Immigration Focus: Russia

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Russia is the world's largest country and has been a sporting superpower for decades. Major events that have taken place in Russia include the Olympics in 1980 and the Eurovision song contest in 2009 (both in Moscow). In the future, Russia will host the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, a Formula One Grand Prix in Sochi from 2014 onwards and the 2014 Winter Olympics, also in Sochi. Russia is also the host of the FIFA World Cup in 2018.

In addition to international visitors coming to watch these major events, there will be many people arriving for the purpose of temporarily supplying goods and services to the spectators, event participants, journalists and others. General visa requirements for large–scale eventsEntry requirements for people providing goods and services at major events can vary significantly for different countries. Work permission is generally required if a person is working in a foreign country; however it is also the case that special arrangements are sometimes made for large–scale events. Russia's visa requirements Business visitors may spend up to 90 days in Russia within each period of 180 days. Like many other countries, Russia has a system whereby certain nationalities are required to obtain a visit visa before they travel there. Nationals of the following countries do not need a visa before travelling to Russia as business visitors and can stay for up to 90 days: Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Thailand, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Venezuela. Nationals of the following countries are also allowed to obtain permission to enter upon arrival in Russia but are exceptions in terms of the time allowed in Russia: Hong Kong (14 days), Montenegro (30 days), Serbia (with biometric passports only; 30 days). Nationals of all other countries need to obtain visas before travelling to Russia. In terms of work, Russia has a system in place whereby visa applicants undergo a procedure in coordination with their sponsoring company or entity in Russia, which takes approximately four months to complete. The work permission process also involves sponsoring companies making a prospective application for the number of anticipated permits required for the coming year to the Russian authorities. While the countries listed above can visit Russia 'visa–free', nationals of all countries are subject to this quota system. Thus, obtaining work permission for Russia takes time. Russia is not a signatory to the General Agreement on Trade in Services and therefore has no international obligations in terms of arrangements in place to facilitate the entry of service suppliers for the purpose of negotiating and/or entering into a contract for the purpose of supplying services. Russia's visa requirements for suppliers for the 2014 Winter Olympics In terms of special visa categories or streamlined processing arrangements for the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Russian government has already approved certain exceptions to the rules governing the processing of visas, work permits and registration. Thus, within the period of preparation for the Games, foreign nationals involved in the organisation of the Games, as well as those who take part in the Games, are entitled to visa–free entry to Russia provided they hold a valid passport and Olympic identification card issued by the International Olympic Committee or the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee (and have undergone any other formalities that may be required based on the activities to be undertaken). The period within which these exceptions operate is already in effect and will remain so until some time after the Games conclude. The identification card gives its holder the right to participate in the Games and carry out any other activities associated with organising and conducting the Games. For companies supplying a service at Sochi 2014 on behalf of or at the invitation of the Russian government, an employment permit will not be required if the foreign national signs a labour or civil law agreement with the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee, or a company that is an official service provider of the Committee. Work permits (separate to employment permits) may still be required depending on the circumstances; however, the application process will be expedited. It is also worth noting that government application fees are not required for work permits, invitation letters and visa issuance/extensions for foreign nationals and/or companies in these circumstances. Another concession is that an employer will not be required to notify the authorities before bringing in a foreign employee. A further concession that relates to foreign nationals participating in the Games and companies assisting in Games preparations is that registration with the local police will not be required. Although the Russian government may continue to make concessions, companies wishing to supply a service or goods at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia who do not currently have an agreement with the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee or are not official Sochi 2014 service providers are advised to consider potential arrangements well in advance. About the AuthorsCameron Stone works for ASG Immigration Limited in London and is a qualified Australian immigration adviser (MARN 0853023). He can be contacted on +44 20 7299 3330 or via e–mail at cameron@asgvisa. com. Timur Beslangurov is a managing partner of VISTA Foreign Business Support in Moscow. He can be contacted on +7 495 933 78 22 or via email at tbis@vfbs. ru. This article is not intended to be a complete statement of the law relating to the subject matter. Advice should always be taken on specific matters and no responsibility can be accepted by ASG Immigration Limited or VISTA Foreign Business Support for action taken based on the content of this article. Footnote:On 17 August 2010, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will drop entry visa requirements for players and guests if it is awarded the 2018 or 2022 FIFA World Cup. Russia, England, the United States, Belgium–Netherlands and Spain–Portugal are in the race to host either the World Cup's 21st or 22nd edition, while Japan, Australia, Qatar and South Korea have applied solely for the 2022 finals. In April 2010, Putin gave governmental guarantees regarding stadium construction, security, entry rules for players, referees and fans and tax breaks for competitors, in accordance with FIFA bidding agreement requirements. The former Russian President has now moved to smooth entry into the country, telling officials during FIFA's inspection of Russia: " If we get the honour (of staging the 2018 finals) we can offer additional government guarantees regarding visa–free entry for participants and guests. " The Russian government previously waived entry visa requirements for the 2008 UEFA Champions League final, which Manchester United won after a penalty shootout against Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow. The FIFA inspection team visited Moscow, St Petersburg, Sochi and Kazan in mid–August 2010 to help aid its decision regarding the location of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, which will be announced in December 2010. JANUARY 2012 UPDATERussian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has announced that the country will allow visa–free travel for fans at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Putin was speaking in late January 2012 during the centenary celebrations of the Russian Football Union (RFU) in Saint–Petersburg – an event that was also attended by FIFA president Sepp Blatter and UEFA counterpart Michel Platini. The staging of the World Cup across such a huge nation has already caused concerns amongst critics, but Putin added the Russian government is seeking to ease travel logistics for visitors to the country. Russia has decided to let in all the fans for the 2018 World Cup if they have tickets, said Putin, according to AFP. What's more, we are even considering the option of letting fans use their tickets to travel between host cities for free. Platini added that UEFA is also considering a visa–waiver system for this summers European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. The problem with entry visas is a political problem, said Platini. We need an agreement between Ukraine and Poland so that there are no difficulties for the fans.

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