Moscow cuts red tape on visas to usher in more foreign workers

Companies hiring foreign specialists to work in Russia will no longer have to obtain quotas for work permits and visas on corporate permits to hire foreigners, nor will they have to submit diplomas proving candidates' qualifications, according to a law that President Dmitry Medvedev has signed.

The new rules apply only if the employer is Russian or the local branch of a foreign company, and the employee's annual earnings exceed at least two million rubles ($60,000). Work permits and visas will be valid upto three years, up from the present maximum of one year.

With the new laws in place, Russia will, according to auditing firm Ernst & Young, "go from having one of the least welcoming to one of the most positive immigration systems in the world for top talent."

Foreign business representatives welcomed the reform. "This is something we have been pushing for years," said Andrew Somers, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce.

But experts say much depends on how the new rules will be applied.

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