Obtaining a work permit

According to the results of the human rights monitoring conducted by ADC Memorial, only 10% of migrant workers obtain work permits via the Federal Migration Service (FMS), while others prefer going to the mediators and legal agenicies. When foreigners come to FMS, they face many obstacles and difficulties in legalising their economic status. The ADC Memorial worker, Mairam Samikova, decided to receive a work permit on her own without help of any mediators. Here is her story about obstacles she faced while obtaining a work permit.

Last year I thought that if I had a work contract the main problem would be solved. It turned out to be false. After I received a work contract, I and my sister went to obtain documents in the FMS department at Krasnykh Tekstilschikov str., 15.

The first problem was an enormous queue. Many migrants from Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Moldova, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan wait for 30 and even 50 days and cannot apply for work permits, because only 15 people are accepted during a day. The documents can be supplied only on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It is very difficult to wait until your turn comes. You can go for obtaining your documents from 8 a.m. Then at least 40 minutes inside, waiting until people who have problems with their documents will be sent out.

I could not make it to the 15 accepted people for two days. On the first day I came at the department at 6 a.m., but there were already 40 people in the queue. I had no chance to get into the biulding. Later it turned out that there were “mediators” in the queue who could “talk” to the guards for 3,000 rub. There were discounts for groups and working teams. This business went very well – many people use the service. These “businessmen” also offer a room in the dormitory in front of the FMS department.

I refused to pay the mediators and managed to get into the building only at the third time. At 4 a.m. I ordered a taxi to be the first in the queue. I was the sixth in the queue but could not make it inside because 8 more people came into the building from another side. Nobody knew how they got in there. I and my sister were really angry as we were forced to pay the guard to get into the building. Then we learned about the mediator named Askar who could make a deal with the gards for 3,000 rub and get you inside. Askar told us that in January 2011 he tried to obtain a work permit but it was very difficult. He and his wife slept at the FMS depatrment. Then he realised that he could cooperate with the gaurds and make money from it. Askar and his two colleagues make 6-8 lists of the 15 people and pay the guards so they would let inside only their clients.

The senior guard of the FMS department, Dmitry Ianovich, takes the lists from Askar and then lets the people from the lists go inside. Once a guard let a wrong person go inside, and when he realised his mistake he took that person out of the building. “You are not our client, I made a mistake”. I did not pay the mediator and could not get inside for three weeks in a row. I was so angry at the guards that I even argued with them. I told the other migrants that they can go to human righst organisations to protect their rights as the guards take bribes from migrants. The FMS guard said: “Nowdays everyone wants something. It does not depend on us. There was an order from Moscow. Go and complain there”. There is only one window to accept the documents so this business did go very well. A mediator pays a guard 200 rubles for one application. If the mediator has 10 applications, the guard can earn 2,000 rub immediately.

Even when migrants try to pay less and want to stay legally on the territory of Russia, the beraucracy and corruption of the FMS work stop them from doing that. It seems much easier for migrants to use mediators’ help than to obtain the documents on their own. Even in the bank at Krasnykh Tekstilschikov str., 10, the mediators pay state fees for migrants. There are a lot of mediators – both migrants and St Petersburg residents – in the FMS department. They usually work in pairs, a woman and a man, dividing the work between them – taking documents from migrants and giving them to commercial companies. Andrei, Sokhib and Olga, Khimkat and Shakhnoza and many others are among these businessmen. They take 15-17,000 rub for one migrant (around 3,000 for mediator’s service, 12,000 go to commercial companies and some money to bribe the guards).

Migrants often seek for the help of commercial companies. These companies are even advertised in the courtyard of the main FMS department. There was a Ukrainian girl staying with me in the queue for several days. She is an economist. She had a job, a work contract, paid state fee and certificate of medical investigation, but she had to wait in the queue. Apparently she paid 9,000 rubles more to a commercial company as she was afraid of losing her job – she missed too many working days waiting in the queue.. Violetta, a Korean from Tashkent, wanted to obtain a legal work permit via FMS and paid 3,500 rub for the medical tests. She had no work contract. Her three-month registration was about to expire, and she did not manage to get one-year registration. As a result, she had to pay 9,000 rub for a fictitious work contract and 2,500 rub for one-year registration to a mediator agency.

Last year FMS founded a licensed legal commercial company “United migration centre”. But this company does not have one window to accept all documents. They take 12,200 rub for one person but do not offer any facilities: migrants have to collect the whole set of documents by themselves, wait in the queues and apply for a work permit. To get a medical certificate one must wait in the huge queue as well.

Anyway, obtaining a work permit via mediators costs 15-17,000 rub, but there is no guarantee the issued work permit will be legal. The migrant will be guilty anyway. The mediator cooperating with FMS and state officers stamping fake work permits stay unpunished.

However, it is still possible to get a work permit without mediators’ help and additional costs. I managed to get into the FMS building and obtain my documents. In 10 days my permit was ready. Legal procedure of obtaining work permit cost me 5,500 rub: 2,000 for a state fee, 800 rub for the translation of my passport into Russian and 2,700 for medical tests. In spite of significant problems while obtaining work permits without help of mediating companies, migrants can get their legal work permits on their own and avoid additional costs. The only thing you need to have is steel nerves and work contract.

Mairam Samikova

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