• New "One Window Approach" to Issuing Work Permits for Non-Russian Citizens
  • September 3, 2008
  • Law Firm: Vinson & Elkins LLP - Houston Office
  • The Federal Migration Service of Russia (the “FMS”) has issued new administrative regulations concerning the procedure to be followed by employers applying for permits to employ non-Russian citizens in Russia and by the relevant government bodies considering such applications (the “Regulations”). The Regulations were approved by order No.1/4/1/2 on 11 January 2008 and came into force on 24 July 2008. The FMS is the federal government body responsible for migration issues.

    New “one window” procedure

    Previously, an employer wishing to employ non-Russian citizens was required to follow a time-consuming procedure which involved applying to various authorities in order to obtain the following:

    1. an opinion on expediency of employing foreign citizens from a local population employment center;
    2. a permit to employ foreign citizens from the FMS in Moscow;
    3. a work permit for foreign citizens from the territorial body of the FMS; and
    4. an invitation letter for a foreign employee to enter Russia on a work visa.

    Applications for the above had to be made consecutively in separate stages. The time taken to obtain all relevant documents via such a process was approximately four months.

    The new procedure aims to reduce this time to approximately one and a half months. The Regulations implement a “one window” approach to the procedure of obtaining Russian work permits for non-Russian employees whereby employers wishing to employ non-Russian citizens apply only to the FMS which then communicates with various authorities before making a decision on the application.

    Prior to using the “one window” procedure, however, an employer must first register with the FMS. This registration procedure is a one-off measure which will not be required for subsequent applications to employ non-Russian citizens. An employer must complete an application form and submit this together with the required documents to the FMS.

    Having registered with the FMS, an employer can then apply for a work permit under the new “one window” procedure as follows:

    1. The employer submits an application to the FMS for a permit to employ non-Russian citizens; simultaneously the employer may apply for individual work permits and invitation letters for non-Russian employees.
    2. The FMS then deals internally with the relevant authorities and forwards applications to the relevant agencies to obtain appropriate clearance.
    3. Within 28 working days from the day of the application, the FMS should issue the documents required for a work permit provided that there are no grounds for refusal.

    As a result of the new procedure, the employer will receive the following documents from the FMS: a (i) permit to employ foreign nationals; (ii) work permit (plastic card); and (iii) Russian work visa invitation letter.

    In an effort to facilitate development of electronic communication between government bodies, applications submitted to the FMS must now be in both paper and electronic form.

    Submitting information on available vacancies

    It is important to note that, amongst other grounds for refusal, the Regulations expressly state that a failure by an employer to submit details to its local population employment centre listing vacant positions within its organisation, together with a description of professional requirements to candidates and material terms of employment, will lead to refusal to issue a permit to employ foreign citizens to that organisation. Such details must be submitted annually by 1 May and at least 30 days prior to making an application for a permit to employ non-Russian citizens. As priority for available jobs is given to Russian candidates, this requirement allows the FMS to consider issuing a permit to employ non-Russian citizens only when it is satisfied that no Russian citizen has applied for that job or has been hired.

    Work permits quotas

    The quota of work permits established for a particular region will also be considered. These quotas are determined annually for each Russian region based on the demand for non-Russian labour. Such demand is evidenced by applications submitted to local population employment centres listing the vacancies in companies in the relevant year. Aiming to simplify to process of employing highly skilled non-Russian professionals, on 25 July 2008, the Ministry of Health Protection and Social Development adopted a list of 22 professions which are exempt from the quota system for 2008. These professions include, inter alia, General Directors, Directors, Heads of Branches and Representative Offices.

    As these Regulations are in their infancy, some conflicts in actual interpretations of the Regulations have emerged. For example, the time periods within which the FMS must process applications are not yet certain.