June 13, 2014

Since the beginning of this year several changes have been implemented to the Russian immigration system. While some of these changes have increased efficiency of processes, most changes have resulted in stricter requirements for obtaining work permits and visas for Russia. Fortunately, most of the changes do not affect applicants for work permits under the Highly Skilled Workers program, which limits the impact to most of Pro-Link GLOBAL’s clients.

Your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist will have advised you of any changes directly affecting your current employees transferring to Russia. However, this overview of the most relevant changes of the past few months should help your company better plan for future assignments.

What’s Changed?

Tax Registration for all Foreign Employees
Up to last year only employees applying for a work permit under the quota exempt Highly Skilled Workers (HSW) program were required to be registered with the Russian tax authority, and subsequently confirm to the FMS that the tax registration had been completed. As of January 10, 2014 the tax registration requirement has been extended to apply to all foreign employees. However, at the same time a more streamlined process for tax registration has been implemented. Instead of having to file a separate registration at the tax authority, this registration can now be arranged automatically when filing the Personal Work Permit application at the FMS. For this purpose 2 additional forms will need to be submitted at time of work permit application, which will be forwarded by the FMS to the tax authority. The tax authority will in turn register the employee and confirm registration directly to the FMS. The employee receives a Tax Identification Number (TIN) Card after successful registration. Both Highly Skilled Workers and standard work permit applicants can make use of this new streamlined tax registration.

Although in theory this automated process is an obvious improvement, in practice at this moment the automatic tax registration is not always successful yet. Your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist might therefore still advise you to carry out the registration directly with the Tax Office, and to notify the FMS of tax registration within 30 days of work permit collection.

Medical Submitted at Time of Filing
As part of the standard Personal Work Permit application process employees are required to undergo a medical examination. Previously the resulting medical certificate had to be submitted to the FMS within 30 days of work permit issuance (for visa waiver nationals), or at time of work permit collection (visa nationals). However, after subsequent changes in regulations in March and May of this year, the medical certificate now needs to be submitted already at time of Personal Work Permit application for all nationalities.

Since the medical examination needs to be carried out at one of a few approved clinics in Russia, this change results in an extra trip to Russia that needs to be scheduled prior to the Personal Work Permit filing. For visa nationals this also means that an additional business visa will need to be obtained.

Note that Highly Skilled Workers are still exempt from having to submit a medical certificate for the work permit application, and therefore this change does not affect them.

Knowledge of Russian Language, History and Legal System
The change with the biggest impact for standard work permit applicants is the introduction of a requirement to submit proof of knowledge on Russian language, history and law as part of the application for initial and renewal work permits (at time of filing for visa waiver nationals, and within 30 days of work permit issuance for visa nationals). Failing to provide such proof will result in cancellation of the work permit, or rejection of the application in case of visa waiver nationals.

This new proof of knowledge requirement will come into effect starting January 2015, and will also apply to temporary and permanent residence permit applicants and patent applicants,  but does not apply to Highly Skilled Migrants, nor to male applicants over 65 years of age, and female applicants over 60.

Two types of documents are accepted as proof of knowledge:

• A certificate of knowledge of Russian language and basic knowledge of Russian history and laws, issued by a certified center in Russia or abroad. Such certificate will have a validity of 5 years from date of issuance, and tests can be taken from September 2014 onwards.

• A diploma on the subject, issued by an educational organization on the territory of USSR (before 1 September 1991), or Russian Federation (after this date).

A list of centers where the test can be taken has not been published yet, but it is expected that this will be the centers which have been approved by order 735 of the Ministry of Education, dated February 8, 2004. The Moscow State University and RUDN have confirmed to start courses on the subject, at centers supported by them, in September 2014.

Note that the above reflects the information currently available on the new requirement, but that specifics can change between now and the date of implementation, as well as thereafter.

Quota Applications
As of this year it is possible for companies to submit their annual quota applications online. However, supporting documentation still needs to be submitted in paper format and document requirements have been increased compared to last year. In addition to notarized copies of corporate documents, the originals will need to be presented for verification. Document requirements have been further extended to include the original lease of the company’s office, as well as written guarantees that accommodation and medical insurance will be provided to the foreign employees who will be using the quota positions.

Quota applications for 2015 can still be submitted until July 1, 2014. Corrections to the quota for 2014 are accepted until September 1, 2014.

Note that your quota application could be rejected if your Russian entity:

• Is not properly registered;
• Is undergoing bankruptcy procedures;
• Has, now or previously, provided wrong information or falsified documents;
• Is charged with offences related to labor, migration, tax or social security law;
• Is supposed to be able to fill the listed positions with local employees;
• Has failed to provide medical insurance and accommodation for employees;
• Has paid a salary below the living standard of the region;
• Exceeded the quota of foreign employees that applies to a particular industry.

Passport Validity for Visa Extension
The required passport validity for visa extensions has been amended. For initial (consular) visa applications a passport validity of at least 6 months beyond the requested visa validity was already required.Now this validity requirement also applies to the visa extension. Since the visa extension is usually in line with the work permit validity this effectively means that the passport should be valid for at least 6 months beyond the requested work permit validity. Applications for Invitation Letters for Work Visas can therefore be rejected if the passport is not valid for at least 1.5 years from start date of work permit validity. In case of short passport validity for visa extensions and full renewal processes, the visa validity will be limited to 6 months beyond the passport expiration date.

Note that we have already used this new validity requirement as our internal guideline for applications in the past, and therefore this change should not have a major impact on your employees.

Pre-Approval for CIS Nationals and High Migration Risk Countries
Lastly, an additional step has been added to the process for obtaining work permits for CIS nationals. Before the application for the work permit can be filed, a pre-approval needs to be obtained from the director of the local office of the FMS (UFMS). Currently approvals are signed twice a week, which means that the impact on these nationals in terms of processing time is limited.

Note that a pre-approval is also required for nationals from countries of high migration risk, such as India and Pakistan; the list of nationalities to which this applies changes frequently and your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist will therefore advise you on a case to case basis whether or not this pre-approval is required.

ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS

Employers should note that the immigration system in Russia is currently undergoing a continuous revision, which in most cases so far has resulted in stricter requirements for standard work permit applicants. Although most changes up to now have not applied to Highly Skilled Workers, more changes might be implemented in the coming months which could have a bigger impact on this group.

Both HR and employees should be aware that processes can continue to change with little to no advance notice. Your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist will notify you immediately of any new changes that affect your employees’ processes and will continue to guide you through these changes.

Want more alerts from Pro-Link GLOBAL? Subscribe to our Blog Here!

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change a moment’s notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by Pro-Link GLOBAL’s Knowledge Management team. Pro-Link GLOBAL worked with our PLG | KGNM Correspondent Office in Russia  to provide you this update.

Information contained in this Global Brief is prepared using information obtained from various media outlets, government publications and our KGNM network of immigration professionals. Written permission from the copyright owner and any other rights holders must be obtained for any reuse of any content posted or published by Pro-Link GLOBAL that extends beyond fair use or other statutory exemptions. Furthermore, responsibility for the determination of the copyright status and securing permission rests with those persons wishing to reuse the materials. Interested parties are welcome to contact the Knowledge Management Department (km@pro-linkglobal.com) with any additional requests for information or to request reproduction of this material.