Processing of a work permit
2. Processing of a work visa/invitation for a work visa
3. Notification of tax authority on employment of a foreign national
4. Registration of a foreign national in tax authority
5. Notification of immigration authority on tax registration of a foreign national in tax authority
6. Notification of immigration authority on salary of HQS
 
1) Processing of a work permit
2) Processing of a work visa/invitation for a work visa If a foreign national stays in Russia on the basis of a work visa (on the basis of a work permit issued by a Russian legal entity), his/her visa can be renewed into a work visa of a highly qualified specialist as soon as a work permit as for HQS is received. Such visa is processed within Russia. If a foreign national is an employee of a branch office of a foreign legal entity or stays outside of Russia and has not been employed within Russia, an invitation should be processed. This invitation will be the ground for obtaining of a work visa valid for the period of a work permit issued for HQS for up to 3 years.
3) Notification of tax authority on employment of a foreign national Once a work permit and work visa are received, the employer shall notify tax authority within 10 days.
4) Registration of a foreign national in tax authority (or obtaining of an individual tax identification number –INN);
5) Notification of immigration authority on tax registration of a foreign national in tax authority should be completed within 30 days upon the receipt of a work permit by HQS
6) Notification of immigration authority on salary of HQS An employer is required to file quarterly notifications to the immigration authorities on salary of highly qualified specialists, termination of employment (civil) contracts and in some other particular cases.
 
Special attention should be paid to the specifics of registration procedures for highly qualified specialists (or HQS) and their family members:
1. A HQS and his/her family members do not need to be registered if their stay in Russia does not exceed 90 days;
2. If the stay of the HQS and his/her family members is more than 90 days, they need to register within 7 business days before the expiry of the 90-day period.
3. If the HQS or his/her family members are already registered, when they travel around Russia and stay at a new location for less than 30 days, such foreign nationals do not need to be registered at the new place of residence;
4. If the period of stay at a new location is longer than 30 days, the immigration registration should be completed within 7 business days before the expiry of the 30-day period.
 
Travel by a HQS across Russia while employed
As you are already aware, a highly qualified specialist may have a work permit covering several regions of Russia. However, if a work permit does not cover the region where a foreign national intends to travel, the following rules should be kept in mind. There are instances when a foreign national staying in Russia can perform work outside the region of the Russian Federation for which they were issued a work permit:
A. Business trip
If a HQS is sent on a business trip, the total duration of work outside the stated region should not exceed 30 calendar days annually within the validity of the work permit.
B. Regular employment includes traveling or fieldwork and this is stipulated in the labour contract
The total duration of a HQS’ work outside the region of Russia for which the foreign national was issued a work permit is not restricted.
 
Accompanying family members of HQS
- The following relatives are recognized as family members of HQS (for purpose of obtaining of a family member visa): wife/husband, children (including adopted children), husbands and wives of children, parents (including adopting parents), and spouses of parents, grandmothers, grandfathers and grandchildren.
- Family members of HQS obtain regular work visas issued for validity of HQS visa with right of its further renewal.
- Family members of HQS may work in Russia, and may be granted a work permit in addition to those allotted by annual quota. Employers of HQS family members do not require employment permission for the stated category of foreign nationals.
- The length of a stay given to HQS and family members (who do not need a visa to enter Russia) depends on the terms stipulated in HQS work permit.
- Highly qualified specialists and their family members can apply for permanent residence in Russia.
 
Should you have any questions with regards to Russian immigration laws or require assistance please let TIM Services know. We would be pleased to serve you.

Liability for violating immigration laws

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