On 25 November 2014 a new federal law1 was announced which will allow foreigners who enter Russia on a visa-free basis to work for legal entities and individual entrepreneurs by virtue of "patents" (special permission documents issued within standard simplified procedure and in the form prescribed by statute). At present, foreigners with visa-free entry have the right to work on the basis of patents only for private individuals.
In addition, the new law introduces changes to the procedures under which employers report on the work activities of all their foreign hires.
The new procedures concerning the work activities of foreigners will take effect 1 January 2015.
What the law says
1) New procedure for employers submitting notifications about the work activities of foreigners
The law introduces changes to the procedures under which employers submit notifications to state authorities about the work activities of foreign citizens. In particular, employers are no longer required to inform the tax authorities about the employment of, and/or enlistment of the services of foreign workers.
The law also cancels the requirement that employers must inform the FMS when they provide their highly qualified foreign specialists more than one calendar month of unpaid leave per year.
Also, employers who enlist the services of foreigners (including those who enter Russia with or without visas, and highly qualified foreign specialists) as of 1 January 2015 will have to inform the FMS, not the tax authorities, about the conclusion and termination of employment contracts or civil law contracts with foreign citizens, within three business days from the date of such conclusion or termination.
2) The work of foreigners who enter Russia on a visa-free basis
The law stipulates that employers who are legal entities, individual entrepreneurs, private notaries or lawyers may hire foreigners who enter Russia on a visa-free basis by virtue of patents received by these very foreigners. No yearly quotas for the issue of patents is envisaged, i.e. patents will be issued without regard for quotas.
For a foreign citizen to receive a patent, he or she must personally submit, within 30 calendar days of entering Russia, a patent application to the local office of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) or other specially authorized organization. The application must include the following documents:
- a migration card indicating that the visit to Russia is for work-related purposes;
- a voluntary medical insurance policy which is valid on the territory of Russia;
- medical certificates;
- a document confirming the applicant's proficiency in the Russian language, and his or her knowledge of Russian history and the fundamental legislative principles of the Russian Federation; or a document confirming that the applicant has passed a Russian language proficiency exam and a test of his or her knowledge of the history and fundamental legislative principles of the Russian Federation.
Patents will be issued for a period of one to twelve months. The patent's period of validity may be renewed for up to twelve months.
Within two months of receiving the patent, the foreign citizen must provide the FMS with a copy of his or her employment contract or civil-legal contract for the performance of work (provision of services).
Patents and work permits issued before 1 January 2015 shall remain valid until their date of expiration.
Companies that are planning to hire workers from countries whose citizens may enter Russia visa-free are advised to start procedures for obtaining migration permits well in advance.
However, before these new legal standards are actually implemented, state authorities will have to draft a considerable amount of subordinate legislation; therefore we believe that the new procedure for issue of migration permits may not take effect immediately after the Law enters into force.
It remains uncertain whether foreign citizens entering Russia on a visa-free basis can receive work permits as highly qualified foreign specialists. We recommend that companies employing such specialists should closely follow all explanations and interpretations of the new legislative provisions.