As we know, a temporary residence permit (razreshenie na vremennoye prozhivanie) confirms a foreign national's right to temporarily reside in the Russian Federation. It is usually issued for a three-year period. A permanent residence permit (vid na zhitel'stvo) is a document entitling a foreign national to reside permanently in the Russian Federation, generally for a five-year period with a possibly unlimited number of five-year extensions. A permanent residence permit gives the foreign national many more privileges than a temporary one. These include visa-free entry to Russia and the ability to work anywhere in the country.

Many foreigners consider the temporary residence permit an unavoidable step on the way to getting a permanent residence permit. Although some categories of foreign nationals are allowed to get a permanent residence permit without first obtaining a temporary residence permit, most foreign nationals who want to later get a permanent residence permit do need to get a temporary one first.

Temporary residence permits are issued within an annual quota. This makes the process somewhat similar to a lottery: many people want one but the chances of success are relatively low. A temporary residence permit can be issued outside of the quota only to applicants who meet certain legally established requirements. For example, those who are married to Russian citizens domiciled in the Russian Federation, or those who were born in the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic) and previously held USSR citizenship.

This is why a new law is particularly interesting. Adopted on August 2 of this year, Federal Law No. 257-FZ on Amendments to the Federal Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Nationals in the Russian Federation goes into effect on November 1. Some of the law's provisions contain favorable changes to the procedure for obtaining a temporary or permanent residence permit. The following changes are noteworthy:

  • The list of categories of applicants who can be issued a temporary residence permit outside of the quota has been expanded. Such categories include, in particular, foreign nationals who have worked in the Russian Federation at least six months before applying for a permanent residence permit in a profession (specialty or position) that is on the list of professions, specialties and positions of foreign nationals and stateless persons who are qualified specialists eligible for fast-track Russian Federation citizenship. The list encompasses a total of 74 professions/specialties/positions. Citizens of former Soviet states who hold vocational degrees from state educational institutions located in the Russian Federation in state-accredited educational programs, and some other categories of applicants are also eligible for a temporary residence permit outside of the quota.
  • Many categories of applicants can now get a permanent residence permit without being required to first obtain a temporary residence permit. From now on, we recommend that foreign nationals check whether they fall into any of the categories of applicants allowed to obtain a permanent residence permit without having to get a temporary one.
  • The permanent residence permit is now also available to "straight-A" students. This means individuals who have successfully completed a full-time state-accredited higher education program in the Russian Federation and who have received an academic degree and qualification with honors.
  • Except for a few cases, permanent residence permits will now be issued with no expiration. However, just as a Russian Federation passport, in certain situations the permanent residence permit must be replaced (e.g., when the foreign national turns 14, 20 and 45 years of age; if the foreign national changes his/her last name or first name, information about date or place of birth or country of nationality, and in other cases specified by law).

At the same time, some other new developments involve serious restrictions that could cause difficulties for foreign nationals residing temporarily or permanently in Russia. These new developments include:

  • A foreign national who stays outside of the Russian Federation more than a total of six months in a calendar year can have their temporary or permanent residence permit denied or canceled. Exceptions are cases where it is impossible to leave a foreign state due to circumstances related to the need for emergency treatment, serious illness of the foreign national or the death of a close relative who resided in a foreign state at the time of death. Another exception is when the foreign national has a professional need to stay outside of the Russian Federation. The previous rules on this were more lenient and merely did not allow a continuous six-month absence from Russia. So, foreign nationals temporarily or permanently residing in the Russian Federation should keep track of the number of days they spend outside of Russia.
  • Denial or cancellation of a permanent residence permit is also possible if a foreign national fails to notify the competent state migration authority over the course of two continuous years from receipt of the permanent residence permit that he or she still resides in the Russian Federation.

Foreign nationals who received a permanent residence permit before the above changes went into effect can continue to use a previously issued permanent residence permit throughout the term of issuance or until it is canceled. Such foreign nationals may apply for a new permanent residence permit (i.e., one without an expiration date) by submitting the appropriate set of documents to the local Interior Ministry office. The set of documents includes a letter of application (with no set form), the person's foreign passport, photographs and some other documents. A foreign national may apply to replace a previously issued permanent residence permit with a new one at any time within the validity of his or her current permanent residence permit. However, the application must be submitted at least a few months before the old permit expires.

The new rules also clarify how an applicant can file a notice confirming they are residing in the Russian Federation. There are now three ways the foreign national can do this: (a) by submitting the notice in person, presenting an ID document and the permanent residence permit, (b) by mail according to the established procedure, and (c) by submitting it as an e-document using public data networks. However, at the end of each five-year period of permanent residence in the Russian Federation the foreign national can only submit the notice in person and directly to the competent state migration authority.

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