Legal advice for foreign employees

When a person comes to work in Russia, there are two legal spheres which present the biggest challenge – employment and migration law.

Russian employment law borrowed many soviet features and leaves some foreigners (especially those coming from the U.S.) bewildered by the level of employee protection it provides. I outline some features one should bear in mind in this article.   

Russian migration law is famous for being quite unhospitable. Deportations for minor violations of migration law are common. Recently (in March, 2016) two American citizens were tried in Saint-Petersburg for violation of migration rules. The violation was not of a severe character. For instance, one of them was employed as a general director of a language school but did not have a permit to work in this school (he had a permit to work in another place though). Nevertheless, he was sentenced for deportation.

It is true that this American violated the rules, but was his violation really worth of deportation? Unfortunately, according to article 18.8 a foreigner who broke the migration rules in Moscow, Moscow region, Saint-Petersburg or Leningrad Region is punished with a fine and a deportation. In other words, deportation is the automatic penalty for violation of any migration rules.


Some foreign friends, who live in Moscow with a history of minor violations of migration rules,  do not see deportation as am imminent danger for them because they have a family in Russia. Unfortunately, according the Decision of the Constitutional Court dated 05 March 2014 No 628-О deportation per se does not violate the right to family life. 

It shall be noted that although deportation is obviously not the most pleasant experience, it is not the worst part of the penalty. According to article 27 of Federal Law on 15 August 1996 No 114-FZ, a foreigner who has been deported from Russia cannot return for five years. This ban is automatic. It cannot be reduced or mitigated even if the subject pays a fine, shows good behaviour, and has family in Russia.

The Constitutional Court in a recent decision dated 17 February, 2016 No 5-P reviewed the fairness of automatic deportation for capital regions. In this case an applicant did not notify Moscow migration authorities about his arrival to Russia and thus was fined and scheduled for automatic removal. The Constitutional Court said the courts in capital cities shall be able to consider the circumstances of each case to determine the most appropriate and proportional punishment with due regards to the duration of the foreigners’ stay in Russia, his family situation, profession, income, and law obeying previous behavior. 

To put it simply, if a foreigner decides to work in Russia, the importance to know (and to follow) migration legal requirements cannot be over emphasized. Maybe it seems hard to observe them but it is much more difficult to see a family being separated after 15 years of marriage because of a minor violation of migration rules.