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Work Permits for Russia

Being an expat in Russia has never been this lucrative! The country does not only have diverse employment options; expats in Russia are generally the best paid foreign specialists worldwide. Our guide to working in Russia has some important details on the economy and work permits.

Securing a Work Permit: Employers’ Responsibilities

Russia’s immigration and foreign labor regulations are rather complicated and time consuming both for expats and their employers. You are well advised to plan ahead!

The first steps are entirely the responsibility of your employer and require their Human Resources department to plan well in advance. Almost a full year before actually hiring an expat, companies operating in Russia have to apply for corporate work permits for their future foreign employees. In the application, they are required to state both the position they intend to fill as well as the nationality of the expat. This information is binding: a company that has permission to employ an engineer from Italy cannot hire one from Taiwan instead.

Once the corporate work permit is secured, your employer has to apply for and secure your personal work permit. It surely does not come as a surprise that this permit only allows you to take up the specific job it was issued for. You can neither take up the same position at a different company nor work for a subsidiary of your company in another region in Russia. However, if your contract includes working in different parts of the country, your employer has to complete each part of the application for every region you will be working in. Needless to say that this will cause delays.

Acquiring a Work Visa and Final Red Tape

After receiving a letter of invitation from your employer, you can apply for a work visa at your nearest Russian consulate or embassy. They will also supply you with a list of all necessary documents. Always keep in mind not to accidentally apply for a business visa, as this is an entirely different category in Russian immigration law!

Within three days of your arrival, you need to register your address with the migration services. Luckily, your employer usually takes the responsibility of notifying local authorities. Your company also needs to notify the labor and tax authorities about your employment.

The work visa you acquired from your local embassy is limited to three months. Please check with the immigration authorities in Russia for an extension of your work visa, which is commonly issued for the duration of one year. This is a crucial step: never forget to keep all permits and visas valid, as failure to do so is not lightly tolerated in Russia.

Highly Qualified? Work Visa Exemptions

Not every employer and employee has to go through the entire process, though: there are work permit exemptions for employees in a number of fields. The most significant exemption for expats interested in staying in Russia for a longer period of time than, for example, for the montage and upkeep of machinery, is the work visa category for Highly Qualified Specialists (HQSs). To qualify for this permit, foreign specialists must be compensated with no less than 2 million rubles per year. The permit can be issued for up to three years.

Highly Qualified Specialists are required to have worked for three years before applying for a work patent. The salary of HQSs is set at 167,000 RUB per calendar month. HQSs working in the IT branch must earn at least 83,500 RUB per calendar month.

Changes for CIS Nationals

On 1 January 2015 the quota system limiting the number of work permits issued for a year was discontinued. It has been replaced with a new system with an easier procedure through which so-called work patents are issued.

CIS nationals should apply for a work patent within 30 calendar days of arrival in Russia. If they don’t, this will result in a fine of up to 15,000 RUB. From the date of receiving the work patent, the applicant has 60 days to find local employment. The work patent gives an individual the right to work free from quotas for up to 12 months and is renewable once. A CIS national has to confirm knowledge of the Russian language, history, and legislation of the Russian Federation within 30 days after applying for the work patent. This should be done by passing an exam on these topics; only then can the work patent be applied.

Taxation in Russia

As an expat, or rather non-resident, in Russia, you will be taxed on your income from Russian sources at a rate of 30%. However, you will be considered a resident under Russian taxation law if you spend at least 183 days in a 12-month period in the country. Then, all income, including that from non-Russian sources, will be taxed at a rate of 13%. The highly qualified professionals are once again an exceptional category: with this permit, you are eligible for the standard tax rate for residents from the beginning.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

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