Amendments To Labor Migration Legislation in Moldova (Analysis)

On 26 December 2012, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova (Moldova) passed Act No. 303/2012 on amending and supplementing of certain legal acts (Act No. 303). Act No. 303 entered into force on 29 March 2013 and inter alia changed Act No. 180/2008 on Labor Migration (Act No.180). The effected changes have a direct and positive impact on the legal right of residence of foreign citizens (expatriates) employed in Moldova or detached to exercise their labor duties in Moldova.

One of the major novelties implemented by the Act No. 303 is the complete removal of the immigration quota. Under previous legislation, the Moldovan Government was to determine on a yearly basis the maximum number of foreigners who were eligible for employment by local employers. Such quotas were compulsory for the Moldovan authorities dealing with the workforce's migration. Besides the fact that this quota was set at a rather low threshold (approx. 2,000 employees / year), there were years when the Government reached no decisions at all on the issue. Moreover, there were cases when local employers were simply prevented from employing foreign specialists due to the quota for the respective year being depleted.

Following the effected legislative changes, Moldovan employers hiring foreigners are no longer required to observe the immigration quota, but are instead guided by their internal requirements in employing foreign workers.

Act No. 303 enlarges the list of those classes of individuals who fall outside the scope of the Act No.180 and therefore do not require a temporary labor right while in Moldova or prior permission of the National Employment Agency in order to be employed by a local employer.

One such group includes foreigners who are no longer required to obtain a temporary labor right while in Moldova. These are foreigners: (i) who arrived to Moldova for scientific research  in the context of European or/and international projects (except for those employed on the basis of an individual labor agreement); (ii) who are holders of permanent rights of residence in Moldova; or (iii) who are holders of the temporary rights of residence for the purpose of family reintegration.

A second group includes persons who no longer require the prior permission of the National Employment Agency to be employed locally. Such foreigners should have come to exercise their duties in domains of high importance for the Moldovan state, namely: (i) persons who are invited for labor purposes by the Government or the Moldovan ministries, or central public bodies (e.g. national agencies, etc.); (ii) professionals who came to Moldova on the basis of treaties to which Moldova is a party; and (iii) foreign professionals participating in investment projects for the national economy, provided that such interest is confirmed by the local Ministry of Economy.

New rules are also implemented with regard to the so-called "detached" (RO detașați) employees. Detached employees can exercise their duties in Moldova for a period of up to 90 days (in total), calculated as of the individual's first entry into Moldova, and without being required to hold a temporary labor right.

For all cases of detachment of foreigners, such must be effected on the basis of an agreement of supply of works / services concluded between the Moldovan employer on the one side and a foreign employee / foreign employer on the other. An affidavit on the scope and duration of activity of the foreign employee in Moldova, accompanied by relevant copies, is compulsory and must be submitted to the Migration and Asylum Bureau and to the National Employment Agency within 3 business days as of the individual's date of entry into Moldova.

Besides the new features mentioned above, Act No. 303 changes [by increasing] the minimum thresholds that entitle applicants to longer temporary labor rights. In particular, the size of investment must be at least USD 100,000 (USD 10,000 under former legislation) in order to obtain a temporary labor right for a period of 2 years; at least USD 200,000 (USD 100,000 under former legislation) to be eligible for a temporary right of stay of 3 years; and at least USD 500,000 (USD 250,000 under former provisions) to be eligible for a temporary right of stay of 5 years; and at least USD 1,000,000 to obtain one for up to 10 years.

The recently adopted amendments appear to show the Moldovan authorities' openness and intention to be friendlier towards foreign investors currently implementing various projects in Moldova. At a first glance, this new stance would seem to be in line with the EU principles of free movement. However, it is very important that the adopted novelties are properly implemented, including by ensuring that all state officials are sufficiently familiarized with the new legislation and refrain from sending (unnecessarily) investors to courts to defend their lawful rights.
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