Russian Federation

Ukraine, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2018. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Kyrgyzstan registered the strongest increase (3 600) and Ukraine the largest decrease (-11 000) in flows to Russia compared to the previous year. In 2019, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by -6.1%, to reach around 7 400. The majority of applicants came from Ukraine (6 100), Afghanistan (1 000) and Syria (300). Of the 7 300 decisions taken in 2019, 79.5% were positive.

In October 2018, the new Concept of the National Migration Policy for the period 2019-25 was adopted, replacing the previous Concept adopted in 2012. It stresses the importance of Russian culture and language but also expresses the need to attract different categories of migrants by setting up new immigration channels and conditions beyond those for migrants with ethnic or cultural ties to Russia.

At the end of March 2019, a migration amnesty for Kyrgyzstan citizens with minor violations of Russian administrative legislation was introduced. These persons were allowed to apply to the authorities until 22 April 2019 to legalise their stay in Russia without leaving the country.

In 2018-19 Russia signed several bilateral agreements on visa free visits with Croatia, Maldives, Antigua and Barbuda, Botswana, Iran, Cape Verde, Andorra and Qatar; on cross-border cooperation with Mongolia, and on recognition of foreign qualifications with Uzbekistan, Hungary, Angola, Cambodia and the Slovak Republic. An agreement was signed with Tajikistan to recruit migrant workers.

At the end of 2018, Russia established a limitation of the foreign labour force in selected sectors and for the first time in the construction industry in 2019.

A new law adopted on 18 December 2018 simplified the procedure for acquiring Russian citizenship for selected categories of foreigners. It also extended the President’s power to grant citizenship to foreigners living in countries where the socio-political or economic situation is complex, without the obligation to move to the Russian Federation and to renounce their previous citizenship.

In March 2019, the responsibilities of the Office of the President were enlarged to the activities on national migration policy (including data analysis and policy advice).

Access to temporary and permanent residence permits was facilitated for many immigrants in August 2019. The law allows temporary residence permits to be issued to selected categories of immigrants from former republics of the Soviet Union, without quota. Some foreigners may now apply directly for permanent residence permits without requesting temporary residence first. These measures concern, for example, investors, skilled professionals and foreign graduates with excellent academic performance in the Russian Federation vocational education system.

The COVID-19 crisis in Russia resulted in the temporary closure of most migration offices and the impossibility of filing any visa applications except for transit ones. Foreigners with valid documents were allowed to postpone the renewal of their permits that expire between 15 March and 15 June 2020. In addition, from 15 March to 15 June, the authorities did not cancel visas and permits or deport foreigners from Russia. From 16 June to 15 September, foreign citizens and stateless persons benefitting from the visa-free regime who arrived in Russia could apply for a patent (work authorisation) or its extension and re-registration, without respecting the usual requirements (filling in the request within a limited timeframe; stating purpose of the visit and departure). Exceptions to entry ban applied to selected categories of foreigners.

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