The simplified work regime for foreign highly qualified specialists (“HQSs”) is currently only available to Russian commercial legal entities and Russian based duly accredited branches of foreign legal entities. Federal Law No. 106-FZ dated 5 May 2014 has altered the accreditation procedure for representative offices of foreign legal entities operating in Russia and expanded the list of employers who may employ foreign HQSs.

As a result, after 1 January 2015, accredited representative offices will be able to apply for HQS work visas and work permits provided they themselves and their foreign employees meet the following requirements:

  • the HQS’s annual gross salary being at least 2m RUB (approx. EUR 43,270 as at 25 June 2014);
  • the employer taking out voluntary medical insurance not only for the HQS themselves but also for their accompanying family members and such cover being effective immediately upon their arrival in Russia; and
  • the employer having, upon the filing of their application, (i) not been subject to any administrative penalties for the illegal employment of foreign nationals in Russia over the two preceding years and (ii) complied with any ruling

These requirements are the same as those applying when the employer is a Russian commercial legal entity or a branch.

The main advantages of the HQS regime include:

  • a fast-track simplified procedure to obtain a work permit (within 14 working days of filing all the required documents instead of three to four months);
  • an exemption from fulfilling a number of formalities by the employer (such as obtaining a quota and general authorisation to recruit foreign employees) and an exemption for the HQS from submitting a Russian language and civilisation certificate to obtain a work permit (please see our previous alert on this test); and
  • increased flexibility for the employer due to the fact that HQS work permits and work visas are valid for up to three years (rather than one year for an ordinary work permit), are applicable across multiple Russian regions and business trips are less restricted than for ordinary foreign employees.

The obligations normally pertaining to the HQS regime will also apply to this new category of employer eligible for that regime. They will be obliged to file notices with the migration authorities to confirm (i) the payment of salaries payable under existing contracts (on a quarterly basis); (ii) any termination of employment with a HQS; and (iii) any unpaid leave of over one calendar month during a year.