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Visa and work permit Q&A. Part IV

The obligation of foreign employees to have work permits to work in Russia is now often being discussed.

By Jon Hellivig, The Russia Journal
Sep 22, 2003
The obligation of foreign employees to have work permits to work in Russia is now often being discussed. There are also a large number of demands concerning visas for foreigners. Are there any sanctions for a company that invites a foreigner, or for the foreigner himself, that does not observe these demands?

Sanctions for violation of the laws concerning visas, work permits and residency are set in down the Code of Administrative Violations, the Foreign Status Law and the Entry and Exit Law.

Violations may lead to imposition of fines on the company and its head for breaking the migration laws, deportation from Russia of the employee in question and/or liability toward the government for expenses incurred by the foreigner.

In addition to the sanctions directly imposed by the law, the relevant authorities require the host company to sign a guarantee letter whereby the company takes on extensive liability for the conduct of a foreigner who has been granted a multiple-entry visa.

I have heard that a foreigner can obtain temporary residency in Russia and that, in this case, a foreigner may work in Russia without a work permit. Is this really so, and which other advantages/disadvantages does a person who has obtained temporary residency have?

Yes, you are absolutely right. According to the Foreign Status Law, a foreigner can apply for temporary residence in Russia. The advantages are as follows:
  • No work permit and/or approval for the intake of foreign labor are required;
  • No restrictions to change the employment position and/or employer are in place;
  • A temporary residency permit is issued for three years, and a visa is also required to enter the Russian Federation that will also be valid for three years. This visa is originally issued for four months on the basis of the decision of the Internal Affairs Ministry to grant the temporary residency permit and is extended (by the Internal Affairs Ministry) for the entire term of the permit once the foreign national has obtained it; and
  • No restrictions on registration as an individual entrepreneur.
Among the so-called "disadvantages" I can only mention the following restrictions:
  • Employment is allowed only within the administrative-territorial unit of Russia where the residency is permitted;
  • Residency is permitted only at the address indicated in the permit and, its change is subject to the approval of the Internal Affairs Ministry; and
  • You will need to apply for an exit visa to leave Russia for trips abroad.
I received an invitation for a one-year multiple-entry visa and applied to the Russian consulate in my country for a visa. However, they refused to issue a visa for me, saying that I didn't have any other documents with me besides my passport and the invitation. Actually, I was very surprised, because no one had told me before that I should bring any other documents. Is their requirement legal?

Yes, this requirement of the consulate is absolutely legal. In accordance with a resolution of Russian government dated June 9, 2003, # 335, for receipt of a visa, the foreigner has to present to the consulate:
  • An active passport;
  • A completed application form with photo;
  • A medical certificate confirming a negative HIV test; and
  • Valid insurance.
Please note that some consulates may implement a different practice and, therefore, we advise you to check in advance the requirements at the consulate where you apply.

At our company, a citizen of Russia holds the position of deputy general director. However, he was born and has lived all his life in Estonia and holds a residence permit there. His passport was even issued in Estonia, but it states that he is a citizen of Russia. There may be some mistake related to the employee's citizenship and the formalization of his passport. Do you think that this passport may need to be replaced with a regular Russian one? Does his citizenship need to be specially confirmed? In view of all this, we have a question: Would the formalization of labor relations between our company and this employee be legal? Would we need to apply for a work permit for him? The employee has worked for the company since 2001, but labor relations were not formalized at that time because of his unclear citizenship. His workbook is still in Estonia with the company where the employee worked before 2001, until the Estonian company sent him to work for us under a secondment agreement.

I believe that there is no problem with your employee's citizenship. A Russian citizen has the right to obtain a residence permit in any other country. As far as the passport of a Russian citizen issued in Estonia is concerned, you might mean that the passport was issued by the Russian Embassy or Consulate in that country. There is no problem with that, because any diplomatic mission and consulate of the Russian Federation has the power to issue identity-certifying documents to Russian citizens. The law does not provide for a citizen's obligations to replace the passport, because Resolution of the Government of the Russian Federation No. 828 "On the Approval of the Regulations of the Passport of a Citizen of the Russian Federation, the Specimen of the Blank and Description of the Passport of the Citizen of the Russian Federation," as of July 8, 1997, established the obligation that Soviet passports be replaced with Russian ones by Dec. 31, 2003. Your employee's passport is the passport of a citizen of the Russian Federation, and, as such, it should not be replaced.

Your employee does not need to apply for a work permit. He should be employed according to Russian labor law. The fact that the employee was sent to work by an Estonian company does not have any impact on the employee's labor relations with your company.

The wife of one of our employees is a foreign citizen. Our employee wants her to have the right to live in Russia for several years. We would like to help him formalize an invitation for his wife to come to Russia. What would be the best way to do so? Our company is registered as an organization entitled to invite foreign citizens. Is it possible to apply for a business visa for this employee's wife on behalf of the company? Would the fact that she does not work in the country of her citizenship be an obstacle? Would such an invitation be fictitious, because this person cannot have any business purpose in Russia? Do you think that, to justify the need to invite her, we may need to employ her as a freelance translator?

In this situation, there are two possible options for your employee's wife: She can either apply for a business visa or obtain a temporary-residence permit.

A business visa is issued to a citizen who travels for business purposes. This visa may be multiple-entry for a period of up to one year. This visa is issued on the basis of an invitation from a company that has been registered as an organization inviting foreign citizens. The fact that your employee's wife does not work in the country of her citizenship may raise questions regarding the business purpose of a trip to the Russian Federation. We would not recommend you to justify the business purpose of a trip by the need to engage a translator working under a civil contract, because, as required by the law, the need to apply for a work permit would arise.

Furthermore, there is a risk that, while staying in Russia, the inconsistency of the purpose of the trip stated in the visa may be discovered, which would automatically incur the liability of the company and various negative consequences for the foreign citizen, including deportation.

A temporary-residence permit is issued for a period of three years; however, a foreign citizen may apply for a permanent-residence permit once he or she has been a resident in Russia for at least one year on the basis of a temporary-residence permit. A temporary-residence permit involves the formalization of a visa. However, a work permit for the performance of labor activities is not required.

A temporary-residence permit is issued to a foreign citizen within the limits of the quota approved by the government of the Russian Federation. But, considering the fact that this citizen of a foreign state is married to a citizen of Russia, a temporary-residence permit will be issued regardless of the established quota.

Therefore, in my opinion, there are more advantages in applying for a temporary-residence permit in your specific situation.

I am going to apply for a temporary residence permit. Could you please clarify what documents are needed for such an application?

The application needs to be accompanied by the following set of documents:
  1. Four photographs of 35x45 mm in size.

  2. A passport (and visa, if the foreigner is in Russia). Diplomatic and official passports and passports with a remaining term of validity less than six months are not accepted. The passport and visa are returned the same day that the application is submitted.

  3. A document issued by the respective authority of the country of permanent residency of the foreign national stating whether or not he/she has a criminal record.

  4. If applicable, a residency permit or another document issued by the respective authority of a foreign jurisdiction that confirms that the person resides outside his/her country of nationality (i.e., if a foreign individual is a citizen of one country and has the legal right to reside in another country [other than Russia], he/she needs to produce a document from the respective authority of this other country confirming residency there).

  5. A document confirming that the foreign individual has sufficient means to maintain the minimum living standard established by Russian law for him/herself and his/her family (an income statement, tax return stamped by the tax authority, statement from the employer, bank account statement, inheritance certificate or any other relevant documents).

  6. A marriage certificate.

  7. A birth certificate and ID for children below the age of 18 (a passport, if available).

  8. Written consent by children between 14 and 18 years of age to move to Russia for temporary residency certified by a notary (assuming that the child does not already have a Russian residency permit or is not a Russian national).

  9. A certificate proving that the applicant (and members of his family if they also apply for temporary residency) does not have HIV.

  10. A document issued by a competent authority of a foreign country or medical institution of Russia proving that the applicant (and members of his family if they also apply for temporary residency) is not a drug addict and does not suffer from a dangerous infectious disease that is in the list of such diseases established by the Russian government.
A foreign individual who is not subject to a quota has to produce a document confirming the grounds for exemption from the quota requirement (for example, a foreigner who has a Russian spouse has to produce a marriage certificate and a passport for the spouse). Such individuals are also required to demonstrate that they posses dwelling premises in Russia on the grounds provided for by law or have permission from a Russian resident adult citizen to let them use the latter's dwelling premises.

Documents issued by foreign authorities need to be legalized and translated into Russian, and the translations need to be certified.

I am a foreign citizen with a Russian temporary residence permit. I would like to invite a friend in Germany to visit Russia. How can I apply for such an invitation?

In accordance with Resolution of Russian Government dated June 9, 2003, # 335, foreign citizen must have a permanent residence permit to apply for an invitation to Russia. A company registered with the UVIR and Russian citizens may also apply for an invitation.

My visa expires in a few days, but I want to stay in Russia for 1 more month. How can I extend the period of my visa validity?

In accordance with Resolution of Russian Government dated June 9, 2003, # 335, internal affairs authorities will extend visa validity in case of emergency for only up to 10 days. Foreign citizens have to present a reasoned application, petition of a person or organization applied for an invitation for the foreign citizen and documents confirming the necessity of such an extension.

Jon Hellevig is a partner with consulting firm Avenir & Partners, specializing in law, accounting and human resources. The second edition of the "Avenir Guide to Russian Taxes," of which he is a co-author, is on sale now.