Since I haven’t been posting regularly lately, it seems appropriate to write an update on the “state of things.”
A few weeks ago before my computer crashed (or rather it got infected and I made it worse), I had been researching options for foreigners living in Russia. I’ll explain the situation as I understand it.
There are several different options for staying in Russia short-term. You do have to register within 3 days of arrival, but other than that, no big changes. The recent changes that have come about apply to one-year multi-entry visas. Other than a working or student visa, the multi-entry visa has been the only option for presiding long-term in Russia, without having a green card.
Under the new rules, a foreigner with a multi-entry visa may stay in Russia for only 90 days out of 180. Then, he must be out of the country for 90 days. These days may be scattered throughout the 180-day period, but in total only 180 days may be spent in Russia during the 365-day period. It is almost like constantly getting 3-month visas with 3 months in between, although the days do not have to be consecutive. So imagine you have a teaching job and you teach those students for three months and then leave for three months. Or you are doing something relationship-based and are only around for half a year. After three months, relationships just begin to deepen, and then you leave. Not very convenient!
The reasoning behind the new law as I imagine is something like this:
1) It will help put Russia on an even par with European countries, many of whom have similar restrictions
2) It will help keep a tighter control on who’s in the country.
3) It will help cut down on illegal workers, many of them immigrants from other parts of the CIS.
So here are some options for foreigners:
1) Get a work or student visa.
2) Get a green card. For this it’s helpful to either own property or have a Russian spouse. Under temporary residence, you are restricted on how often you can leave Russia. You have to specially request permission to leave.
3) Get a multi-entry visa and either leave every three months or come and go constantly.
4) Get back-to-back short term visas. This would also require coming and going often, but you wouldn’t have to be out of the country for 3 months. You would just leave for as long as it took to renew your visa. Of course, if you do this often, there is always the chance that you will be denied a visa. With a one-year multi-entry, at least you are safe for one year.
Enforcement of the laws:
It’s not clear yet how they will enforce the 90-day rule. At the airport and border control they are hardly going to sit and search through all your passport pages counting the days. However, the visa will have the restriction printed inside. And we have heard that there is a new section in the Consulate that will specifically deal with overseeing the stay of foreigners in the Russian Federation.
For consistency and convenience, a work or study visa seems practical. A study visa would mean you would devote a lot of time to study. So, depending on your goal for being in Russia, you would be somewhat restricted. A work visa is challenging to get. Foreigners do not normally have trouble finding “work” in Russia, especially native English speakers. However, it is complicated for employers to hire foreigners, and they sometimes use a business or study visa to avoid the strict labor regulations.
Some of the labor regulations:
An employer of foreigners in the Russian federation should have a permit to hire foreigners, which requires some work to receive. Then, the employer needs to file a request to hire each individual foreign employee. The visa is strictly due to those terms. In the U.S., for example, a foreigner entering on a work visa can change jobs. But in Russia, a work visa is subject to cancellation if even the position or number of hours changes. And the employer cannot apply the work permit to another employee, but must start the process from the beginning. I can’t find the article in which I was reading about the requirements for employers, but not all employers will be able to meet the terms. For example, establishments such as schools or non-profit organizations may not have the resources to be able to hire foreigners, as it is a complicated as well as expensive process.
And my status? I received my visa in August, before the new restrictions came into effect. So I can be here until August 2008.
I’ve spent so much time listing rules that I didn’t get around to discussing how I think this will affect missionaries. Stay tuned…