This article was prepared by the Aires Immigration team in conjunction with Owl Immigration ltd.
Due to recent events, companies employing Russian nationals are looking to relocate these employees out of Russia. Travel and immigration options for Russian nationals have been limited by recent closures of air routes and visa processing facilities, and by the sanctions regime.
The Aires Immigration team seeks to summarize some potential immigration options for Russians. We then highlight some of the key considerations for employers seeking to relocate their Russian national and Russia-based employees. Finally, we examine in more detail certain destination countries which may be particularly practical options.
Several of Russia’s fellow member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and other neighboring countries permit visa-free entry for Russian nationals with work permission.
Certain other countries around the world permit visa-free entry for Russian nationals, but usually require a separate application for work authorization, which may need to be submitted from outside the country. The permitted period of stay varies by destination country. Apart from the options listed in the “Destinations” section below, Russian nationals can also enter the following countries visa-free, among others: Argentina, Azerbaijan, Chile, Israel, Malaysia, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Serbia, South Africa, Tajikistan, Thailand, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.
Another option is a remote work or digital nomad visa, whereby permission is granted to work for an employer based in one country while living in another country. In addition to the countries mentioned in the “Destinations” section below, remote work visas are also available (or at least announced) in Albania, Barbados, Bermuda, Costa Rica, Panama, Sri Lanka, and several European countries.
It is important to consider the following potential pitfalls:
- Although most countries are still accepting entry visa applications from Russian nationals (apart from e.g., Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania currently), destination countries may have suspended some of their consular services in Russia or for Russian nationals at their consulates in third countries, or they may have deprioritized applications from Russian nationals as they cope with applications from Ukrainian refugees.
- Security screening of Russian nationals may take extra time during the current situation.
- Some immigration services, such as visa fee payment processing, may be experiencing technical difficulties due to the sanctions regime against Russian banks and businesses.
- Russian nationals may have difficulty obtaining certain supporting documents often required for work visa and other long-term applications (such as police clearance, educational, birth, or marriage certificates, or obtaining legalization or translation services and submitting biometric information) in Russia or in a third country from which they are applying for a visa, residence permit, or work authorization.
- Although many Russians may wish to relocate to nearby European countries, the Russian government has expanded (Directive No. 430-r of March 5, 2022) its Unfriendly Countries List to include the EU member states, Albania, Andorra, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Micronesia, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States. Russian nationals working or running businesses in these countries may need to apply to the Russian government for a permit to perform certain transactions.
- As always, employers need to take into account their employees’ nationalities, dependents, experience and qualifications, salaries, language skills, and medical statuses, as well as their recent travel histories and current locations. In addition, it is usually easier to move employees to destinations where the employing company has its own entity which can act as sponsor or employer.
Employers of foreign national highly qualified specialist workers in Russia who wish to move these employees out of Russia should note the following:
- To maintain their employees’ statuses of highly qualified specialists, the employer needs to pay the minimum wage per month – 167,000 rubles gross. If it is impossible to pay wages (for example, in case the employee took leave at their own expense), the minimum amount of wages withinone quarter should be paid (501,000 rubles gross).
- The period of stay of a highly qualified specialist outside Russia should not exceed 6 months. If this period is exceeded, the work permit will be cancelled.
Among the destinations which may be of particular interest to employers of Russian nationals are the following.
In accordance with the agreement on the free movement of workers in place between member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Russian nationals can enter Armenia visa-free and remain there for up to 180 days in a one-year period. To extend their stay, they must apply for a temporary residence card after obtaining a work permit.
Russian nationals can enter Brazil without a visa and apply to change status to a residence permit with work authorization, or they can apply for work and residence authorization at the consulate in their home country (some immigration routes are only available via a consulate).
Several documents in support of the application for temporary residence with work authorization, such as educational certificates, birth certificates, and police clearance certificates, may have to be notarized, legalized, and/or translated.
Brazil has also implemented a visa for “digital nomads” who are employed or provide services outside Brazil and wish to live in and work remotely from Brazil for up to one year (renewable). The applicant may also work remotely from Brazil with a tourist visa (VIVIS) or without a visa (if visa exempt), provided they do not exceed the allowed period of stay. Applicants must have a minimum monthly income of USD 1500 or an available bank balance of at least USD 18,000 at the time of the application and must apply at a Brazilian consulate abroad.
Russian nationals can enter and remain in Georgia visa-free for up to 12 months and are entitled to work without obtaining a work permit. While in Georgia, they can apply for a work and residence permit on the basis of an employment contract with a Georgia-based company.
An employment visa permits foreign nationals to work in India either with a local contract or on assignment, or as a consultant, as a technician or engineer providing after-sales installation or service to fulfill a contract, or to provide technical support or transfer of knowledge on behalf of a foreign company.
The employment visa is usually issued for up to 24 months initially, with some exceptions, and is renewable up to 10 years. A sponsoring local entity is required, and certain consulates may request a police clearance certificate. Supporting documents should be translated into English if necessary.
In accordance with the agreement on the free movement of workers in place between member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Russian nationals can enter Kazakhstan visa-free for an indefinite period. Work is permitted on the basis of an employment contract with a company in Kazakhstan, without the need to obtain a work permit.
Within 30 days of signing the local employment contract, the applicant should be registered with the tax authorities and should request a personal identification number.
However, notification of the arrival of a foreign national must be submitted by the inviting organization to the migration service, in writing or online, within 3 business days of arrival.
Since April 11, 2022, Interdepartmental Committee (IDC) permission is no longer required for foreign nationals entering Kazakhstan by air or land.
Russian nationals who remain employed and paid outside Mexico may apply for a consular entry visa “for non-remunerated activities,” sponsored by a local entity, for stays up to 180 days.
For longer stays, this can be converted in Mexico into a temporary residence card valid for up to one year, and renewable for up to three more years.
For local employment contracts in Mexico, work visa approval must be obtained from the Mexican immigration authorities before the consular visa application.
Serbia has not suspended flights to or from Russia. Russian nationals can enter Serbia visa-free and can still obtain work and residence permits or register as self-employed.
Turkey permits visa-free entry for Russian nationals for an initial 60-day stay, which can be extended by 30 days by exiting and re-entering the country.
However, to obtain work authorization, they must either obtain a visa, then a temporary (one-year) residence permit, then a work permit (can take over a year), or apply for a work and residence permit with a consular work visa before traveling to Turkey (can take over 6 months).
Notarized and translated educational certificates and notarized, legalized, and translated police clearance certificates must be submitted.
United Arab Emirates
Russian nationals can obtain a visa on arrival valid for a stay of up to 90 days within a 180-day period, which can be extended with a tourist or business visa for an additional 90 days.
An employment visa can be obtained before traveling to the UAE, or by changing visa status post arrival. The work permit must be based on an employment contract with an employer in the UAE. Applicants should allow time for the translation and legalization of educational certificates. A medical examination and biometrics collection are required after entry.
Another faster option is a remote work visa, issued for one year and renewable, which permits qualifying foreign nationals to work in the UAE for an employer abroad without a local employment contract or a local sponsor. The application can be submitted after arrival in the UAE or from abroad. Dubai also has its own similar, virtual working program.
There are lots of practical options for relocating Russian national employees. However, it is crucial that employers consider all the additional difficulties that Russian citizens may currently face.
If you have any questions on this topic or would like to discuss further, please reach out to your Aires representative or the Aires Immigration team.