Getting a Work Permit in Ukraine
Last update: Jan. 15, 2011 (info on propiska updated)
Recent legislation in Ukraine makes it clear that in order to legally receive wages in Ukraine a foreigner must obtain a work permit. For many years it was possible for foreigners to register as private entrepreneurs and render services such as teaching English or translating while paying a fixed monthly tax. Often language schools would encourage their native teachers to register as private entrepreneurs rather than trying to get them work permits. Some Ukrainian businesses would have their Ukrainian employees register as private entrepreneurs rather than take them on as regular staff, which meant a larger tax burden and numerous other obligations.
Reasons to get a work permit in Ukraine
For expats seeking to work in Ukraine for any substantial period of time, obtaining a work permit should be a top priority. Not only does this legalize your work activities, but it gives you the full right to reside in Ukraine year-round. According to recent visa regulations (which are not yet being widely enforced), only holders of immigration visas and student visas are entitled to be in Ukraine year-round. Other categories of visas allow you to stay in Ukraine for just 6 months out of each calendar year. The work visa, or IM-1 visa, is one of the few types granting you the right to year-round residency. Again, this regulation is not yet being widely enforced as regards business visas.
Many potential employers are hesitant to go through the paperwork, but this might change as more and more organizations become familiar with the process and are successful in obtaining permits. Hopefully, Ukrainian officials will not make things harder than they need to be and will not use the convoluted work permit process as a way to earn "side money." As you will see below, the bureaucracy involved in getting a work permit is formidable. Some foreigners even think that getting a Ukrainian work permit is a big mistake.
Who can obtain a work permit
To obtain a work permit, you must have been accepted to work for a company in Ukraine. You cannot do the paperwork by yourself as an independent contractor; many of the required documents can only be provided by an employer.
Steps to getting a Ukrainian work permit
To get all the documents ready your potential employer will need to be cooperative and punctual. There are a lot of documents they'll need to submit. Here we'll cover the steps that the foreign applicant needs to worry about.
To do some of the required steps you probably need to be in Ukraine. Someone else can do some steps for you through a power of attorney. To receive your IM-1 visa upon being issued a work permit you will need to leave Ukraine. Try going to the Krakow Ukrainian consulate or one of the other consulates near Ukraine.
College diploma with apostille
The first and most time-consuming thing you'll need to do upon being accepted for a job in Ukraine is to obtain a college diploma document with an apostille — a special government stamp or seal that confirms the document is legitimate and to be recognized as valid in all countries that signed the Hague Convention of 1961 (which includes Ukraine and most of the world).
If you're in Ukraine, someone back home will need to take care of this for you. In the U.S. an apostille can be obtained at a state government office. In other countries the procedure will be different. You'll need to call around to find out where, when, and how much.
This college diploma certificate with apostille will then need to be mailed to Ukraine and officially translated into Ukrainian.
After getting started on the college diploma, you'll need to receive a taxpayer's identification code if you don't already have one. In Kiev, you go to the central city tax office at Sholudenka 33/19 any workday between 9:30 and 18:00 (watch out for lunch hour, presumably from 1 to 2 pm) with your passport and fill out a small form. You'll need to have a copy in hand of your passport and an official Ukrainian translation (i.e. certified by a notary) to pick up the taxpayer number several days later.
Police clearance certificate
You'll also need to pick up a police clearance certificate confirming the absence of a criminal record. If you're in Ukraine, the procedure is straightforward. Every city should have a special window at the central police administration office for obtaining this certificate. You'll need to go there in person with your passport and an officially translated copy (i.e. certified by a notary; xerox copies seem to be accepted) and fill out a certificate request form. After several days you can come back and pick it up. It's valid for one month. In Kiev there is an office that can do accelerated processing (3 business days) for a reasonable fee: vul. Klovskyy Uzviz, 13, tel. (044) 451-44-53.
If you're not in Ukraine, you'll need to get a police clearance certificate from your most recent place of residence. This might be difficult if you're neither in Ukraine nor your home country.
Documents and procedures for employers
Meanwhile, your future employer needs to be on the ball and get a lot of things done. Most notably, they'll need to publicly announce the job vacancy you are to fill and notify the Employment Center of it at least 1 to 2 months before submitting the work permit application. They will need to demonstrate that they were unable to find Ukrainian citizens with the qualifications necessary for the job and that it is necessary for them to hire a foreign citizen.
Your employer will need to communicate closely with the Employment Center to make sure they have taken all the necessary steps for submitting a proper work permit application. Here is the official list of documents they'll need to submit:
1. a completed work permit application
2. two 3.5 x 4.5 cm color photos of the foreign applicant
3. written substantiation of the need to hire a foreigner, as well as confirmation that the employer can provide the necessary conditions for residence and work
4. a duly executed document (order, extract from minutes, proxy, etc.) demonstrating the right of the person submitting the application to represent the employer's interests before the Employment Center
5. a certificate from the state tax body showing that the employer has paid all taxes and duties (mandatory payments)
6. a certificate from the Employment Center showing the employer has no debts to the Unemployment Fund
7. a receipt of payment of the application fee
8. a copy of the draft employment contract certified by the employer
9. a statement, authorized by the employer's official seal and signature, confirming that the workplace or position for which the work permit 10. will be issued does not require Ukrainian citizenship and does not require the granting of access to state secrets
a) a certificate from the Ministry of Internal Affairs showing the foreigner's presence or absence of convictions ("Ukrainian police clearance certificate")
b) if the foreigner is not in Ukraine at the moment of submission of the work permit application, a certificate from the authorized body of the country of origin or temporary residence showing that the foreigner is not serving a criminal sentence and is not under criminal investigation
11. a properly certified copy of the employer's statute and certificate of registration
12. a copy of documents showing the foreigner's education and qualifications
13. a copy of the identification page of the foreigner's passport
Getting an IM-1 visa to Ukraine upon receiving a work permit
If you have been successfully issued a work permit (if not, your employer will have to wait one year before reapplying), then your next step will be to apply for an IM-1 visa. Technically you are supposed to apply in your home country, but it seems that many Ukrainian consulates abroad are issuing IM-1 visas even for nationals located out of their home country. For instance, U.S. and EU citizens can take a trip to Krakow, Poland, and receive an IM-1 visa at the Ukrainian consulate there.
Aside from filling out a standard visa application, you'll need to provide the following:
1. original work permit certificate plus copy (unnotarized is fine)
2. 3 x 4 cm photo
3. passport original plus copy of main page (unnotarized is fine)
4. letter from employer on official letterhead stating that you've been accepted for work.
The IM-1 visa is single-entry. To leave Ukraine freely after receiving it you will need to receive a temporary residency certificate through the city OVIR authorizing you to come and go as you wish.
Just when you thought it was all over, with work permit and visa now in hand, you discover that you're really only two-thirds of the way there. The list of documents to obtain a temporary residency permit (stamp or mark in the passport) is formidable, and you'll need to apply before the foreigner has spent 90 days in the country on his or her IM-1 visa:
1. a copy of the first page of the foreigner's passport with an official translation (again), as well as a copy of the page with the IM-1 visa and most recent entry stamp
2. a notarized copy of the work permit certificate
3. a copy of the foreigner's taxpayer code certificate
4. a copy of the employer's certificate of registration
5. a copy of the document from the Statistics Buro certifying that the employer (company or organization) is an economic entity (a "subject of entrepreneurial activity")
6. a copy of the bank certificate showing that the employer has a bank account
7. [CROSSED OUT] a copy of the employer's registration card from the UGIRFO GUMVS (it is unclear whether this is necessary in some cases)
8. a Ukrainian police clearance certificate (original, meaning that you must get a new one!) for the foreign applicant
9. AIDS and tuberculosis test results for the foreign applicant
10. a contract of housing purchase or a rental contract registered in the ZHEK (local housing administation), with the foreign applicant's name
11. a filled out Form No. 3 and written statements from all family members over age 17 that they do not object to the foreigner being temporarily registered at the address; these must be certified by the ZHEK
12. a copy of the state emergency medical insurance certificate for foreigners, issued for the period of the applicant's work permit by UKRINMEDSTRAKH
13. 6 matte, black-and-white 3x4 cm photos of the foreign applicant
14. a receipt of payment of the OVIR fees (you'll find out how much it is when you submit your documents)
15. a paper loose-leaf binder and 4 envelopes
16. a certificate from the tax body showing that the employer has paid all taxes (valid for 1 month)
Your employer, in turn, will have to contact the Employment Center within three business days of the foreigner beginning work, and once more within five business days of the foreigner registering with the OVIR.
For the foreigner, the most difficult points have to do with the ZHEK (since many or most landlords refuse to register foreigners at their apartments in order to avoid dealing with the ZHEK and tax authorities), AIDS and tuberculosis tests (you have to figure out where to get them), and the police clearance certificate (a few daytime trips to an office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs). Many, or maybe even virtually all foreigners end up having to be registered at an apartment where they don't actually live, because their landlords refuse to deal with the ZHEK.
Beware the time limits on the police clearance (#8) and the tax statement (#16). Note also that #16 takes two weeks to get, which no expedited service available (no, not even "informal"). If you're not careful you could end up having to get one or more of these documents twice.
You must receive your temporary residency permit within 90 days of entering Ukraine on an IM-1 visa. You can start the registration process immediately upon arrival, but expect it to take a few weeks to get everything together, and then from one week to a month (depending on the OVIR workers' workload). Until you receive your residency certificate, you are stuck in Ukraine with a single-entry visa. The only way to leave and re-enter is to get your temporary residency certificate.
Once you obtain your temporary residency
It's not over yet! Your employer has to notify the Employment Center that you have obtained temporary residency (within 5 working days, I think), and you have to go back to the ZHEK to be formally registered at your address of residence within 10 days of receiving your temporary residency permit (or else you face a fine). This registration is called a "propiska" and is a big reason why landlords don't want to register foreigners. Certain operations — such as selling the property — cannot be performed without the consent of all those registered at a given address (which typically includes only close kin). I have been informed that it should be possible to draw up a power of attorney for the foreigner so that the landlord can UNregister him or her if need be. This is all a real pain in the butt.
Getting a temporary registration propiska
You have 10 days to do this from the moment you receive your temporary residency permit. You'll need to get a special form at the ZHEK, fill it out, get the signatures of any other people who have permanent propiskas at the address (yet again!), and come back with the apartment owner to get your propiska. He/she will need to bring his documents of ownership and the so-called "domova kniha" ("house book"). You'll need to provide a copy of the foreigner's residency permit and pay a service fee of 0.83 UAH (yes, you read right — that's 10 U.S. cents) at a nearby bank according to the ZHEK's instructions. All that will get stapled together at the ZHEK along with a couple of new forms.
From there, the ZHEK officer may take these documents him or herself to the OVIR to finish off the process, or may have you do it. The officer visits the OVIR once a week on business. If you do it yourself, you'll need to stop at three different offices within the local OVIR to get stamps, marks, etc.
THEN, and only then, have you completed the temporary residency process. This must be repeated each year.
Recommendation: get the form to unregister someone while at the ZHEK, and fill it all out except for the date. This way the landlord is ensuring that he will be able to unregister the foreigner should the foreigner suddenly leave the country and never come back. This is quite important!
Paying taxes with a Ukrainian work permit
Now that you have a work permit and IM-1 visa, your employer will be paying all necessary state taxes for you. You'll need to submit an annual personal income tax return, however...
Renewing a work permit
The author knows little about renewing a work permit but has heard that the process is somewhat easier. If you've gotten a work permit, chances are you'll have no trouble getting it reissued for another year. However, many of the documents will need to be resubmitted, and a new IM-1 visa obtained, perhaps at one of the Ukrainian consulates in countries next to Ukraine.