Work Permit Rules Eased for Managers

Foreign managers or specialists who fall under certain categories can now bypass migration quotas normally in place for foreign employees, a senior Federal Migration Service official said Tuesday. The official, Oleg Artamonov, told a meeting of the American Chamber of Commerce that his agency was issuing work permits for some Moscow-based foreigners even though Moscow reached its annual quota for foreign employees in late May.

A directive allowing the migration service to issue the permits for foreign specialists who are needed by Russia has been drafted by the Health and Social Development Ministry, a ministry spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday. The directive has not yet been registered by the Justice Ministry, but it has been put into practice by the migration service since July 24, said migration service spokesman Konstantin Poltoranin. "Qualified people form no more than 1 to 3 percent of all foreign employees, and it was within our power to put them outside the quota," Poltoranin said. While the directive has been in effect for two weeks, it was not well known until Tuesday's announcement, said Andrew Somers, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia. "There's a lot of confusion right now," Somers said. "We became aware of [this directive] last month, but we needed this confirmation today. "They ran out of quotas for the year, and none of us were aware there was this exception for top managers." Tuesday's meeting was packed with human resource managers, in the largest attendance at an AmCham event for the past two years. However, confusion still seemed to dominate proceedings, as manager after manager stood up to ask questions and share horror stories of bureaucratic hurdles.

Current migration laws still contain a lot of contradictions, and the latest attempt to ease the rules might just make matters worse, Alexei Filipenkov, partner at Visa Delight, a visa agency that specializes in obtaining work permits for foreigners, said by telephone. "They can say whatever they want, they can tell us they want to make it better. But in the end, it ends up being worse. … People could be dying, and he would just say, 'We'll look into it,'" Filipenkov said, referring to Artamonov. Somers said the process of adapting to new regulations is an arduous one for any country, not just Russia. But, Somers said, the process is much better now that ministries and other government agencies are allowed to announce new regulations on their web sites. "Years ago, you didn't know what the law was until you got nailed," he said.

The "little steps" taken to improve the regulations for foreign employees show the positive outlook of the migration service, said Yevgeny Reizman, a partner at Baker & McKenzie who heads the employment and migration law department for the CIS. While the migration service only implements laws, not writes them, its opinion is still very important, Reizman said. "Now there's a foundation for cautious optimism," he said. "In Russia, as we know, the attitudes of those carrying out the law are a big factor." It remained unclear Tuesday exactly which categories of foreign workers would be exempt from the quota system. "I'll have to pore over the web site" to check, Somers said.

(06 August 2008 By Anna Yukhananov / Special to "The Moscow Times")


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