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Visa, work permits Q&A. Part II

I am currently in Russia on a business visa. I would like to find permanent employment in Russia, and I am using my time here to investigate the opportunities to live and work.

By Jon Hellivig, The Russia Journal
Aug 07, 2003
I am currently in Russia on a business visa. I would like to find permanent employment in Russia, and I am using my time here to investigate the opportunities to live and work. I recently read an article regarding work visas and would appreciate it if you could clarify if I need a work visa to look for employment in Russia.

A work permit is only needed for a foreigner to carry out labor activity in Russia, and a work visa can be issued only after a work permit is received. When you are looking for a job, you don't need a work permit and work visa. It is actually quite normal if you have a business visa during this time.

Under which circumstances does one require a work permit, and when is a business visa sufficient? As I understand things, soon the law will mandate that a business-visa holder stay no longer than 180 days in one visit.

1) To work in Russia, a foreigner has to obtain a work permit and work visa. A work visa is issued after a work permit is received. If a foreigner has received residency status (either temporary or permanent), then neither a visa nor work permit is needed. A business visa is normally issued to foreigners arriving in Russia on a business trip.

2) The law you mentioned is already in force. A one-year business visa allows one to stay in Russia no longer than 180 days in one visit.

Is it preferable to have an employment contract and a work permit even if you are working for a foreign firm? Or, is this only mandatory if you are employed with a Russian firm?

It does not matter for what company you work for - it depends on your labor activities in Russia. Without permanent or temporary residency, you have to obtain a work permit.

There are some exemptions, but such cases are very rare. For example, the employees of foreign entities (either producers or suppliers) performing installation (contract-supervision) work or servicing of technical equipment supplied to the Russian Federation and journalists who are accredited in the Russian Federation do not need a work permit.

To develop a legal working base in Russia, I first registered an offshore company in the United States. Then, the company started the process of opening a 100 percent foreign-owned Russian company. I was planned to be the general director of this Russian venture, but now it seems that I cannot do this without applying for a new visa and work permit. It turns out that I will have to appoint a Russian citizen to be general director of my company. What can I do to make myself legal here?

Your problem is very typical. The way to become general director of a Russian company lies through first appointing a Russian general director. At the same time, to protect your rights, a board of directors should be created as a body of your legal entity, and you should become a member. Then, after state registration of a legal entity, you apply for a work permit. There are six stages to pass. After obtaining a work permit for the position of general director, your appointment itself will go through.

This, unfortunately, is the easiest way to become general director of your own company.

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 due out soon.