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1 Aug, 2008 13:30

Work visas adding to problems for international business in Russia

Moscow's slashed its quota of foreigners it'll let in next year to just 500,000. The news comes despite President Medvedev admitting the country needs more foreign workers. This is creating some problems for foreign businessmen in Russia.

On Friday a German investment group bought Siemens' cordless phone unit. Its Russian branch will re-register October the 1st as a separate company, meaning its workers need new visas. Joerg Weissbach, Commercial Director, Home and Office Communications Devices, Siemens Russia, now faces the chop, purely because the government's reached its visa quota this year and won't issue any more.

We have to apply for the new quota for this new legal entity, we were informed by our colleagues that in Moscow the work permits' open quota were empty. 

AAR, the company representing the Russian shareholders in TNK-BP, told Business Today that Robert Dudley isn't the only high-profile figure denied a visa.  Their CEO, Stan Polovets, is in America, also waiting. Alfa Bank economist Erik DePoy says the Siemens case “makes you wonder what the Immigration Service is thinking.” But, he points out, the world economic crisis has made foreigners scapegoats across the globe.

Italy's Lega Nord Party came to power in April in coalition with Prime Minister Berlusconi on the back of posters saying Italians will be wiped out like the American Indians if they allow immigration. But Italy’s Industry Minister, Claudio Scajola, sees the benefits of immigration when it comes to Italian companies in Russia.

Our largest energy company ENI’s had terrific results with Gazprom.  Today Energy Minister Shmatko assured me that he will further open up the Russian gas market.  Russian economic growth itself will foster an open immigration policy.

Experts say Russia needs foreign experts more than ever, as its finally restored the industrial capacity lost after the Soviet collapse.  President Medvedev admitted to the EU that Russia's immigrant quotas should go up, not down. But warned on Thursday even his orders can take his bureacrats years to carry out.