(June 8, 2010) On May 7, 2010, the State Duma of the Russian Federation (lower house of the legislature) finalized amendments to the Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Individuals in the Russian Federation and to related provisions of the country's Tax Code and Budget Code. The amendments are aimed at simplifying the process of hiring highly qualified labor migrants, reducing the influx of illegal guest workers, and introducing a number of fees and payments associated with the registration of labor migrants in Russia. (State Duma Introduced Paid Permits for Labor Migrants [in Russian], NEWSRU.COM, May 12, 2010, available at http://www.newsru.com/russia/12may2010/migrants.html.)
The Law divides all labor migrants into three groups. Current procedures will not change for those who arrive in Russia according to labor quotas established by the government and issued to the employers of migrants, mostly unqualified laborers primarily employed in the construction business and janitorial services. (See also Peter Roudik, Russian Federation: Quotas for Guest Workers, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR, Mar. 2, 2008, available at //www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l20
The second group includes those who will be hired for work within their prospective employer's household, such as gardeners, housekeepers, babysitters. As of 2011, such workers will have to purchase their labor permits independently. The permits will cost about US$40 per month and will be valid for three months, with a possible extension of one year. In order to extend the permit for another year after the expiration of the first 15-month period, the worker must provide a proof of income and payment of taxes, along with the extension petition to the Federal Migration Service. By very rough estimates, about 3.4 million foreign individuals are working in Russia as household assistants without having formalized work status. (Statement of Vladimir Pligin, Chairman of the State Duma's Constitutional Law Committee, quoted in Anastasiia Berseneva & Grigori Tumanov, Migranty Vyedut po Otpechatkam [Migrants Will enter According to Fingerprints] [in Russian], GAZETA.RU, May 4, 2010, available at http://www.gazeta.ru/social/2010/05/04/3362449.shtml.) A fine in an amount equal to US$200 will be imposed on those who fail to purchase a permit on time. Patrolling local police officers will be charged with the duty of checking the legality of foreigners' presence in Russia, permits, and tax payment receipts, and they have the authority to issue fines on the spot. (See also Peter Roudik, Russian Federation: Easier Procedures for Migrant Workers, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR, Mar. 8, 2010, available at //www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l20
The third group of migrants will be comprised of highly paid specialists (those who earn more than US$80,000 per annum). Such specialists' admission to Russia will not be regulated by the existing quota system, and their entry visas, valid for a three-year period, will be issued according to an employer's statement. The Law allows the extension of this legal regime to lower-paid foreigners if the specialist will be working in a government research center.
The amended Law also changes the income tax rate for foreigners. Instead of the present flat rate of 30%, all foreign individuals working and residing in Russia permanently will be subject to the annual 13% flat income tax, the same as for Russian citizens. A provision requiring mandatory health insurance for all foreign workers, to be paid by their Russian employers, was added to the Law during the parliamentary debates. (Explanatory Note to the Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Individuals [submitted to the State Duma] [in Russian], GZT.RU, Feb. 26, 2010, available at http://www.gzt.ru/addition/-poyasniteljnaya-zapiska-/
According to Russia's Federal Migration Service, about five million foreign individuals are working in Russia presently. Only 332,000 of them are in the country legally. (Lilia Biriukova, Gosduma Uzakonit Nezakonnyh Migrantov [The State Duma Will Make Illegal Migrants Legal] [in Russian], GZT.RU, May 5, 2010, available at http://www.gzt.ru/topnews/politics/-moskovskaya-militsiya-potrebuet-u-do