Russian Federation: Understanding Foreign Worker Employment Categories

Last Updated: 18 October 2017
Article by Jus Privatum Law Firm

Federal Law No. 115-FZ dated July 25, 2002, "On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation" (hereinafter referred to as the "Federal Law No. 115-FZ") is the basic law that regulates the procedure for hiring foreign employees in Russia.

For these purposes, it should be noted that foreign employees are only those foreign citizens who are staying within the Russian Federation for a certain period of time, irrespective of their entry procedure (with visas, visa-free, or from the countries of the Customs Union). Foreign citizens who have a valid Russian temporary or permanent residence permit are not considered foreign employees.

In accordance with the above-referenced law, foreign employees may fall under one of several categories essential for issuing Russian work permits for them.

Category 1:

Foreign employees who may be employed within the Russian Federation without a work permit/patent (currently the citizens of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as foreign citizens specified in Art. 13 p. 4 of Federal Law No. 115-FZ).

These employees may work in Russia without a work permit (a patent). Apart from citizens of the countries listed above, the following foreign citizens may also be employed within the Russian Federation without a patent:

  1. Those permanently residing or staying within the Russian Federation for a certain period.
  2. Beneficiaries of the State Programme to Assist Voluntary Resettlement of Compatriots Living Abroad to the Russian Federation.
  3. Members of diplomatic missions, consular offices of foreign states in the Russian Federation, international civil servants, as well as private household employees of such persons.
  4. Employees of foreign legal entities (manufacturers or suppliers) performing assembly (installation supervision) work, servicing and warranty maintenance, as well as post-warranty servicing of technological equipment imported into Russia.
  5. Journalists accredited in Russia.
  6. Those studying in Russia at professional educational institutions and educational institutions of higher learning and performing work (rendering services) during vacations, or working on an extra-curricular basis at the educational institutions, business entities or economic partnerships established by state-financed or autonomous educational institutions of higher education where they study.
  7. Those invited to Russia for academic teaching positions.
  8. Those invited to Russia to advance business or humanitarian goals or engage in employment and, in addition, those invited for teaching positions at scientific and educational institutions of higher learning to be distinguished from religious educational institutions.
  9. Those who arrived in Russia on tour for a period of up to 30 days.
  10. Those invited to Russia to work in an international medical cluster in medical or academic teaching positions.
  11. Accredited employees of accredited representative offices of foreign legal entities on the basis of the reciprocity principle in accordance with international treaties whereto the Russian Federation is a party (the paragraph specified is not applicable at present).
  12. Under-14s working for film companies, theatres, theatrical and concert organizations, circuses, and athletes under 18.
  13. Those recognized as refugees.
  14. Those who have been granted temporary asylum in the Russian Federation.

Category 2:

Foreign employees entering the Russian Federation in a visa or a visa-free procedure who are studying on an intramural basis.

In accordance with Federal Law No. 115-FZ, foreign citizens studying in Russia on an intramural basis, apart from the students listed in the first category, shall apply for work permits using their own resources. The work permit is issued for a period of up to one year for the validity period of an employment or a civil law contract. The validity period of the work permit may be prolonged several times but it cannot exceed the duration of the course. The work permit is issued to students regardless of the quota.

Category 3:

Foreign employees entering the Russian Federation in a visa-free procedure who need to be issued a patent to work within the Russian Federation (Azerbaijan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine).

These foreign employees shall apply for work patents using their own resources.

Category 4: 

Foreign employees entering the Russian Federation in a visa procedure. In order for them to be hired, the employer shall issue a permit for the company to hire foreign employees and a work permit for the employee.

Hiring of employees of this category is rather time-consuming. To hire foreign employees from non-CIS countries, first the employer shall obtain a quota for a specific position for a specific country (this includes all the positions, except for those on the list of jobs for foreign citizens exempt from the quota for issuing work permits who enter the Russian Federation in a visa procedure).

Next, the employer shall apply for a permit for the company to hire foreign employees and, once the permit has been received, it may apply for and obtain a work permit for a particular employee. For this purpose, the employer obtaining a work permit shall ensure that the employee has received a work visa.

Thus, the total period for hiring a foreign employee entering the Russian Federation in a visa procedure takes from four to six months. The pendency time, when the availability of a quota for foreign employees and its allocation are under consideration, is excluded from this period.

Category 5:

Foreign employees entering the Russian Federation in a visa or a visa-free procedure who are classified as highly qualified specialists (HQS) based on their qualification, work experience, and salary amount.

An employer may hire highly qualified specialists any time without obtaining a quota. Such an employee may be issued a work permit and a work visa for a period of up to three years. The period of hiring a highly qualified specialist varies from 14 working days to 1,5 months. Let us note that it is the employer who decides if the employee is a highly qualified specialist based on the employee's qualifications, education, and work experience. However, the state imposes requirements on the amount of monthly remuneration of highly qualified specialists; if the employer fails to meet them, the employee loses his/her status, so the work permit may be cancelled. The monthly remuneration should be:

  1. At least RUB 83,500 for each calendar month for academic specialists or teachers, as well as for highly qualified specialists being engaged by the residents of industrial production, tourist-recreational, port special economic zones (except for individual entrepreneurs) and organizations engaged in activities in IT domain.
  2. At least RUB 58,500 for each calendar month for foreign citizens being engaged by the residents of a technical research and implementation special economic zone (except for individual entrepreneurs).
  3. At least RUB 1 million for one year (365 calendar days) for highly qualified specialists in medical or academic teaching positions, if they are invited to pursue professional activities in an international medical cluster.
  4. Regardless of the requirement for the remuneration amount for foreign citizens participating in the implementation of the Skolkovo project.
  5. At least RUB 83,500 for each calendar month for foreign citizens employed by legal entities conducting activities in Crimea and Sevastopol.
  6. At least RUB 167,000 for one calendar year for other foreign citizens.

Moreover, the state limits the employment of highly qualified specialists in some areas of expertise. For example, it is prohibited to employ highly qualified customer service specialists in the retail trade for fast moving consumer goods (including pharmaceuticals), regardless of the product line, retail area, and customer service types, except for the employers who manage and coordinate activities related to trade.

Category 6:

Foreign employees entering the Russian Federation in a visa or a visa-free procedure who are family members of highly qualified specialists.

In accordance with Federal Law No. 115-FZ, the family members of a highly qualified specialist are his/her spouse, children (including adopted ones), children's spouses, parents (including adoptive parents), parents' spouses, grandmothers, grandfathers, and grandchildren.

The family members of a highly qualified specialist are also eligible for a work permit regardless of the quota for the validity period of the HQS's work permit for visa-country citizens. Non-visa citizens who are the HQS's family members should apply for a patent.

Additional Information

There are other categories of foreign employees stipulated by the law; however, it is not yet possible to issue work permits for these categories for technical reasons.

It is to be noted that the employers hiring foreign employees shall notify the local executive migration authorities within three working days from the date of the employment contract, as well as the public employment authority when hiring students.

Jus Privatum Can Assist With Hiring Foreign Workers

As we can see from the above, the Russian migration legislation singles out foreign employees into a fairly large number of various categories with a multitude of subtle gradations between them, which would be a challenge for a person who has never worked in this area.

The legal experts at Jus Privatum have 15 years of experience working with foreign employees and their family members. We are always willing to help employers choose the least expensive and most beneficial option for hiring a foreign citizen based on his or her nationality, qualification, education, and work experience.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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