Immigration – the facts and an insight into the current immigration scene

David Maltby

Following on from my previous articles on Temporary and Full Residency, I recently met with one of Moscow’s top immigration lawyers. Marina Alekseevna Kushnereva, has worked in legal practice since 1994. She currently heads the migration legal practice at Scheglov & Partners. Our discussion turned to an overview of immigration in general, and focused on some helpful points for those considering applications. Marina also revealed some interesting future projects under consideration by the Internal Ministry.

David: Marina, to start – how do you see the ‘big picture’ on residency here in Moscow? How are the trends in numbers, demographics, and the processes involved?     

Marina: Firstly the big numbers – 10 million and 2 million! These are the numbers of registered foreign citizens in Russia and Moscow. In Moscow, looking only at the first 9 months of this year, 13,380 foreigners were given temporary or permanent residency, which is 4% more than in the previous year.

The creation of the Multifunctional Migration Center in Moscow -MMЦ (at Voronovskoe, 64 km Warsaw Highway) in 2014, significantly improved the provision of services for foreigners. Unfortunately, in 2014 and 2015, labour migrants faced great difficulties in the design of patents* and WP (Work Permits), mainly because of exceptional queues and panic regarding innovations. Today we see a high level of administration in WP production.

David: Why has the service for issuing Temporary Residency and Full residency been so slow and bureaucratic?

Since 2016, the ММЦ has also provided services for registration of Temporary Residency, Full Residency and Citizenship. I am sure that today’s difficulties (let’s call them bureaucratic) which foreign citizens encounter when submitting documents are a temporary phenomenon.

I always ask my trustees to be more tolerant of the reforms in the migration structure, because these reforms are undoubtedly aimed at creating an effective solution to the challenges posed by global migration numbers today.

David: Our readers are in some ways familiar with the application processes, when things go right. However, a lot of your work is when things go wrong. Could you describe your role in these cases?

I am approached by people who, of course, can understand the intricacies of migration legislation, prepare documents and deal with the migration service directly. However they prefer to entrust this work to professionals, because their own time is limited and they appreciate the quality of the services professionals provide. I know how the system works and I can suggest the most effective way of solving problems. Since 1993, Scheglov and Partners has provided services to foreign citizens arriving and residing on the territory of the Russian Federation.

The most relevant legislation includes, in 1996, the legislation 114-FL “On the procedure for leaving the Russian Federation and entry into the Russian Federation”. In 2002 we saw the law on the legal status of foreign citizens in Russia and the law on citizenship. Accordingly, our work includes legal representation, consultancy, negotiation, and representing the client at all stages, including the escalation of the case through the various law courts if necessary.

David: What would you say are the main causes of immigration process delays? Is it the process, the individual, or lack of care or unawareness of immigration issues?

Marina: The main reason, in my opinion, is the reorganisation of the migration service itself, the abolition of the FMS (Federal Migration Service) of Russia, and the transfer of functions and powers to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation. I believe we are over the worst, as we are now seeing improvements in service. The number of days delay is coming down, and hopefully we will soon see a normal service level.

David: What about future plans?

Marina: Many future projects are being discussed, which will radically change the systems and processes. In particular, there is a future global project involving photographing and fingerprinting of migrants on the Russian border. So it is possible in the near future, that foreigners will be offered migration services directly at the airport.

David: Dealing with the Migration Centre seems daunting and stressful. Why is this?

Consider what the MMЦ needs to deal with. If we consider the issue of registration of the TRP (Temporary Residence Permits) and Permanent Residence permits, we must understand that there are no standard cases here. There mandatory requirements which list the documents that a foreign citizen must provide to the ММЦ . Unfortunately many countries produce documents which do not match the general requirements of the migration service of Russia. Also, elderly foreign citizens, whose “documents” are generally difficult to call acceptable documents as we know them, face problems.

Sometimes, even filing an ostensibly basic document can be problematic.  Take, for example, the term “citizenship”. Holding his passport in his hands, a foreigner does not hesitate to write his citizenship on his application form. The migration service inspector, or the migration lawyer, may then have to explain to (for example) the citizen of Zimbabwe that before 1980 he was a citizen of Rhodesia. He lost this citizenship on the grounds of renaming the state of Rhodesia in Zimbabwe. Similarly, a citizen of Serbia needs to know that he was a citizen of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia until 1992, and from 1992 to 2003 he was a citizen of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. From 2003 to 2006 he was a citizen of Serbia and Montenegro, and from 2006, only then did he become a citizen of Serbia. There are many examples like that.

Every day the ММЦ accepts five thousand foreign citizens from all over the world. The Centre is doing a lot of work, but a lack of professional specialists, along with inefficient practices (caused by the reorganisation) has put this centre in last place in the rating system which measures the efficiency of state services.

David: In these days of global mobility, many expatriates may work in different locations. However, leaving Russia for more than 3 months may cause the residence permit to be revoked. Can this issue be overcome in any way?

Marina: It depends on circumstances. There are misleading sources of information on this.  An absence of more than 3 months from Moscow will not allow you to apply for Russian citizenship on the basis of permanent residence for more than 5 years in Russia.

If you do not apply for citizenship on the basis of your full residency, you are OK to stay in Russia 6 months a year, from the date of obtaining a TRP or a full residency permit. This duration will confirm the status of a temporary or permanent resident in the Russian Federation. You need to stay 183 days in a calendar year to complete the status of a tax resident.

David: If you were to give advice on applications for residency, what would you say are the main points for foreigners to pay attention to, in order to ensure a successful application?

David, I can write a whole book of tips on collecting a package of documents and competent application forms! There are a lot of nuances.

Probably, the most important point is that inaccuracies in filling out the application forms, and illegible documents can result in refusal to grant a residence permit under art. 9, item 4. 115 FL “On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation”. Submitting false or forged documents, or knowingly providing false information are also grounds for refusal.

David: Once you have residency, apart from not needing a visa, what obligations does this put upon foreigners?

Of course, you need to understand that getting a residence permit in Russia means that you also acquire certain rights and responsibilities. You need to know about that, before you begin the process of getting Russian documents.

It’s particularly important for permanent residents to understand that, not only are you obliged to submit an annual notification to the OVM of the OMVD in your area of residence, but also from 2016, according to RF Government Decree No. 1365 of 12.12.2015, before June 1, you must also provide reports on the movement of funds on accounts with banks outside the Russian Federation.

Regarding fines – do not forget that two or more administrative fines per year (including traffic fines) is a basis for cancelling your residency.

David: Marina, thank you very much for your time and the insight into your field of expertise, we greatly appreciate that. If any of our readers need your assistance, how can you be contacted?

Finally, Just a few facts. The Federal Migration Service (FMS), was abolished in 2016, was established in 2004 when our bureau was already engaged in migration services for 11 years. We have been providing our services for 24 years. On our website, you can find detailed information for our bureau services and practices.

You can find my email and phone numbers on that site.

*In 2010, migration authorities introduced two new ways to access the labor market: a “patent” system for citizens of former Soviet countries with visa-free entry, and simplified rules for the recruitment of highly qualified specialists.


David Maltby © Russia Knowledge