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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No More Work Permits For Foreigners for Now

The Moscow branch of the Federal Migration Service abruptly stopped accepting new applications for foreign work permits last week, creating a new headache for companies planning to hire foreign employees.

Although the migration service declined to discuss the suspension Friday, it was confirmed by lawyers, visa agencies and foreign business lobbies familiar with the situation.

"As a consequence of the suspension, it will be impossible to obtain permissions to hire foreign nationals and individual work permits in Moscow in the near future," Baker & McKenzie said in an e-mailed statement.

Without giving any explanation, the migration service announced May 26 that it had temporarily stopped accepting new applications for work permits, the law firm said.

The migration service said applications submitted before May 26 "will be processed in a due manner."

There was no information about when the migration service might start accepting applications again, Baker & McKenzie said.

It was not immediately clear whether the suspension affected all foreigners or just those from non-CIS countries. Foreign work permits are usually divided into two categories, for citizens from other former Soviet republics and for citizens from the rest of the world.

A spokeswoman for the Moscow branch of the migration service declined to comment Friday, saying she could not discuss unofficial information sent out by private companies.

Alexei Filippenkov, director of the Visa Delight agency, said he had learned about the suspension on Thursday after one of his employees showed up at a migration service office and found a sign saying that work permit applications were no longer being accepted at the window where paperwork is usually accepted.

Applications can still be sent in by mail — but not from Moscow or the Moscow region, said the sign, a copy of which was obtained by The Moscow Times.

This effectively means that Moscow-based companies cannot apply for work permits for their foreign employees, Filippenkov said.

The migration service ordered the suspension because of an internal restructuring and because it has nearly filled its annual quota of work permits for foreigners in Moscow, said a source at a visa agency, citing information he had received from contacts within the migration service.

"This is connected with internal restructuring of the organization," said the source, who did not wish to be identified for fear of damaging his business.

"Also, they have nearly reached the quota for Moscow, and they are trying to figure out what to do about that," he added.

Filippenkov said the quota for non-CIS citizens is about 105,000 people this year.

A similar suspension occurred last September when local branches of the Federal Labor and Employment Service, which is the first stop in the application process, unexpectedly stopped accepting new applications for work permits.

The suspension — which was unexplained at the time — turned out to be connected to quota issues. The Moscow branch of the migration service realized that it nearly filled its 2007 quota for foreigner work permits, and it needed to appeal to the agency's federal headquarters to raise the quota, sources said at the time. In October, about a month later, things went back to normal and employers could apply for foreign work permits again.

It was unclear Friday why the annual quota was apparently nearly filled in May, less than halfway into 2008.

The Association of European Businesses is aware of the latest problems with work permits, a spokeswoman for the organization said Friday. "We are keeping track of the issue," she said.