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RUSSIA: New Legislation on Employment of Highly Qualified Specialists

Beginning January 1, 2015, submission of the following notifications regarding the employment of Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) work permit holders will not be required:

  • Notification to the Federal Migration Service office reporting unpaid leave granted to an HQS work permit holder and exceeding one calendar month during a 12-month period
  • Notification to the Tax Authority reporting hiring/dismissal of the employee

Beginning January 1, 2015, the following notifications are introduced:

  • Notification to the Federal Migration Service office reporting hiring or dismissal of the employee within 3 business days from the day of signing or termination of the labour agreement

Penalties for violation are up to 1,000,000 rubles.

Also beginning January 1, 2015:

  • Representative offices of foreign companies will be able to sponsor HQS work permits for their foreign employees
  • Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) citizens will be able to enter Russia using their foreign passport only

On a separate note for IT companies, the Federal Migration Service started accepting HQS work permit applications stating a lowered salary level, introduced in the summer of 2014.

Background: Effective January 1, 2015, federal law no. 357-FL significantly amends the legal act central to Russian immigration (FL 115): "On the legal status of foreign citizens in Russia." Most amendments concern CIS applicants filing for standard work permits and their prospective employers, although several sections affect HQS work permit holders.

Thus, notifications that previously had to be submitted regarding HQS work permit holders' dismissal within 30 days following the end of the year quarter in which the dismissal took place are now abolished. Instead, new notifications are introduced that must be submitted within three business days of the labor agreement termination. Additionally, the Federal Migration Service must be notified regarding signing of labor agreements with future HQS work permit holders. This also must be done within three business days. Fines for noncompliance with the new requirements are high: up to 1,000,000 rubles for each violation.

During 2013-2014, the Federal Migration Service introduced a similar requirement, which was met with a significant outcry from the business community primarily deploying the HQS work permit scheme. The requirement to report to the Federal Migration Service unpaid leave granted to an HQS work permit holder that exceeds 30 days within a 12-month period will be abolished starting in 2015. While abolition of this requirement can be seen as an attempt to relax the rules for employers engaging HQS, the need to report unpaid leave during the past several years was for many employers an exception rather than a rule.

Due to increasing communication between the Federal Migration Service and other governmental authorities, especially the Tax Authority, and further implementation of secure data-exchanging technology starting in 2015, the Tax Authority no longer must be notified of employment and dismissal of foreign nationals. These data will now be transferred between the authorities internally.

Employers should bear in mind that starting in 2015, representative offices of foreign companies can sponsor HQS work permits for their foreign employees. This means that foreign nationals working for such offices will soon be able to enjoy all the benefits associated with HQS work permit status. This beneficial amendment is somewhat related to the modified corporate registration process also introduced earlier this year.

Additionally, starting in 2015, all CIS nationals may enter Russia only using international passports. This requirement should not have much impact on employers and affected foreign employees, although employers should apply for appropriate amendments to the work permits issued for the internal passports of CIS citizens.

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