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Management of migration processes is a significant problem for Russian authorities.  For the last twenty years, the country has experienced a growing influx of immigrants, mostly illegal.  Administrative programs initiated by the government together with constantly changing legislation are aimed at establishing migration control mechanisms and softening conflicts between ethnic Russians and foreigners.  The legislation provides for admission of individuals seeking employment in Russia.  Most of the guest workers are required to apply for entry visas based on their labor contracts.  The duration of visas usually coincides with the term of employment, and the issuance of visas is based on quotas for hiring foreigners defined by the federal government annually.  Guest workers cannot change their employers voluntarily.  Except for highly skilled employees, temporary workers are not eligible for permanent residency, public welfare, or admission of other family members.  Employers are responsible for their employees’ compliance with migration legislation and their departure from Russia after termination of employment.  Different legal programs exist for people who do not need to receive visas to enter Russia.  Illegal migration is an offense punishable by imprisonment.  Employers who use the labor of illegal migrants face heavy fines if caught.  The Federal Migration Service monitors the enforcement of migration legislation in the country.  Border protection troops are assigned to fight illegal migration on the national borders. 

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According to the World Bank, Russia is the second most frequent migrant destination country in the world following the United States, with approximately 12.3 million immigrants who have moved to the country primarily for economic reasons.[1]  The Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation, a government agency in control of the migration process, reported 9.1 million guest workers employed in Russia in 2012, mostly from the former Soviet states, China, Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Eastern Europe.[2]  About one-quarter of officially admitted migrant workers from the countries that have visa arrangements with Russia are unskilled laborers working mostly in the construction and mining industries and providing janitorial services.  About 35% of all migrants are concentrated in the city of Moscow.[3]

Russia does not have a detailed program aimed at inviting and accommodating immigrants.  The first formal migration policy was formulated by the government in 2002, its goal being to secure rational distribution of population with the purpose of effective economic development and the elimination of regional social and economic differences.[4]  The recently approved Concept of the State Migration Policy for the Period Until 2025[5] is aimed at strengthening control over migration and migrants while simplifying procedures for legal labor migration. 

Unregulated labor migration and the use of workers who are in Russia illegally is a significant problem.  According to the Federal Migration Service, between three and five million foreigners are working in Russia illegally,[6] and this creates intense pressure on the government and the Russian population in the areas of social protection, health care, residential living, and employment.[7]  Additionally, law enforcement agencies report constantly increasing numbers of crimes committed by foreigners.  Guest workers commit 15% of all crimes in Russia and are responsible for every fifth murder, every third theft, and every second rape committed in Moscow.[8]  In 2012, the office of the Prosecutor General investigated 2,682 cases of migration legislation violations,[9] and each month approximately 2,000 migrant workers who are in Russia illegally are removed from the country.[10] 

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General Immigration Policy

Major immigration principles are defined by the Russian Constitution and legal acts regulating the entry of foreigners into Russia and hiring of foreign workers for the domestic labor market.  These are the Federal Law No. 159 of August 22, 1996, on Entry into and Exit from the Russian Federation;[11] Federal Law No. 115 of July 25, 2002, on the Legal Status of Foreign Individuals in the Russian Federation;[12] and Federal Law No. 109 of July 18, 2006, on Migration Registration of Foreign and Stateless Individuals in the Russian Federation.[13]  These acts were substantially amended by Federal Law No. 86 of May 19, 2010,[14] and a series of federal laws passed on December 30, 2012.[15]  Numerous implementing regulations issued by the government and individual executive agencies define procedures for recruiting foreign workers[16] and performing the paper work required to secure their legal status in the country.[17] 

It appears that the current government actions in the field of migration regulation are aimed at minimizing the negative consequences of unregulated migration processes.  The recently adopted government concept of migration policy declares its main goals to be assisting returning countrymen who relocate to Russia from abroad, protecting minorities, integrating refugees and asylum seekers more successfully, and creating more efficient mechanisms for regulating labor migration.[18]  Among the measures proposed for achieving these goals are making necessary changes in legislation and in the system of state oversight of the migration processes; better cooperation and communication among different federal, regional, and local authorities dealing with migration; and making greater efforts to resolve ongoing and forthcoming conflicts.[19]   

Most of the migrants arriving in Russia are labor migrants who, as required by law, conclude preliminary agreements with Russian employers before requesting entry visas or rely on services provided by Russian government agencies abroad,[20] because Russia presently does not have comprehensive recruitment programs.  Most of the recruitment is conducted by employers working closely with migration and labor authorities in the localities.

Employers’ Responsibilities

Russian legislation makes an employer responsible for the migrants employed.  Employers must register labor contracts with the regional employment assistance office and keep that office informed about the contract’s duration and/or its dissolution.  The employer is required to register the residency of hired migrants and maintain their registration.  Also, the employer must inform tax authorities of the foreigner’s employment and submit the required tax withholdings.  Since July 2010, all foreign individuals permanently working and residing in Russia have been subject to the annual 13% flat income tax, the same as for Russian citizens.[21]  The Law also requires that mandatory health insurance for all foreign workers be paid by their Russian employers.[22]

Employers are responsible for monitoring the activities and behavior of the foreign workers they employ.  Employers must inform the responsible authorities of all labor contract violations by guest workers and of the termination of any labor contract before its anticipated expiration, as well as report to federal security authorities all instances of a guest worker’s absence from his place of work or residence.  If the guest worker commits a violation, the labor contract is annulled, and within a three-day period he is notified of whether or not he must leave the country.  Employers who violate legislation regulating the use of foreign labor risk the loss of their permits and are subject to fines.[23]  If an employer commits a violation, a guest worker may be allowed to change his employment and execute a new labor contract for the remainder of his employment authorization when this period is not less than three months.[24]

Because under Russian law foreign workers must exit the country immediately after the expiration of their labor contracts (if they do not change their legal status), work authorizations are not issued unless the employer deposits enough funds to secure the transportation of each hired guest worker and his family members from Russia to their native country.  After the departure of the guest worker from the Russian Federation, this money is refunded to the employer.[25]

Hiring Procedures

Russian legislation defines three types of procedures for hiring foreign laborers, depending on their country of origin and the type of work they are going to perform, including

  • issuance of work permits to those who need visas to enter Russia,
  • issuance of work permits to those who do not need visas to enter Russia, and
  • issuance of labor licenses to those foreigners who want to perform “individual labor activities” (household work) in Russia and do not need entry visas.

The use of a guest worker’s labor is based on two major documents—a permit to hire and use foreign labor and a work authorization for a foreign individual.  Both documents are issued by regional branches of the Federal Migration Service.[26] 

Hiring Individuals Who Need Visas

The permit to hire and use foreign labor is issued after consultations with the regional authority in charge of employment issues.  These permits are issued within the quota annually established by the federal government.  Each year, the government defines how many work permits can be issued and how they are to be distributed among the constituent components of the Russian Federation, depending on the labor market situation and the opinion of Russian labor unions.[27]  Quotas are divided by regions, professions, and fields of employment.  During the last several years, approximately one and a half million guest workers were admitted to the country annually.  In 2012, the government ordered the issuance of 1.746 million permits to hire guest workers.[28]

In order to obtain a permit, an employer must submit a request.  The request must be approved by competent local authorities confirming that there is a necessity to hire foreigners.  A labor agreement must be drafted, and the employer must pay a fee in an amount equal to US$150.  Employers who have received permits to hire foreign guest workers must inform the Federal Migration Service of the conclusion of a labor contract with the guest worker within one month of obtaining the permit. 

Local offices of the Federal Migration Service provide employers with separate work authorizations that are issued for each guest worker.  This authorization, in the form of a plastic card, is the main document confirming the foreigner’s right to work in Russia.  It is also the main document used to substantiate the foreigner’s visa application.  Foreigners who come to Russia as guest workers under the annual quota cannot change their employer for the duration of the labor contract and are not eligible for hire by another employer after the labor contract’s expiration.[29] 

Labor migration within the Commonwealth of Independent States is regulated by a number of multilateral and bilateral agreements aimed at forming a common labor market.  The basic legislative policy in this field is determined by the nonbinding regional Convention on Labor Resources Migration, which follows rules and norms accepted by the United Nations and the International Labor Organization.[30]  Russia has concluded bilateral treaties with Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.  As a rule, these agreements are identical, and provide for application of the domestic legal regime to guest workers.  The states have obligated themselves to recognize the education, work experience, seniority, entitlement to compensation for damages, and social security contributions of migrant workers.[31] 

In order to obtain a work permit in Russia, a foreigner from a country that has a visa-free agreement with the Russian Federation must submit an application with accompanying documents to the local office of the Federal Migration Service and pay an established fee, which presently equals US$70.  An applicant may not be younger than eighteen years of age, and the work permit must be issued within ten business days.  If a work permit is issued for more than a three-month period, an individual must find employment within the next thirty days, and pass medical examinations proving that he has no socially dangerous infectious diseases.  If an individual does not obtain employment within the thirty-day period, he must leave Russia regardless of the fact that his residency registration has not yet expired.[32] 

Hiring Citizens of the EEC, Who Do Not Need Visas

Special rules were established in 2011 for the citizens of Belarus and Kazakhstan, countries which together with Russia form the Eurasian Economic Community.[33]  According to the three-state agreement, citizens of Belarus and Kazakhstan have the same employment rights as Russian citizens.  This agreement means that the existing permit regime is not applicable to citizens of these countries and they can work in the Russian territory without restrictions.  Employers who hire citizens of Belarus or Kazakhstan do not need to obtain authorizations required in the case of hiring foreigners.  To start employment, a Belarusian or Kazakhstani citizen must submit to the employer documents proving the worker’s legal presence in Russia and other documents that are required by Russian labor law for Russian job seekers.  More lenient registration rules and procedures for the renewal of a labor contract are provided for Belarusian and Kazakhstani nationals.[34]

Hiring Household Workers, Who Do Not Need Visas

Licenses to perform “individual labor activities” in Russia can be purchased by foreigners, and such workers do not need visas to enter the country.  This group includes those who will be hired for work within their prospective employer’s household, such as gardeners, housekeepers, babysitters, or handymen, and will not be employed by a Russian judicial entity.  Since 2011, such workers have been required to purchase their labor licenses independently.[35]  The licenses cost about US$40 per month and are valid for three months, with a possible one-year extension.  In order to extend the license for another year after the expiration of the first fifteen-month period, the worker must provide proof of income and payment of taxes when submitting the extension petition to the Federal Migration Service.  A fine in an amount equal to US$200 is imposed on those who fail to purchase a license on time.  Patrolling local police officers are charged with the duty of checking the legality of foreigners’ presence in Russia, their labor licenses, and tax payment receipts, and they have the authority to issue fines on the spot.[36]  When this Law was passed, it was estimated that about 3.4 million foreign individuals were working in Russia as household assistants without having a formalized work status.[37]

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Visas and Admission of Foreigners

General Visa Regulations

The entry and exit of foreigners into and from Russia is regulated by Federal Law No. 114.[38]  This Law states that the passport of an individual and the visa issued by the consular office of the Russian Federation abroad are the main documents that grant an individual access to the Russian territory.  In accordance with this Law, the Statute on Visas and Procedures and Conditions of their Issuance was adopted by the Government in 2003.[39]  There are five categories of visas: ordinary, official, transit, diplomatic, and temporary residence. 

An ordinary visa can be of different types, such as a business visa, tourist visa, work visa, student visa, humanitarian visa, private visa, or visa granting entry for the purposes of political asylum.  As a rule, visas are issued for a period of up to three months as single- or double-entry visas.  Visas for a period over three months can be issued also as multi-entry visas.  Specific types of visas (e.g., for students or journalists) are issued for one-year period only.  In April 2007, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the idea proposed by the General Consul of the United States in Moscow to simplify U.S.-Russian visa relations and extend the visa validity period.[40]  In some circumstances, business and humanitarian visas can be issued for a five-year term on a reciprocal basis with other countries that have the same term of entry visas for Russian citizens in return.  

Written application and official invitation from a Russian party are the grounds for the issuance of a visa.  In order to obtain a private or a business visa, a host or a host company must apply to the Russian authorities for an official invitation for the foreigner.  This application is filed with the relevant immigration authorities.  Only those host companies that have undergone prior registration with these authorities can apply for the issuance of a visa invitation.  Special requirements must be met when applying for a multi-entry visa for more than six months.  The host company has to provide and justify to the authorities the reasons for issuing such a long-term visa for a particular person.  Regardless of the term of the visa, the host or the host company are committed to the very extensive responsibility and liability for the conduct of the invited person.[41] 

In order to apply for a visa, a visa application, passport, applicant’s photograph, and payment of a visa fee in the amount of US$100–450, depending on the length of processing and number of entries permitted, must be submitted to the visa section of the Russian embassy in person or by mail.  Visa applications for U.S. travelers to Russia are lengthy and intrusive and require full disclosure of personal information about the applicant’s and his relatives’ employment, education, residence, medical, and travel history.[42]  Depending on the type of visa, a cover letter explaining the trip’s purpose, destinations, and terms; a proof of means for staying in Russia; and an HIV test certificate (if one applies for a visa valid for more than three months) must be produced.  Applicants can be interviewed at the discretion of a Russian consular officer.  Visas cannot be changed or extended, and if travel plans have changed after the visa issuance, a foreign visitor needs to reapply for a new visa.[43]  

Admission of foreigners to Russia is also complicated by the requirement of police registration.  If a foreigner is going to stay more than three days at the same Russian location, he must submit in person his passport with visa, his migration card, and the confirmation written by the owner of his/her place of stay (unless this is not a hotel) to the local police station.  Hotel administrations are allowed to conduct registration on behalf of the guests.  Violation of the registration requirement may entail fines and other complications during exit from the country and may be a reason for denying a visa request in the future.  Only citizens of Ukraine are excluded from this requirement.[44]

A foreigner might be denied a Russian visa if documents confirming an applicant’s identity expire before the required visa expires.  Also, an entry visa might be denied to a foreigner who asks for a visa valid for more than three months if the applicant fails to produce a document proving the absence of the HIV virus.  Russian visas granted to drug addicts and those who suffer from contagious diseases that pose a threat to people can be annulled.  A visa request can also be denied if a foreigner is suspected of having engaged in disrespectful conduct to Russia’s federal bodies of power or Russia’s state symbols.  Foreigners who cause considerable material damage to the state and whose activities are detrimental to the country’s international prestige can be banned from entering the Russian Federation.[45]

Work Visas

Quotas for the issuance of migrant visas are defined by the federal government annually.[46]  The majority of migrant workers in Russia do not need visas because they arrive from countries for which no visa is required to enter the Russian Federation.[47]  They can stay for ninety days without restriction in Russia, and then for the duration of their work authorization.[48]  For those who need visas, Russian entry visas are issued for the term of a work authorization’s validity, which initially cannot be longer than one year but may be extended for one additional year after the original visa’s expiration.  Guest worker visa applications must be submitted to a consular office of the Russian Federation abroad and can be denied on legal grounds.[49]  In an attempt to make Russia more attractive to labor migrants, amendments to the Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners, which entered into force on July 1, 2010, allowed guest workers to extend their work permits and visas without leaving the country, which was previously required.[50]

While knowledge of Russian is not a requirement for obtaining an entry visa, since December 1, 2012, labor migrants who come to Russia from abroad cannot obtain work permits without proving their knowledge of the Russian language.  Passage of a special test and the receipt of a certificate serve as proof of such knowledge.[51]  According to commentaries on the amendments issued by the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation, only those who intend to work in the fields of customer relations, communal and housing services, and retail operations are required to pass the test.[52]  Other official documents can be used as proof of Russian language ability if they are recognized in Russia.  For example, a diploma issued by a university in the former Soviet Union will be accepted because at that time all Soviet Republic college-level education was conducted in Russian.[53]  According to the commentaries, the test was developed by taking into account the specific, typical abilities of migrants.  It is relatively short and simple, consisting of twenty-five vocabulary and grammar questions, and the administration time is up to ninety minutes.  Three new test-taking facilities were opened in Moscow to offer the exam.  The test can be taken in all the constituent components of the Russian Federation.[54]

Temporary Residence Permits

Temporary residence permits can be issued to foreign citizens who were born on the territory of Russia and were citizens of the former Soviet Union, foreigners whose working children or incapacitated parents are Russian citizens, foreign spouses of Russian nationals permanently residing in Russia, and foreigners making investments in accordance with federal legislation.  There is no evaluation of migrants because of their profession, education, age, or family status.  Temporary residence permits are issued for a three-year period and can be extended.[55]

Student Visas

A foreign citizen entering the Russian Federation to study at an educational establishment in accordance with an invitation issued by Russian diplomatic representatives or a consular office abroad may receive an ordinary student visa.[56]  The expiration term for this type of visa is three months with possible extension by a local branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation at the place where the foreign student’s residence was registered.  A student may receive a multi-entry visa for the duration of an education contract concluded under Russian education legislation, but the term for each subsequent visa cannot exceed one year.  Possession of a student visa is obligatory for all foreign students, even for those who came from countries that have concluded visa waiver agreements.

In order to obtain a student visa, an applicant submits to the Russian embassy or consular office abroad an educational contract, official invitation to study at a Russian educational institution, valid passport with an expiration date not earlier than one and a half years after the visa takes effect, completed questionnaire, proof of medical insurance valid on Russian territory, and the certificate attesting that the applicant has no HIV virus.  The visa must be annulled if the student stops his studies at the designated educational institution.  Work permission for a foreign student can be issued upon a separate request.[57]

Admission of Family Members

Russian Law on Entry into and Exit from the Russian Federation states that a worker’s visa is extended to family members of the applicant only if the migrant is qualified as a highly skilled specialist.  Family members are not covered by worker’s visas issued to temporary guest workers.  In these cases, family members need to apply for regular entry visas, which are issued according to Russian legislation.  The work authorization of a migrant worker does not automatically extend to other members of the worker’s family.[58] 

The right to reunite families exists and is protected by different existing legal provisions.  However, family reunification does not create new migration rights and does not allow migrant workers to change their legal status.  Russian and foreign individuals permanently residing in Russia are allowed to invite individuals from abroad, but Russian law does not provide for petitioning the authorities with requests to reunite families and does not allow sponsorship of or other support for the immigration of relatives.  However, foreigners (including migrant workers) who marry Russian individuals or who have disabled parents who are Russian citizens and reside in Russia may obtain Russian citizenship through a simplified procedure.[59] 

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Prevention of Illegal Migration

Government Control Measures

Measures aimed at fighting illegal migration are at the center of the government’s migration policy and affect different aspects of internal political life.[60]  Russia’s geographic location between Europe and Asia and between developed and developing countries makes it a natural transit territory for migrants from South and Southeast Asia, as well as a magnet for the continuously unemployed workforce in Russia’s neighboring countries where the economic situation is much worse than in Russia.  In Russia illegal migrants are those who enter the country illegally by using false documents or avoiding border control points, and those who enter the country legally for transit, study, or tourist purposes but then violate the rules of stay in the country by overstaying their visas or changing their legal status.  Most of the illegal migrants are employed in the informal sector of the Russian economy in Moscow, St. Petersburg, several other large cities, and in the border areas with other former Soviet republics.  Estimates of the size of the illegal immigrant population vary from 1.5 to 15 million people.[61] 

The government believes the solution to the illegal migration problem lies in the development of a legislative framework for labor market regulation and migration legislation; increased cooperation with the neighboring states; and the development of the border control infrastructure, especially in the Far East region where Russia borders China, and on the presently porous borders with the former Soviet republics, specifically the borders with Ukraine and Kazakhstan.[62]  

Immigration control and the enforcement of immigration legislation is conducted by the Federal Migration Service.[63]  In addition to entry control, immigration control includes monitoring the presence and internal relocation of foreign migrants in the country, and the conclusion and performance of labor contracts by foreigners.  It also involves the monitoring of Russian employers, who are responsible for the exit of their employees from the Russian territory after labor contracts expire.[64]

Government control of the illegal use of the foreign workforce is based on monitoring the legality of the presence of migrants in Russia, monitoring both the validity of labor contracts concluded between employers and foreigners and the extension of migrants’ work permits, maintaining effective border exit control, and ensuring that Russian citizens receive employment priority over migrant workers.  Russian authorities are faced with the serious task of counteracting the illegal use of foreigners by Russian employers.  There are several ways control in this area is imposed by immigration authorities, which include collecting information on employers using the foreign work force and on foreigners arriving for work.  Systematized information is inserted in a national database.[65] 

Because immigration is under the joint jurisdiction of federal and regional authorities, many provincial legislatures have passed their own rules supplementing federal legislation.  For example, in the city of Moscow, an employer can hire a foreigner only after transferring into the city’s bank account the funds that would be required to deport the foreign employee from the country.  In the Far East territory, Chinese agricultural workers can be allowed to work for a Russian business only if the same number of Russian employees are hired by the Russian company.[66]

Enforcement of Immigration Laws

Since 2007, the Immigration Control Department of the Federal Migration Service has been in charge of enforcing immigration legislation.  Working in cooperation with the regular police force, the Department’s officers review the validity of migration documents during raids conducted in the streets and at workplaces, terminate illegal businesses providing services to migrants, and monitor the deportations of illegal migrants.[67]

On December 30, 2012, a series of amendments to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Violations of the Russian Federation were signed by the Russian President.  They introduced stricter migration registration procedures; increased punishments for illegal border crossings, illegal migration organizations, and violations of the rules for stay; and extended the grounds for visa denial to include those individuals who previously violated the country’s immigration laws.[68]

Sanctions for Hiring Undocumented Workers

Companies and individual entrepreneurs employing a foreign workforce are periodically monitored.  Such monitoring is sometimes conducted in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies.  When minor violations are discovered, a written request with the deadline for correction is issued.  If more serious violations are found, the authorization to employ foreign workers can be revoked.  Such decisions are forwarded to the FMS, regional migration authorities, police, and consular institutions.  If employers violate norms related to hiring foreigners, they can be fined up to $200,000.[69]  In addition to fines imposed on legal entities, company officers responsible for the violation of hiring rules can be fined as well.[70]

Sanctions for Illegal Entry and Overstays

Under the Code of Administrative Violations, individuals located in Russia illegally were subject to a fine in an amount equal to US$200, forceful deportation, and a ban on entering Russia during the next five years.[71] 

In order to fight illegal migration, penalties for illegally crossing the Russian state border, being in the country illegally, and organizing illegal migration were increased in December 2012.  Amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation increased the penalty for illegally entering the country to as much as four years of imprisonment; for those who commit this crime within an organized group, the penalty was increased to as much as six years of imprisonment.  Moreover, the offense of procuring illegal immigration was made punishable by imprisonment for up to seven years.[72]  The new law allows the government to deny entry into the country for three years to those who are caught in the country illegally or have previously been forcefully removed from Russia.[73]  Simultaneously, the responsibility of Russian hosts who do not follow immigration registration requirements or otherwise violate the obligations imposed on hosts of foreign visitors or workers was increased, with fines of up to US$15,000.[74]

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Acquisition of Citizenship by Migrants

Issues of citizenship are regulated by the Federal Law on Citizenship of the Russian Federation of May 31, 2002.[75]  The Law applies the criteria of both jus soli and jus sanguinis for the acquisition of Russian citizenship, together with other grounds for citizenship acquisition.  The Law provides for varied options for those who have ties with the Russian Federation to acquire Russian citizenship.  In addition to recognition of citizenship by birth, descent, or registration, the Law allows for naturalization of foreigners who are eighteen years of age or older and have the legal capacity to apply for Russian citizenship through naturalization. 

Those who seek Russian citizenship through naturalization must meet the five-year permanent residence requirement and pass language and Constitution tests.  Reduced periods may apply to refugees; former citizens of the Soviet Union or Russia; individuals of high achievement in science, technology, and culture; and those who have rendered service to the Russian Federation.  Citizenship may be refused to persons who advocate the forcible change of Russia’s constitutional system or other actions threatening the security of Russia, or who have been convicted under Russian law.[76]  The Law does not outline the path to citizenship for migrant workers arriving in Russia because their legal status does not provide for permanent residency in the country.  However, their legal status may be changed with a change of circumstances—for example, marriage with a Russian citizen.  Highly skilled foreign employees are exempt from these restrictions.[77]

Foreign visitors and individuals temporarily residing in Russia are not eligible for social services provided by government agencies.  Migrants who legally resettle in Russia are covered by major welfare programs, however.  Thirty-eight temporary settlement centers have been established throughout Russia.  Their location depends on the regional economic situation, workforce needs, and population growth.  All incoming migrants are eligible for legal assistance, employment and education assistance, temporary housing, food support, and health benefits funded by the federal government.  The length of the eligibility period is not determined and depends on the needs of the migrant and his family; however, if an individual continues to stay in a temporary settlement center longer than three years, he is not eligible to change his legal status.[78] 

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Border Control and Management

Issues of border protection are regulated by Law No. 4730 of April 1, 1993, on the State Borders of the Russian Federation.[79]  The Law defines the legal regime governing the border, border territories, and border crossing points, and establishes major principles governing the conduct of the population residing in the border areas and border crossing procedures.  Protection of the national border is conducted by the troops of the Federal Security Service, a government agency in charge of intelligence, counterintelligence, and protection of the existing government system.[80]  The main responsibility of the border protection troops is to maintain the security of the ground, air, and maritime border of the country.  They conduct all necessary border control procedures at designated crossing points; review documents of individuals, goods, and transport vehicles crossing the Russian border; and perform law enforcement functions, including the transfer abroad of individuals detained for illegally crossing the border.

Border control officers make decisions on admitting a foreign national to Russia at border crossing points.  Major factors taken into account before permitting entry are national and public security considerations, including a foreigner’s health.[81] 

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Peter Roudik
Director of Legal Research
March 2013


[1] World Bank, Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011, at IX, INTLAC/Resources/Factbook2011-Ebook.pdf.

[2] Information on Foreign Labor Migration Reported by the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation (FMS), (official website of the FMS; last visited Feb. 19, 2013).

[3] Russia Will Admit 1.74 Million Guest Workers, A Quarter of Whom are Unskilled, (Nov. 10, 2011), (in Russian).

[4] Concept of the Federal Migration Policy, Sobranie Zakonodatelstva Rossiiskoi Federatsii [SZRF] [Russian Federation Collection of Legislation (official gazette)], 2002, No. 12, Item 1458.

[5] President of the Russian Federation, Concept of the State Migration Policy for the Period Until 2025 (July 13, 2012), (in Russian).

[6] Ministry of Health Care and Social Protection Increased Quotas for Labor Migrants, (Apr. 11, 2012), (in Russian).

[7] E.A. Efimova, Foreign Workers in the Labor Market of the Russian Federation, Problemy Sovremennoi Ekonomiki No. 1(37) (2011),

[8] Experts Discussed That Every Fifth Person in Moscow is a Migrant Worker, (Feb. 6, 2013), (in Russian).

[9] Id.

[10] FMS, supra note 2. 

[11] Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Entry Into and Exit from the Russian Federation, with the Latest Amendments of Dec. 30, 2012, SZ RF 1996, No. 34, Item 4029.

[12] Federal Law No. 115 of July 25, 2002, on the Legal Status of Foreign Individuals in the Russian Federation (Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners), with the Latest Amendments of Dec. 30, 2012, SZ RF 2002, No. 30, Item 3032.

[13] Federal Law No. 109 of July 18, 2006, on Migration Registration of Foreign and Stateless Individuals in the Russian Federation, with the Latest Amendments of Dec. 30, 2012, SZ RF 2006, No. 30, Item 3636.

[14] Federal Law No. 86 of May 19, 2010, Rossiiskaia Gazeta [Ros. Gaz.] (official publication), May 21, 2010,

[15] SZ RF 2012, No. 53(1), Items 7637, 7638, 7640, 7645, 7646.

[16] Government Regulation No. 783 of December 22, 2006, on Defining the Needs of Federal Executive Agencies in Attracting and Using the Foreign Work Force, SZ RF 2003, No. 1(2) Item 247. 

[17] Order No. 36 of Feb. 26, 2009, of the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation on Issuance of Work Permits to Foreigners, (in Russian).

[18] Concept of the State Migration Policy for the Period Until 2025, supra note 5, § III, arts. 21–24.

[19] Id.

[20] Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners art. 13.

[21] Federal Law No. 86 of May 19, 2010, Ros. Gaz., May 21, 2010,

[22] Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners art. 36. 

[23] Frequently Asked Questions: Legal Issues, Federal Migration Service, review/list.php?ID=895 (official website; last visited Feb. 25, 2013).

[24] Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners art. 5.

[25] Federal Migration Service, supra note 23.

[26] Statute on the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation, (official website; in Russian).

[27] Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners art. 6.

[28], supra note 6.

[29] Procedures for the Issuance of Work Permits to Those Who Need Visas to Enter the Russian Federation, Guidelines Issued by the Federal Migration Service, (official website; in Russian; last visited Feb. 25, 2013).

[30] Approved by the CIS Economic Council on Dec. 15, 2000 (not published officially), available at the Consultant legal database,;base=INT;n=25224 (by subscription).

[31] Texts of these agreements are available in Russian at the official Federal Migration Service website, (last visited Feb. 20, 2013).

[32] Order No. 36 of Feb. 26, 2009, of the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation on the Issuance of Work Permits to Foreigners, (official website; in Russian).

[33] Federal Law on the Ratification of the Agreement on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, SZ RF 2011, No. 29, Item 4277.

[34] Procedures for the Issuance of Work Permits to Those Who Do Not Need Visas to Enter the Russian Federation, Guidelines Issued by the Federal Migration Service, (official website; in Russian; last visited Feb. 25, 2013).

[35] Federal Law No. 86 of May 19, 2010, Ros. Gaz., May 21, 2010,

[36] Id.

[37] Vladimir Pligin, Chairman of the State Duma’s Constitutional Law Committee, Vyedut po Otpechatkam [Migrants Will Enter Based on Fingerprints], quoted in Anastasiia Berseneva & Grigori Tumanov, Migranty, (May 4, 2010),

[38] Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Entry Into and Exit from the Russian Federation, with the Latest Amendments of Dec. 30, 2012, SZ RF 1996, No. 34, Item 4029.

[39] Statute on Visas and Procedures and Conditions of Their Issuance, SZ RF 2003, No. 24, Item 2329.

[40] Marina Lemutkina, SShA Rastianut Visy [USA Ready to Extend Visas], (Apr. 17, 2007), at

[41] Statute on Visas and Procedures and Conditions of Their Issuance, SZ RF 2003, No. 24, Item 2329.

[42] General Visa Information, Embassy of the Russian Federation to the United States of America, (last visited Feb. 28, 2013).

[43] Id.

[44] Federal Law No. 109 of July 18, 2006, on Migration Registration of Foreign and Stateless Individuals in the Russian Federation, with the Latest Amendments of Dec. 30, 2012, SZ RF 2006, No. 30, Item 3636.

[45] Embassy of the Russian Federation, supra note 42.

[46] Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners art. 13.8(4).

[47] S. Shohzoda, Russian Federation, in Zashchita Sotsialnyh I Trudovyh Prav Migrantov na Prostranstve SNG [Protection of Social and Labor Rights of Migrants in the CIS] 147 (Apr. 2012), at (in Russian).

[48] Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Entry Into and Exit from the Russian Federation, with the Latest Amendments of Dec. 30, 2012, § IV, SZ RF 1996, No. 34, Item 4029.

[49] Id.

[50] Federal Law No. 86 of May 19, 2010, Ros. Gaz., May 21, 2010,

[51] Federal Law of Nov. 12, 2012 on Amending Article 13(1) of the Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners and Article 27 of the Federal Law on Education, Ros. Gaz., Nov. 14, 2012.

[52] Migrants’ Russian Skills Will Be Tested as of December, Novaya Gazeta, Dec. 3, 2012 (in Russian).

[53] Id.

[54] Id.

[55] Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners, SZ RF 2002, No. 30, Item 3032.

[56] Statute on Visas and Procedures and Conditions of Their Issuance, SZ RF 2003, No. 24, Item 2329.

[57] Id.

[58] FMS, (last visited Mar. 4, 2013).

[59] Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Citizenship of the Russian Federation (Law on Citizenship), art. 12, SZ RF 2002, No. 22, Item 2031.

[60] Galina Vitkovskaia, Illegal Migration in Russia: Situation and Politics of Counteraction, in Illegal Immigration 11 (Moscow, 2002) (in Russian).

[61] Id. at 17.

[62] Tatiana Kutsenko, Illegal Migration and Illegal Employment of Foreigners in the Russian Federation, in Illegal Immigration 81 (Moscow, 2002).

[63] Statute on FMS, (last visited Mar. 4, 2013).

[64] Kutsenko, supra note 62, at 84.

[65] Id. at 86.

[66] Id. at 87.

[67] Immigration Control Department, FMS, (last visited Mar. 4, 2013).

[68] SZ RF 2012, No. 53(1), Item 7637.

[69] Federal Law No. 315 of December 30, 2012, on Amendments to the Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners, and the RF Code of Administrative Violations, SZ RF 2012, No. 53(1), Item 7640.

[70] Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners art. 36. 

[71] Russian Federation Code of Administrative Violations art. 18.1.

[72] Federal Law No. 312 on Amending Article 322 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code, SZ RF 2012, No. 53(1), Item 7637.

[73] Id.

[74] Federal Law No. 315 of December 30, 2012, on Amendments to the Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners, and the RF Code of Administrative Violations, SZ RF 2012, No. 53(1), Item 7640.

[75] Id.

[76] Id.

[77] Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreigners art. 13.2(27).

[78] Government Regulation No. 448 of June 7, 2001, on Providing Services to Migrants Placed in Temporary Resettlement Centers, SZ RF 2001, No. 16, Item 1603. 

[79] Vedomosti S”ezda Narodnyh Deputatov I Verkhovnogo Soveta RSFSR [Bulletin of the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Russian Federation and Supreme Council of the Russian Federation (then the official gazette)], 1993, No. 17, Item 594.

[80] Decree of the Russian Federation President No. 960 on Federal Security Service, SZ RF 2003, No. 33, Item 3254.

[81] Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Entry Into and Exit from the Russian Federation, with the Latest Amendments of Dec. 30, 2012, arts. 26 & 27, SZ RF 1996, No. 34, Item 4029.

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Last Updated: 12/30/2020