This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.
As with many things in the country, the process of getting a work permit for Russia is awash with bureaucracy and red tape.
There are national quotas restricting the number of foreign individuals who are granted the right to work in Russia. This changes yearly depending on the Russian economic climate and the policies at the time.
For an expat to obtain a work visa, their employer needs to have a work permit to hire foreigners. Once employers have this, they send a letter of invitation to the expat. The expat can then apply for their visa.
Work permit applications in Russia
Types of work permits in Russia
The main types of work permits are the Standard Russian Work Permit, the Russian Work Permit for Highly Qualified Professionals and the Work Patent for People from the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Expats working for private individuals and those with specialised, high-demand skills will find it much easier when processing their paperwork. Expats earning in excess of 1 million RUB per annum are considered highly qualified specialists. They are usually considered exempt from quotas and can be granted a three-year work visa. This visa can usually be processed quickly, within 14 days, and entitles close relatives to Russian visas.
Expats from the Commonwealth of Independent States don’t need to apply for a visa. Instead they can apply for a work patent and must do so within 30 days of arriving in Russia.
Work permits are issued for one-year periods and can be extended from within the country.
Standard work permit application process
In order to legally work for a company in Russia, expats must obtain both an entry visa and a work permit. If both procedures are undertaken simultaneously, the entire process can take roughly three months. Luckily, much of the burden of organising this documentation falls on the shoulders of the employing company who will inform the expat of any necessary documents.
Employers who wish to hire expats must apply for their own employment permit before they can legally employ non-locals. The employer will first file a formal declaration of need, and then apply to the Russian Directorate of Migratory Affiars (GUVM). If approved, employers then receive an employment permit. The permit outlines how many expats of a certain nationality the company can hire and for what positions. It also allows employees to apply for a work visa.
Along with the work permit, the employing company receives a formal visa invitation letter. They will pass this letter of invitation onto their expat employee. Expats will use this document, along with supporting documents, to apply for an entry visa at their home country’s Russian consulate or embassy.
Medical examination and work permit collection
Once the entry visa is approved and issued, expats can travel to Russia in accordance with the date listed on their visa. In order to be granted the work permit, it's necessary to first pass a medical test in a registered Russian state clinic. Expats should bring a fluent Russian speaker with them to the clinic, as it's likely that state healthcare professionals will not speak English.
The combined testing and processing time is usually one week. After this examination, the employer will present an expat with their work permit, a small plastic card, and will advise them of additional registration formalities to be completed.
*Work permit requirements can change at short notice and expats should contact their nearest Russian embassy or consulate for the latest details.