The Russian Legal Environment for Academic Mobility
The issue of the legal status of foreign workers including foreign researchers has always been essential. National legal environment for labour migration in Russia encompasses a set of several federal laws.
The Federal Law #115-FZ (25 July 2007) defines the legal status of foreign citizens in the Russian Federation, and governs relations between foreign citizens and the bodies of state authority, bodies of local self-government and the officials thereof arising out of the stay (residence) of foreign citizens in the Russian Federation and exercise of labor, entrepreneurial or other activities in the Russian Federation by them. Amendments to the Law were continuously introduced from 2003 to 2011.
The Federal Law #86 from 19 May 2010 has introduced the status of Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) for foreign citizens. According to the law, the obtainment of the HQS status is a notification (rather than request) procedure and the only threshold is the proven level of annual income. The main benefits of HQS are unrestricted work permit, regular 13% income tax (versus special inc. tax of 30% for non-residents), up to 90 days free from registration as a migrant, guaranteed medical insurance, benefits for family members. Some derogations were introduced with amendments of the Federal Law #385 from 23 December, 2010. This decreased the HQS proven annual income from RUB2 million down to RUB1 million (for HQS employed at HEIs only). All international academic staff employed by HEIs “for teaching and for research activity” were released from obtainment of quotas and work permits.
To get a work permit for a highly-skilled foreign specialist, Russian employers need to submit just four documents to the Federal Migration Service: a request for a work permit, a copy of the labor agreement, a written obligation to pay expenses if the worker is expelled from the country, and copies of documents proving that the employer has the right to invite members of the privileged workforce. Employers no longer have to ask the Federal Migration Service whether they can invite a highly qualified foreign worker. Before, employers had to send their requests to the Migration Service in advance, specifying the position, salary and reasons why a foreigner should earn more than his or her Russian colleagues. The privileged foreigners have also been exempted from Russia’s work permit quota system, which is an important advantage. In the past, employers had to request the right to hire a certain number of foreign workers every spring and if the quota was met, a company would have to wait until the following year to make any new hires. Now this is no longer the case.
The Russian migration regime was also simplified during the last year. The Federal Law #42 from 20 March, 2011 liberalized the registration regime. The period for which a foreigner should be registered has been increased from 3 up to 7 working days. The registration can be made by the employing (inviting) organisation. The Federal Law #80 from 21 April 2011 allows teaching for holders of visa types different from “teacher”, i.e. “business” or “humanitarian cooperation”.
The issue of recognition of degrees is another essential point for academic mobility. In order to simplify this procedure the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitriy Medvedev, signed in December, 2011 a law, which allows to recognize foreign education and qualification certificates affected under the appropriate international agreement on mutual recognition and equivalence without any additional procedures “automatically”. A list of the top ranking 200-300 HEIs abroad, the diplomas of which will be recognized “automatically”, will be defined by the Cabinet of Ministers of Russia in the nearest future.
The Russian Government uses a wide range of instruments to support the mobility of researchers and students. Currently it focuses mainly on the following areas: measures to attract leading scientists to Russian institutions of higher education (Mega-grants), state support for development of innovation infrastructure in leading universities (with participation of foreign experts to transfer experience and knowledge), establishment of the National Research Universities (NRU) and Federal Universities (FU), implementation of the Federal Targeted Programme “Scientific & Scientific-Pedagogical Human Resources for Innovative Russia in 2009-2013” and Scholarships of the President of the Russian Federation for students and PhD students training abroad.
Under the instruction of the President and the Government of the Russian Federation new programmes and instruments to support i) education and training (including in magistracy and postgraduate studentship) of Russian students and young specialists in leading universities and research centres abroad; ii) attraction of experienced foreign specialists to work in Russian universities and research institutions, including as supervisors and administrators in NRU and FU will be elaborated and initiated in Russia in the nearest future.
In particular the Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of State of the United States of America and the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation on Educational Cooperation was signed on 10 February 2012. The goal of the Memorandum is to promote academic mobility between Russia and US and joint projects and programmes in education. Joint projects on education of Russian students, PhD fellows and young scientists in US and vice versa US scholars in Russia will be supported. The first tender on fellowships in US will be announced this year. The memorandum has become a result of a fruitful cooperation within the joint working group on education in the framework of the bilateral Russian-American Presidential Commission.
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