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Expats Working in Russia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: February 2014

Permission to Work

The path from applying for a job to actually starting work in Russia involves some substantial administrative hurdles. First, any company wishing to hire foreign employees must file a ‘Declaration of Need’ before 1st May of the year before they want the employment to start. The exact job they require must be specified, together with the nationality of the prospective employee.

Numbers of employees for each job title and each foreign country are subject to rigid quotas. For 2014, the global work permit quota for all nationalities and professions is 1,631,586. The availability of most positions is therefore likely to be limited. It is therefore important to find a company that is eligible to hire foreign workers, that is, one that has been though the above procedure and obtained the correct employment permit. Note, however, that those working for private individuals (such as foreign language teachers), highly skilled workers and immigrants from visa-free countries are not subject to quotas.

Russian work permits are divided into those for foreign and those for Russian companies. There is an additional requirement for the former. Before a foreign company can process a work permit for a prospective foreign employee, it must obtain a personal accreditation card on their prospective employee’s behalf from the company’s accrediting body.

An additional requirement, introduced in 2012, affects all immigrants except highly skilled workers and those of some Russian-speaking countries within the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States.) If you want to obtain a work permit, you need to produce a certificate that proves that your ability in Russian is at least at the basic level. However, it should be noted that the test is not particularly hard and has a pass rate of approximately 90%.

Once the job application process is complete and you have been formally employed by the company, your new employer will lodge an application for a work permit at the Territorial Migration Service on your behalf. The application may involve your having to provide translated, notarised versions of your qualifications or certificates. Note that your work permit only allows you to work in the region where you reside, though a few professions are exempt from this restriction.

In the meantime, your prospective employer needs to obtain an official visa invitation letter and send it to you. Once they have done this, you can apply for a foreign employee (inosotrudnik) visa. As soon as you have received this visa, you are ready to begin your new career in Russia.


In a recent survey, most Russians were found to be pleased with their working conditions, which are after all a clear improvement on those in Soviet times. Having said that, pay is generally lower than the locals would hope for. Meanwhile, pay for Western expats is very often satisfactory, and expats in Moscow are some of the richest in the world.

However, pay and conditions for other migrant workers (mostly from other former USSR member states) cannot be said to be so good. They are often subject to abuses and unsafe working conditions. This is especially true of those working in the informal economy.

Note that this page deals with the working conditions and the procedures you need to go through to immigrate to Russia to work. For more information about working in Russia, see our Employment and Business articles.




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