Russia seeks skilled workers, tweaks migration laws

Russia is developing a new approach to immigration
policy. According to Federal Migration Service (FMS) Director Konstantin
Romodanovsky, the focus is shifting away from existing legislation, which is
geared toward temporary immigrants, and toward creating conditions for attracting
skilled specialists. A point-based permanent residence system will be one of
the tools employed to achieve this.

According to FMS estimates, Russia is home
to 800,000 resident aliens — far fewer than in European
countries. Most immigrants come to Russia from CIS countries, as well as from
Turkey, China and Vietnam.

There are also around 3.5 million illegal foreign
workers in Russia, which is twice the number of legal workers. To change the
structure of immigration, the agency has drafted a number of bills that have
already passed expert examinations by the Russian government.

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Romodanovsky stated that the system of quotas for foreign workers will be the
first thing to be revised. At present, the quotas are allocated to companies
that are willing to give foreigners priority in hiring.

The proposed new system
will change hiring rules. Vacancies will be offered to local residents during
the first month, to all Russians during the second month, and only after that
to foreigners.

The authorities want to introduce a kind
of fairness by giving potential local hires the right of first refusal. At this
point, this is just a proposal; what shape the quota system will eventually
take will be decided only by the beginning of next year.

Under the FMS plans, foreigners will have
to apply for a temporary resident status after staying in the country for 90
days. This is similar to the existing “temporary residence permit.”

specialists will be granted the status for two years, while highly skilled
immigrants (those earning upwards of roughly $60,000 a year) will be given
three-year residence permits. FMS territorial branches will be responsible for
issuing the permits, which will resemble visas to be placed in passports.

In addition, foreign students of Russian
universities will be allowed to work, officials said. Graduates of higher
education institutions will be offered an opportunity to stay in Russia for
three years. If a graduate’s qualifications are in demand, they will be able to
obtain Russian citizenship.


Furthermore, foreigners will also receive
the right to register at a place of residence. This will be only a right and
not an obligation, Romodanovsky explained. Residence permits will be granted
under a point-based system. The FMS will take into account the age, education
and work experience of applicants.

Both temporary foreign visitors and
permanent residents, including participants of the relocation of compatriots
program, will be asked to fill out a questionnaire about their education, age,
Russian language proficiency, work history, job offers from Russian employers
and relatives in Russia. Each application will receive a point score. To obtain
legal status in Russia, applicants have to score 75 points out of 100.

At present, to apply for a Russian
residence permit, foreigners must first obtain a temporary residence permit and
stay in the country for between one and three years with that status. The new
form will simplify the procedure. However, experts note that, for anyone over
the age of 55, scoring the required amount of points will be extremely


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Vladimir Burov, deputy head of the FMS
Citizenship Division, explained that investors and entrepreneurs doing business
in Russia would be fast-tracked for Russian citizenship.

“The government will
draw a list of business activities the Russian state is interested in. The
minimum annual revenue must be 10 million rubles [around $304,000],” said Burov.
The dependants of entrepreneurs will receive the same privileges, but nannies
or housekeepers that work in such families full-time will have to go through
the immigration process just like everybody else.

According to the authorities, the main
immigration-related problems are overstayed visas and violations of Russian law
by immigrants. Offenders will now be subject to harsher penalties.

Before, they
were either fined or deported; now, both penalties will apply. By court
decision, administrative offenses will serve as grounds for deportation or
inadmissibility. Tax offenses will be vigorously prosecuted, as well.

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