Pursuant to the amendments made to Federal Law No. 115-FZ On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation dated 25 July 2002, which were enacted on 1 December 2012, in order to be authorised to work in the sphere of housing and utilities, retail trade or public amenities, a foreign citizen who arrived visa free in Russia must have at least a basic command of Russian.  

A foreign citizen must prove his/her Russian skills by one of the following documents:

  • an appropriately issued certificate evidencing the results of the state Russian language test1;
  • a diploma (qualifying for at least basic general education) issued in a foreign country and recognised in Russia in accordance with Law of the Russian Federation No. 3266-1 On Education dated 10 July 1992, if that document states that its holder has studied Russian;
  • a state certificate of education (qualifying for at least basic general education) issued by an educational institution in any former USSR state before 1 September 1991;
  • a state certificate of education (qualifying for at least basic general education) issued by an educational institution in the Russian Federation after 1 September 1991.  

If the foreign citizen fails to submit a document proving that his/her Russian skills are at an appropriate level, the work permit application of such person will be rejected.  

No evidence of Russian skills is needed for those applicants who are citizens of countries with Russian as an official state language, as well as in cases envisaged by federal law or an international treaty to which Russia is a party.  

What are the implications for employers?

The new requirement may entail a number of work permits being refused to “visa free” foreigners who do not have the necessary Russian skills. This may cause markets of legal labour to shrink and cause difficulties with the hiring of foreign employees to employers who are companies working in the sphere of housing and utilities, retail trade or public amenities.