In the past year many changes to immigration regulations have been implemented and announced (see also our Global Brief from June 13, 2014 and our Blog from July 18, 2014). The latest changes have been approved on November 24th, to be implemented on January 1, 2015. Although these include some minor changes for Highly Qualified Specialists (HQS), the newest announced changes mostly affect CIS nationals. These new regulations provide more flexibility for CIS nationals, but also introduce a level of uncertainty for both CIS employees and employers .
Work Patents to Replace Standard Work Permits for CIS Nationals
As of January 1, 2015 CIS nationals will no longer be able to apply for standard work permits. Instead, they will be able to obtain a so-called Work Patent, which will have an initial validity of 1 year and is renewable for one additional year.
Initial Work Patent applications are filed at the regional office of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) by CIS nationals within 30 days of their arrival to Russia and do not require a corporate sponsor; rather, the Work Patent will allow work at any employer (corporate or private) within the Russian region for which it has been issued. Note, however, that regional governors will receive the authority to decide to have job positions added to Work Patents, which will somewhat restrict their validity.
From date of issuance of the Work Patent the holder has 2 months to find employment and to submit a copy of the employment contract to the FMS. If the holder has not been able to find work within this period the Work Patent will be annulled and the CIS national will need to wait for 1 year before being able to apply again for a new Work Patent. The Work Patent can be extended for one additional year; however, the renewal needs to be filed by the employer. A further extension is not possible, although it is allowed for the CIS national to leave Russia, re-enter and apply for a new Work Patent.
Note that a CIS national who is planning to apply for a Work Patent will need to declare on the Migration Card upon arrival to Russia that the purpose of entry is work. If the Work Patent is not filed within 30 days of arrival the CIS national can be fined for up to 15,000 RUB, but will keep the right to file for a Work Patent. In addition, a fixed income tax, amount to be decided by the regional government, will need to be pre-paid by the applicant for the whole period of validity of the Work Patent (12 months maximum) upon its issuance. Failure to pay this income tax within 1 month of its issuance will result in annulment of the Work Patent.
From the employer’s side it is important to note that neither a quota, nor an agreement from the Labor Authority is required to hire CIS nationals with a Work Patent, which is a relaxation of the current rules. On the other hand, regional governors have the authority to stop issuing Work Patents altogether based on the local Labor Authorities’ opinion, or to stop issuing Work Patents for certain job positions (if they have decided to have job positions added to the Work Patents) and also to order all Work Patent holders in a certain occupation to be dismissed by their employers within a certain time frame.
Changed Notification Requirements for Highly Qualified Specialists
On January 1, 2015 the notification requirements for Highly Qualified Specialists are reduced, but failure to comply with the new requirements can result in fines up to 1,000,000 RUB.
• It will no longer be necessary to inform the FMS of any unpaid leave beyond one calendar month per a 12 month period that is granted to a HQS.
• Separate notification to the Tax Authority of hiring/dismissal of an employee will not be required anymore. Instead, companies will be required to notify the FMS within 3 business days of signing the labor agreement, or ending of an employment contract (either prematurely or otherwise). The FMS will subsequently inform the Tax Authority. These new notification requirements to the FMS replace the previously existing FMS notification requirements regarding start and end date of employment.
Note that the following changes, announced earlier this year, will also come into effect on January 1, 2015:
• CIS nationals will need to use their international passport when travelling in and out of Russia and their international passport will also be needed for HQS Work Permit and Work Patent applications. Previously their national passports could be used for this. We advise companies to file for Work Permit amendments for those CIS nationals that have obtained their Work Permits on the basis of their internal passport.
• Proof of Knowledge of Russian Language, History and Legal System will need to be provided for standard Work Permit applications (initial and renewal) and for Work Patent applications. This requirement does not apply to male applicants over 65 years of age, and female applicants over 60.
• Representative Offices will be able to sponsor Work Permits for Highly Qualified Specialists. Up to now this option was only open for Russian companies.
ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS
Employers should note that the work authorization process and options for CIS nationals who do not earn an annual salary that meets the HQS criteria of at least 2,000,000 RUB will undergo a significant change starting January 1, 2015. Although the new process increases flexibility for both employee and employer, companies should be aware that it also comes with risks, due to the powers extended to the regional governors that enable the governors to temporarily stop issuing Work Patents and/or to order dismissal of CIS nationals in certain job positions. However, since most foreign employees sent to Russia by Pro-Link GLOBAL’s clients, including CIS nationals, do meet the HQS salary requirement, we expect the impact of this new process for our clients to be minimal.
The change of notification requirements for Highly Qualified Specialists can overall be considered an improvement, but the new requirements do need to be taken seriously to avoid high fines for incompliance. Since deadlines have shortened for notifications, it will be even more important than before to work closely with your Pro-Link GLOBAL Immigration Specialist and to keep Pro-Link informed of any details related to the planned dates of hire and dismissal of foreign employees.
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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, based on information provided by our PLG | KGNM Correspondent Office in Russia.
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