COVID-19 has severely impacted the economy and labour migration. Many foreign citizens employed in Ukraine had to leave the country and work from their homes abroad.
In May and June 2020, Ukraine has lifted many quarantine-related restrictions. The Ukrainian government allowed public transport carriers to provide services, most businesses – to conduct regular operations and most state authorities and institutions – to carry out their activities. This contributed to the resumption of regular business activities and return of many employees, including foreigners, to their workplaces.
Given a long break and rapid changes in applicable regulations during the quarantine period, foreigners should be aware of up-to-date legal requirements regarding their employment and migration. These include the extension of work permits, residence permits and visa receipt.
- WORK PERMIT
Most foreign nationals are employed by the local Ukrainian entities by virtue of work permits that must be extended every year. Over the quarantine, the rules for obtaining and extending work permits have not changed. Neither grace period nor suspension of work permits has been introduced. Foreigners must apply to have their work permits extended within the period stipulated by the local laws (20 days prior to the work permit expiration date). Ukrainian employers might apply to get work permits newly issued or extended during the quarantine, since competent authorities (i.e. employment centres) process applications in due course.
However, some employers face practical challenges during the quarantine. The law says that an employer shall submit a copy of the employment agreement within 90 days upon the work permit issue date (art. 42-7 (4) Law of Ukraine “On employment”). Failure to comply with this requirement results in revoking a work permit. If an employee is unable to start working due to the entry restrictions (e.g. presence in person is required), the parties should agree to postpone the employment start date and file the copy of a respective employment agreement. In practice, this enables an employer to keep a permit “alive” since the law does not clearly require that employment must start within the aforesaid period.
In practice, employers often get the work permits extended upon the lapse of the filing period or even upon expiry of the permit. Although this rule is not prescribed by the law, employers should apply for extension by providing reasonable clarifications.
- SERVICE CARD
Many foreigners are employed through the representative offices of foreign businesses registered in Ukraine. No changes as to rules for obtaining and extending service cards have been made. During the quarantine, the competent authority (the Ministry for Development of Economy, Trade and Agriculture of Ukraine) keeps operating during normal business hours and processing applications for issuance or extension of service cards.
As a matter of practice, the Ministry accepts documents required to extend a service card even if it has already expired. Thus, the employers should apply to have the service cards extended.
Ukrainian embassies have not issued visas during the quarantine. Due to the limitation in operations, they processed emergency requests only. Earlier, the entry of foreigners (except for those who had temporary residence permits) was generally restricted and required prior approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.
Regulation No. 480 of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated June 12, 2020 (effective as of June 15,2020) reads that the entry into Ukraine is generally forbidden unless foreigners have insurance certificates for the medical treatment of COVID-19 or medical support during the mandatory medical observation period, or have permanent residence permits, or are declared refugees. The prior approval from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine for the entry of foreigners into Ukraine is no longer required.
The aforesaid regulation provides for the mandatory medical observation of those foreigners who come from the countries with a significant number of the infected with COVID-19. Countries with a significant number of the infected with COVID-19 are those with 40 infected persons per 100,000 population. The list of those countries has been published on the website of the Ministry of Health.
The aforesaid mandatory medical observation requirement does not apply to foreigners who agree to self-isolate at home using mobile application Diya Vdoma of the Unified State E-Services Web Portal, as well as to the following categories of travellers:
- citizens of countries with a significant number of the infected with COVID-19 who have not been on the territory of such countries for the last 14 days;
- employees of diplomatic missions and consular posts of foreign states, official international missions, organizations accredited in Ukraine, and members of their families;
- drivers and crew members of trucks, crew members of aircraft and ships, river vessels, members of train and locomotive crews;
- people who take exams of the Ukrainian Centre for Educational Quality Assessment with one person accompanying each of them.
The above exceptions do not apply if there is a reason to believe that travellers were in contact with people infected with COVID-19. As for now, it is not clear how the officers of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine will check this. The state officials might request filling in questionnaires in this regard.
- TEMPORARY RESIDENCE PERMIT
From the beginning of the quarantine and till May 12, 2020, the State Migration Service of Ukraine neither processed nor accepted documents required to issue or extend the temporary residence permits. The period for temporary residence permit extension was actually suspended. According to the currently applicable rules, foreigners may apply to have their temporary residence permits extended within 30 days upon the end of the quarantine (currently June 22).
Since May 12, the State Migration Service of Ukraine has started working, however its operations are limited. While the authority now accepts documents required to extend temporary residence permits, most of its regional offices still do not accept documents to issue new temporary residence permits.
Since Ukraine is gradually lifting the quarantine restrictions, it is getting easier for foreign citizens to come to Ukraine. For those who stay in Ukraine, it is highly recommended to keep control over deadlines for extension of their permission documents.
By Vasyl Yurmanovych, Counsel, and Yuriy Osiv, Junior Associate, Integrites