Looking for a job in Russia? — Please be so kind as to learn Russian
As of 1 January 2015, foreigners wishing to work in Russia will have two options: 1) learn Russian and master the basics of Russian history and laws in Russian, or 2) earn no less than RUB 2 million (gross) per year at a Russian company to be issued a work permit as a ‘highly qualified specialist’. This is due to the new changes to Russian immigration laws.
Earlier, a basic command of Russian linguistic skills was a must only for CIS immigrants arriving in Russia without a visa to work in the utilities, retail or consumer service industries. This is quite understandable as working in the retail or consumer service industries requires an ability to speak the clients’ native language.
From now on, all foreigners who want to obtain a general work permit (not the ‘highly-qualified-specialist’ one) will have to prove their knowledge of Russian.
What language knowledge is expected of a migrant employee?
Foreigners must have a basic command of Russian as a foreign language and know the fundamentals of Russian history and laws. This will have to be evidenced through a unified integrated examination (an interview or tests in the Russian language, and written tests in Russian history and law).
Russian history and law tests will include up to 20 multiple choice questions in Russian with four possible answers each, only one being correct.
Foreign employees who have studied Russian at school or language courses and still remember something of it will pass the tests easily. Please see some examples of these basic level tests below (only one answer is correct):
Ты уже видел … ?
(А) наш мастер
(Б) нашему мастеру
(В) нашего мастера
Скажите, пожалуйста, … стоит снять квартиру в этом районе?
The last question will be a problem even for native speakers of Russian as any of the three alternatives is possible grammatically and contextually.
To pass the history exam, one will have to know, for example, who the first man in space was, when the first revolution in Russia took place, when the USSR collapsed, and which religion Russia adopted in the tenth century.
The authority to conduct exams and issue certificates will be granted to certain educational institutions both in Russia and abroad. All certificates issued will be recorded in a unified federal register.
What to do if you can’t speak Russian?
If a foreigner is short on time or unable to learn Russian, he/she will still be able to obtain a work permit in Russia – as a highly qualified specialist with an annual salary of no less than RUB 2 million. However, this option will not be available:
- for customer service employees in the retail sector for consumer goods (including pharmaceuticals), irrespective of the product range, sales floor area or customer service method (unless the employee is a sales executive);
- for preachers and other religious representatives;
- for companies which, in the past two years, have been subjected to administrative liability for unlawful employment of foreign employees in Russia.
Therefore, a highly qualified specialist (CEO or other senior executives) who does not speak Russian but wishes to extend his/her work permit or obtain a new one may be at risk if his/her Russian employer does not strictly follow applicable immigration regulations.