Most of the information below has been provided by the Russian law firm VISTA Foreign Business Support (www.vfbs.ru).
This section clarifies the situation with business visa and work permits for foreign citizens who wish to be legally employed in Russia. We look into 3 cases: 1) Standard business visas; 2) Employment by foreign company representative offices; 3) Employment by Russian companies.
Case 1: Personal legalization of foreign visitors that
have a business trip in Russia
This case deals with the most common situation when the foreigners arrive to the Russian Federation on a standard business visa.
According to Russian legislation foreigners that are travelling in Russian companies, Representative Offices and Branches of foreign companies in Russia should obtain business visas.
So, a business visa should officially be obtained by those individuals who are traveling to Russia to conduct a business activity related to the business they are invloved in at their home country (such as exhibitions, conference meetings, negotiations, etc.). However, a business visa is often the only way to be able to stay in Russia for longer than 1 month, as standard tourist visas are valid for up to 1 month only. So, it's became quite a common practice to issue business visa for tourists and that is what most of the Russian tourist agencies do.
If an individual has plans to have a long-term employment in Russia, then a standard business visa is not legally sufficient (see more information below in Cases 2 and 3).
Several types of business visa are distinguished in Russia: 1 month single entry, 3 month single entry, 1 month double entry, 3 month double entry, 6 month multiple entry and 1 year multiple entry business visas. Total time needed for obtaining single entry and double entry business visas is 10 working days, for multiple entry business visas – 15 working days. This period may be longer or shorter, depending on what fee is paid to the authorities that process the visa support and visa request.
The procedure of obtaining business visas for foreign visitors that are travelling to the Representative Offices, Branches of foreign companies in Russia as well as to Russian companies on a short-term business trips is the following:
1. Applying to State Registration Chamber (for Representative Offices and Branches) or to PVU GUVD (Internal Affairs Department) of Moscow (for Companies)* for obtaining business invitation (done by a company that is inviting the foreign person).
2. Applying for business visa to the Russian embassy abroad (done by the person who is being invited or a travel agency on his behalf)
3. Registration of business visa at PVU GUVD of Moscow upon arrival in Moscow (done by the company that is inviting the foreign person)
* The company must be registered with PVU GUVD of Moscow
Case 1 Summary: Standard business visas provide a legal way for a foreigner to visit Russia for a business trip without being employed full time by an organisation in Russia. It is also a common way of staying in Russia for a long period, as standard tourist visas are valid for up to 1 month only.
Case 2: Personal legalization of foreign employees working in Representative Offices and Branches of foreign companies in Russia.
This case shows a legally correct way for a foreigner to be invited by a foreign company's representative office to work in Russia. If a foreigner is going to work for a Russian company, see Case 3 below.
Russian migration legislation stipulates a complicated procedure of legalization of foreign citizens in Russia. Due to uncertainty of Russian legislation many of foreigners are staying and working in Russian federation without sufficient legal ground.
At the moment a mixed system of Representative Office and Branch foreign employees legalization is in force in Russian Federation. To work legally in Representative Office or Branch a foreigner should obtain
(I) Accreditation card, “Foreign Representative Office Employee” visa (“inosotrudnik” visa) and
(II) Work permit. Below are stages of both procedures:
Procedure I: Accreditation Card
1. Obtaining an accreditation card at the authority that accredited the Representative Office or registered the Branch
2. Applying for a 3-month single entry invitation to the authority that accredited the Representative Office or registered the Branch
3. Obtaining a 3-month single entry “inosotrudnik” visa in Russian embassy abroad
4. Obtaining a multiple entry 1-year “inosotrudnik” visa and its registration
Procedure II: Work Permit
1. Representative Office or Branch obtains employment permit
2. Obtaining personal work permits for each foreign employees
The visa should be obtained only through the authority that accredited the Representative Office or registered the Branch. It means that the inviting party should be the accreditation authority, not some Russian commercial organization. Foreign employees working in Russia on a basis of a business visa break Russian legislation. Sanction – penalty. Worst case scenario – deportation.
Total time needed for a foreigner to enter Russia and legally work if both of the procedures go simultaneously (standard term) – 3 months.
Case 2 Summary: If a foreigner has intent to be employed in Russia by a foreign company's representative office, it is necessary to go through two procedures: obtaining an accreditation card and obtaining a work permit. This process is different from getting a standard business visa and if a foreigner wishes to be employed in Russia on a legal basis, he or she should work closely with the employer through the different stages. Services of a professional law company may be very helpful.
Case 3: Personal legalization of foreign employees
working in Russian legal entities
This case deals with the situtation when a foreigner has an intention to be employed long-term by a Russian company.
A system of legalization of foreigner working in Russian legal entity differs from the above-mentioned mixed procedure. To stay and to work legally in Russia every foreign employee should obtain a work visa, which is issued only on the basis of a work permit. Work permit can be obtained only after the company has got an employment permit.
Below is a step-by-step procedure (all steps are essential):
1. Company obtains employment permit in Federal Migration Service (Obtaining of Employment permit (stages 1) and registration of the company at PVU GUVD of Moscow (stage 3) can go simultaneously if the director of the Company is a Russian citizen. If not, the order is as stated above)
2. All foreign employees obtain work permits in Territorial Migration Service
3. Registration of the company at Passport and Visa Department of Moscow (if it is not registered yet)
4. Applying to PVU GUVD of Moscow for obtaining work invitation
5. Applying for 3-month single entry work visa to the Russian embassy abroad
6. Obtaining a multiple entry work visa for a year and its registration
The company can invite foreigners on its behalf only if the company is registered with Passport and Visa Department of Moscow. It is absolutely essential that the Employer-Company named in the work permit of the foreign citizen should be the inviting company named in the visa.
Working in Russia on a basis of a business visa issued by some Russian commercial organization that is not the Employer is a breach of Russian legislation. Sanction – penalty. Worst case scenario – deportation.
Total time needed for a foreigner to enter Russia and legally work is 3.5-4 months (standard term) or 2.5-3 months (speed up term). Provided that a company is already registered in PVU GUVD of Moscow.
Case 3 Summary: Employment by a Russian company is somewhat easier than by a foreign representative office. However, it requires certain time-consuming steps on the part of the employer to be taken, however only once (such as registration in PVU GUVD).
Questions still be be answered (Way to Russia team is working on clarifying these questions with different law firms to bring you the most accurate information):
1. What if a foreigner wants to change the employer? Is it needed to obtain another work permit only or it is needed to go through the whole procedure of obtaining a Russian visa again (because the name of the company is not the same)?
2. What about those individuals who would like to establish their own private business in Russia or to be self employed? Is a business visa enough or it is needed to register at PVU GUVD and obtain both an employer's permit and a work permit?
3. Perhaps the process of obtaining accreditation and work permit can be made easier if a foreigner obtains all the papers through a staff leasing firm? In this case there won't be a need of obtaining a new work permit in case the job is changed and it may lower the taxes payable by employer.
VISTA Foreign Business Support provides consulting, law, and accounting services for organisations and individuals.
Phone: +7 095 933 7822, Fax: +7 095 933 7823