Medvedev puzzled over Soviet-style migration rules

President Dmitry Medvedev has urged changing the migration rules that currently allow a foreigner working in Russia to spend no more than ten days per year on business trips outside the main city of employment.

The president confessed that he had not been aware of such rules “reminiscent of Soviet past”.

The regulation that puzzled the president sets business trip limitations for foreign professionals who work in the country under work permits. It means that those who get permission to work in Moscow, or any other city, can only travel throughout the country dealing with business matters for ten days a year.

“That is something that reminds of Soviet-era regulations,” Medvedev said speaking at the meeting of the commission on modernization of the economy.

Under the logic of this rule, “every foreigner is believed to be in Russia with only one purpose – to collect data,” Medvedev said. “Therefore, the less the foreigner travels, the better it is for the country. It would be even better if the person just stayed put. Or, better not come at all: our law enforcement agencies and special services would have fewer troubles,” Medvedev commented sarcastically.

This rule must be changed, the president stressed.

The idea of liberalizing the visa legislation has long been in the air as Russia is devoted to the idea of modernizing its economy and foreign professionals and investors are very much welcome. In addition, it would make the lives of thousands of travelers easier. Moscow has repeatedly said that it is ready to introduce visa-free travel with the EU.

Earlier in November, after a meeting with his Finnish counterpart Tarja Halonen, Medvedev said that Russia “is generally interested in making migrant registration simpler, less bureaucratic and more relaxed for foreigners”. The process of easing migration rules should result in the introduction of visa-free travel between Russia and the EU.

However, he underlined, these decisions should go “hand in hand with the relevant procedures within the EU”. While these two things are not interlinked, “we believe that our movement towards a visa-free regime should go in parallel,” Medvedev added.

The idea of visa-free travel has found support among many EU leaders. However, so far they have been rather careful in naming any dates.

Now there finally seems to be some progress in the process. On Monday, the Head of the European Commission Delegation to Russia, Fernando Valenzuela, announced that the sides are ready to work on determining the concrete steps for canceling the visa formalities.

"The visa issue will certainly be touched upon at the upcoming EU-Russia summit in Brussels on December 7," he said, cited Itar-Tass. "We intend to work on determining the concrete steps for the abolition of visas, the creation of a corresponding 'roadmap'. A political decision will be made as a result of these actions," the diplomat added.

Echoing earlier words of the Russian president, the EU diplomat said they "propose to move simultaneously towards facilitating the visa regime".He said that the process of getting visas should become simpler and cheaper.