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13 Jul, 2020 12:14

‘High-quality migrants' wanted: Russian Deputy PM says pandemic has given Moscow time to rethink immigration policy

‘High-quality migrants' wanted: Russian Deputy PM says pandemic has given Moscow time to rethink immigration policy

Russia has long been notorious for its difficult immigration policy, with various bureaucratic hoops famously frustrating even the most ardent Russophiles who attempt to run the gauntlet. Now, this looks set to change.

The country must change its migration process to attract “highly qualified personnel,” according to Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova, who explained that Covid-19 has allowed the government to look at the situation differently.

“The closure of the state borders has allowed us to look at migration problems from a different angle,” she said. “We need changes in favor of high-quality migration, attracting very qualified personnel to the country, who can work, even in restricted activities,” Golikova said, at the Council for Strategic Development and National Projects.

Russia has extensive national projects in the fields of education and science, and the deputy prime minister believes Russia should increase incentives for foreign students and scientists to ply their trade in the world’s biggest country.

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“High-quality migration can also contribute to the sustainable growth of the population of Russia,” she remarked.

Russia is currently in the process of rapidly liberalizing its visa regime for visitors and potential residents. From January 2021, citizens of 113 nations will be able to enter Russia without the need for a paper visa, including visitors from the EU, China, Japan, India, and Turkey. The scheme notably excludes Americans, Australians, Brits, and Canadians. The country is also mulling over the possibility of allowing foreigners to obtain permanent residency if they purchase real estate.

Aside from easing up visa requirements, Russia has also begun removing barriers to foreigners obtaining Russian citizenship. In April, President Vladimir Putin signed a new law removing the obligation of naturalized Russian citizens to give up their existing passports. Just a few months prior to this, the citizens of Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan had their paths to Russian citizenship relaxed, removing any residency requirement. In 2019, Putin implemented an even more straightforward process for residents of the self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk ‘people's republics’ in eastern Ukraine.

With a decline in the natural growth of its population, partially due to the effects of the catastrophic 1990s, attracting new citizens is a priority of the Russian government. In 2019 Putin created a working group with the task of reforming migration schemes and the path to citizenship. The new plans are hoped to attract between five and 10 million new citizens.

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