Russian Federation

Ukraine, Tajikistan and Armenia were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2019. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Armenia registered the strongest increase (28 000) and Belarus the largest decrease (-100) in flows to Russia compared to the previous year.

In 2020, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by -13.8%, to reach around 6 000. The majority of applicants came from Ukraine (4 700), China (900) and Afghanistan (600). The largest increase since 2019 concerned nationals of China (900) and the largest decrease nationals of Ukraine (-1 300). Of the 6 900 decisions taken in 2020, 77.6% were positive.

Emigration of Russians to OECD countries was stable in 2019, at 98 000. Approximately 18% of this group migrated to Turkey, 14% to Germany and 11% to the United States.

The main changes in migration legislation in Russia, not related to the pandemic, dealt with the simplification of the procedures for acquiring citizenship for selected categories of foreigners, simplified access to a residence permit, and registration of migrants at the place of temporary residence.

The changes relate to reform of the migration regime and migration legislation and the preparation of a new legal act that will combine (in a modified form) many of the provisions currently contained in different laws. They imply the cancellation of the temporary residence permit, overall digitalisation of services related to foreigners’ stay and work in Russia, a unification of the terms of a foreigner’s long-term stay in Russia (exceeding 90 days), and reclassification of naturalisation channels.

From 1 November 2019, many foreigners can obtain a permanent residence permit, bypassing a temporary residence permit. Among them are almost all persons who apply for a permit based on family reunification (except spouses), graduates of Russian professional training institutions (tertiary and secondary) in case of having a diploma with honours, skilled specialists with selected occupations (from the abovementioned list of the Ministry of Labour) after half a year work in Russia.

There will be a single procedure for a long-term stay (more than 90 days a year) for any legal purposes, including work and education, without obtaining a residence permit and acquiring Russian citizenship. These rules will apply to foreigners who enter the Russian Federation in a manner that does not require a visa, including citizens of the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union, with the exception of citizens of Belarus.

An e-visa was introduced to facilitate international trips to Russia for the citizens of 52 countries.

A Federal Law in April 2020 introduced several important changes to the procedures of citizenship acquisition. Foreigners who were recognised as Russian language native speakers, and reside in Russia, regardless of the country of their previous citizenship, are allowed to apply for Russian citizenship without renouncing their current citizenship. Previously (since 2016), this applied only to citizens of Ukraine.

The policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic included closing borders (and then gradually restoring transport links with some countries), suspending the validity of various documents that allowed foreigners to stay in Russia, and permission to apply for work permits regardless of the purpose of entry. Employers were allowed to hire workers of this category. Measures apply until June 2021. Since 16 March 2021 foreign students from countries deemed epidemiologically safe are allowed to return to Russia.

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