Supplying Russian Events: Immigration Focus

The visa requirements for companies providing goods and services to Russia are outlined for MEI readers by Matthew Amoils, director, ASG Immigration.

Russia is truly colossal. The world’s largest country spans nine time zones and is almost double the area of Europe. Despite its huge size, Russia’s 143m citizens remain a remarkably homogeneous group. This controversial country has an amazing culture to offer visitors besides the world renowned events it will be hosting in the coming years.

Russia will be hosting both the Sochi Winter Games in 2014 and the FIFA World Cup in 2018. There will be many visitors arriving for the purpose of temporarily supplying goods or services to the spectators, event participants, and journalists, not to mention the spectators travelling to watch these major events.


Russia’s Visa Requirements

Citizens of most countries must apply for a visa before entering Russia*. Visas are only issued at Russian Embassies and Consulates as it is not possible to obtain a Russian visa at the border. Anyone wishing to attend the Sochi Winter Games or the FIFA World Cup in Russia must plan their trip carefully. Before applying for a tourist visa, applicants must have advance lodging reservations or arrangements with their tour provider in writing. Evidence of this must be presented at the time of the visa application. Copies of these documents should also be carried for presentation upon request at the point of entry into Russia. Tourist visas are issued for up to three years but the holder may only remain in Russia for up to six months concurrently in any one year period.

Those who wish to engage in business activities such as attending meetings or conferences, negotiating (and entering into) contracts or training, but not productive work, must apply for a business visit visa. Those applying for a business visa must first obtain a letter of invitation from a Russian host organisation. Business visas can be single entry (allowing for travel into Russia once for a stay of up to three months), double entry (allowing travel to Russia twice for two stays of up to three months each) or multiple entry (allowing travel as many times as may be required within six or 12 months for a period of stay which will be limited to 90 days within a 180 day period).

Both tourist and business visa application processing times generally take between one week and 10 days although in some situations processing can take up to 20 days. Many Russian Consulates have outsourced portions of their visa application processing. In some situations it is possible to receive expedited processing of visa applications for an additional fee. Details of this can be found on the relevant Consulate’s website.

It is important to note that a foreign national who requires a visa may not be permitted to depart Russia if their visa has expired. Those travelling to Russia should bear in mind that they must leave Russia before the expiration date of their visa or they will have to apply for a new visa before being allowed to leave.


Russian Visas for Work and Business

Those wishing to engage in productive work in Russia will need a work visa. Before being able to obtain a work visa the Russian employer must have advertised the position for 30 days in order to try to find a suitable Russian national to fill the position. If no resident worker is available to fill the position, the Russian employer may apply for an Employment Permit for the potential work visa applicant. Russian employers are only permitted to employ a fixed quote of foreign workers in accordance with a pre-approved agreement with the Russian government. Once their quota is filled, it is very difficult for additional foreign workers to be hired. If an employer overestimates the number of foreign employees it wishes to hire then the government may make subsequent foreign worker employment requests more difficult for that employer.

After additional procedures, successful applicants will receive a work permit and then apply for a work visa at the relevant Russian Consulate. Work visas last for one year and must be renewed, along with a new foreign employee quota application by the employer each year. Companies wishing to employ foreign workers in time for the upcoming international sporting events should plan carefully as the work visa process can take up to three months.

It should be noted that the Russian government requires foreigners who will spend seven or more days in any particular city to register with the local police and de-register when they depart that city. Those staying in hotels will have this carried out automatically but those staying in private residences are responsible for registering themselves.

Russia has announced that there will be a special visa for those who will be participating in the upcoming sporting events, such as athletes and coaches. However, these visas will only be available to Games participants and not to any people coming for any other commercial purpose. Spectators attending events in Russia at the moment are subject to the visa requirements as outlined above. For businesses interested in sending employees to work in Russia, facilitation will probably be required from a local partner. Individuals or employees supplying goods or services to bodies closely related to the running of an event, for example directly supplying services to an event organising body, will require facilitation from a local Sponsor.


Additional Issues

The recent law banning the distribution of ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’ among minors will not have escaped the attention of most readers. This law, although not explicitly mentioning homosexuality, effectively makes it a criminal offense to hold gay pride events, speak in defence of gay rights or even claim that homosexual relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships. Unfortunately this unconscionable law was unanimously approved by the Russian State Duma and adversely affects both Russians and foreigners equally. Although it goes without saying that all visitors to another country should abide by its law, visitors to Russia must be aware that they could face up to a 100,000 Rouble fine, detention for 15 days and forced deportation should they violate this extremely broad regulation.

Needless to say, companies wishing to supply a service or goods at a major event in Russia who are not closely associated with an organising or government body are advised to commence planning their immigration arrangements well in advance.

*Holders of the following valid passports do not need a visa to enter Russia: Belarus (unlimited entry); Abkhazia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, South Ossetia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan (all of which can stay up to 90 days for any purpose); Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Fiji, Guatemala, Israel, Nicaragua, Peru, Venezuela (all of which can stay up to 90 days for tourism purposes); Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Macau, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey ( all of which can stay up to 30 days for tourism purposes); and Hong Kong (up to 14 days for tourism purposes).

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 for action taken based on the content of this article.

The author wishes to thank George W Lake, support assistant at ASG Immigration, for his assistance with the preparation of this article.

Additional information