By Larry Harding, President and Founder, High Street Partners
As reported to us by Local Service Provider (LSP) partner VISTA Foreign Business Support, the Federal Migration Service (FMS) of Russia issued a decision earlier this month that, while interesting and in some ways almost humorous, is actually a perfect illustration of the kinds of issues that are misunderstood or ignored by companies and organizations who send their employees outside the country. This is especially true when the visits are only temporary assignments, or even extremely short-term trips.
Specifically, the FMS issued penalties to members of four bands (“Snap”, “East-17”, “La Bouche” and “Culture Beat”) that performed in Moscow on March 9th, 2012, at a Disco of the 90s show. The penalties arose because the foreign band members didn’t have work permits in Russia, having entered the country only on tourist visas. While the individual penalties were reasonably small (approx $160 USD), the event organizers were penalized a significant amount (approx $25,000 USD). The rationale used by the FMS was that the main criteria for requiring a work permit is the type of activity that will be conducted in Russia, not the length of time (or lack thereof) a foreign national might stay in Russia. This is believed to be the first time that the FMS has cracked down in this way for this type of activity.
The problem specifically in Russia is that there isn’t an overly practical way to easily undertake an activity like this in a more compliant manner, as the country does not have any sort of a special visa category for such situations. Unless one is set up, going forward, artists would need to obtain a standard work permit good for one year. The process for obtaining such a permit can take up to three months and is not guaranteed to be successful. The other option is a Highly Qualified Specialist work permit, good for three years, which takes longer to obtain and is even less certain to be granted. There are also tax and permanent establishment (PE) issues which arise if/when actual work permits are utilized. This recent FMS decision is not inconsistent with the general trend over the last few years, where various hurdles have been erected in the path of foreigners entering the Russian market.
More generally however, nearly all organizations who have sent, or wish to send, employees into locations outside of the US are significantly vexed by immigration challenges not totally unlike the example above. There are two issues at hand:
However, there are organizations, like HSP, that are equipped to handle these types of matters, in ways that are as respectful of the compliance requirements themselves as the need to “get things done” sensibly. We urge anyone with questions related to immigration matters, even rock bands considering tours that their musicians and roadies will be taking to foreign lands, to contact our experts.