In January 2013 numerous amendments to legislation were adopted that regulate the legal status of foreign nationals in Russia. The most important changes are briefly summarised below.

1. Foreign nationals temporarily residing in Russia will need no work permits.1

An employer may now hire foreign nationals who have a temporary residence permit with no need to obtain the permission to engage and employ foreign nationals, and with no need for them to obtain individual work permits.  

2. Employees of foreign companies that make investments will be able to obtain business visas for five years2 

Representatives and employees of large foreign companies making investments in the Russian Federation or companies involved in creation of the Skolkovo Innovation Centre or the International Financial Centre in Russia, will have the opportunity to receive a five-year business visa (as opposed to the one-year visa available at present). However, it should be pointed out that this provision will not operate in practice until the relevant subordinate legislation is adopted.  

3. The procedure for hiring highly qualified specialists (HQS) has been amended3

In addition to the central office of the Russian Federal Migration Service (FMS), some regional offices of the FMS4 are now authorised to accept the documents and issue work permits and visa invitations to HQS at the request of their employers (or contractors for works and services). Moreover, the competent regional offices of the FMS are authorised to extend the term for such work permits, accept notices of the salary paid to HQS, termination of employment contracts with HQS, and of the unpaid leave provided to them for a period longer than 1 calendar month.

According to the law, the documents for obtaining work permits and visa invitations HQS (as well as notices required with regard to HQS) may be filed electronically, including through the uniform portal for state and municipal services. However, this option cannot yet be used in practice, since the FMS is still to adopt some subordinate legislation that would regulate the relevant procedures.  

Note that, if the documents are filed electronically, the law does not release employers from their obligation to relevant documents file with the FMS in hard copy.  

4. A definition of the inviting party and its obligations have been introduced into legislation5

Only now does the law include a definition of the inviting party, i.e. who is entitled to file an application for an invitation to be issued for foreign nationals to enter Russia.

Besides, the law expressly provides that the inviting party must take measures to implement the guarantees for material, medical and housing support of the invited foreigner (stateless person) throughout the term of this person’s stay in Russia. It will constitute an administrative offence if this requirement is not met.  

The inviting party is also responsible for providing the information regarding the purpose of the foreign national’s travel to Russia when obtaining the documents for entry into Russia. If the inviting party presents fraudulent information regarding the purpose of a foreign national’s travel to Russia, this constitutes an administrative offence (for example, if a tourist visa is obtained instead of a business visa when a foreign national comes to participate in business negotiations or a business visa is obtained instead of a working visa when a foreign national is employed).

The administrative fine for each of the above offences is from RUB 40,000 to RUB 50,000 for responsible officers and from RUB 400,000 to RUB 500,000 for legal entities.

Additionally, the sanction has been retained whereby foreign nationals who provided knowingly false information about the purposes of their entry may be prohibited from entering Russia.  

5. The procedure for dactylographic registration and photographing of foreign nationals receiving a Russian work permit or a patent has come into force.

The procedure for fingerprinting and photographing the above categories of individuals has been enacted and brought into force by order of the FMS.6 It should be noted that this rule does not apply to HQS and foreign nationals who entered the Russian Federation based on visas.

What do these developments mean for employers?

The new requirements pursue the dual goals of better regulating and of simplifying the migration procedures for hiring foreign nationals in Russia. However, the employers’ liability for violating the migration rules, in particular, the obligations of the inviting party, has been intensified.  

In view of the broader list of grounds for administrative liability, significant increase of fines and, therefore, financial risks for companies, we encourage employers to consider the current state of their documentation relating to employing foreign nationals in Russia.  

The specialists from our Employment & Migration Law Practice are ready to provide the required legal support on any matter relating to compliance with labour and migration legislation and reducing risks for companies and their responsible officers.