Residency and Citizenship -
Privileges Held by Foreigners Married to Russian Citizens
By Josh Wilson, Communications Director,
with Olga Timoshkina, Lawyer,
and the legal department of Alinga Consulting Group
There have long been many Russian citizens who choose to marry foreigners. However, an increasing number of those foreigners are now choosing to live in Russia, rather than move the new family to another country. Obviously these foreigners will need a long-term solution for the documentation they need in order to reside in Russia. As the spouses of Russian citizens they are entitled to certain legal privileges that other foreigners are not.
While visas to Russia must be renewed at least every year, any interested party may also apply for the status of temporary residency, which allows foreigners to live in Russia for up to three years and is assumed to be the first step towards the more permanent solutions: permanent residency or citizenship.
The Russian Federation maintains an annual quota for the number of temporary residence permits that can be issued. This quota is determined yearly. However, foreigners married to Russian citizens are outside this quota; they may apply and be granted temporary residency even if the quota has already been filled.
To take advantage of this, the foreigner must submit the marriage certificate and the spouse’s passport when applying. If the couple was married abroad, the marriage certificate should be apostilled in the country it was issued. Then, a notarized translation to Russian must be produced in Russia.
Applications may be submitted to the local Ministry of the Interior Directorate for Migration Affairs office that serves the region in which the foreigner will receive registration (usually the same region in which the foreigner will reside; note that Moscow now has a central office serving all of Moscow, located in Sukharevskaya; other cities still use local offices). The application may also be processed by a Russian diplomatic mission or consular office located in the foreigner's home state. In considering the application, the authorities will send inquiries to a raft of Russian institutions and government agencies including the FSB, bailiff service, tax authorities, social security institutions, health authorities, Interior Ministry, and other institutions that may have information concerning the applicant. These institutions are granted two months from the date of the request to provide any information that would prevent the application for temporary residence from being granted.
While foreigners married to Russians can apply for temporary residency without being subjected to quotas, they still have to apply via a procedure that is far from simple. Also, like most bureaucratic procedures in Russia, applicants may find, despite having researched the official websites of Russian government offices, having asked officials in those offices, having looked through the tomes of Russian legislation, they may find the procedure and demands at the local office is entirely different. This is simply the nature of Russian bureaucracy.
Due to this, we urge all potential applicants to visit their local office and ask there for detailed instructions and requirements. This said, the application packet will almost certainly include completed application forms (in Russian), notarized translations of the applicant's passport, the original passport, documentation of legal and financial status of the apartment or house the foreigner will be registered in, results of medical testing for a range of diseases and conditions (produced by a Russian state clinic), several passport-sized photos, and more.
If the application is turned down (or if temporary residency is ever revoked), the foreigner may reapply, but not earlier than one year from the date of refusal or revocation.
Temporary residence permits include the following information: the holder's name (written in Russian and Latin letters/alphabets), date and place of birth, gender, citizenship, number and date of the permit issuance of the permit, its expiration date, and the name of the executive authority which issued the permit. The permit is considered an acceptable form of legal identification while inside Russia.
Holders of temporary residency permits, whether married to Russians or not, are still subject to labor quotas and must attain a work permit in order to work in Russia.
After residing in Russia for at least one year under temporary residency status (and not having left Russia for a period of longer than three months during that year of residency), holders may apply for permanent residency.
Permanent residency allows its holder to work in Russia without a special work permit (attained by the employer on behalf of the employee). Holders may also enter and leave Russia freely (those on temporary residency must receive a special exit visa to leave without losing their temporary residency status).
Permanent residency is applied for under a process similar to that described for temporary residency, at the local migration office, and grants its holder the right to live and work in the Russian Federation for up to five years. The permit may be renewed every five years thereafter without limit.
For those looking for an absolute permanent solution to staying in Russia, citizenship may be an option. Another area in which foreigners married to Russian citizens are granted special privileges is expedited citizenship.
Of course, some foreigners reside in Russia on permanent residency without ever applying for citizenship. Receiving citizenship grants certain rights (to access social services and the convenience of not having to regularly receive renewed permission to stay in Russia). However, it also entails responsibilities (such as army service for those aged 18 to 35). It can also limit the services that a foreigner can receive from the embassy of his/her country of first citizenship – and may hinder his/her ability to retain that first citizenship. The laws of both countries should be carefully reviewed when making the step to seek citizenship.
For those that choose to apply for citizenship, Article 14 of Russia's law entitled “On Citizenship of the Russian Federation" grants those persons married to Russian citizens an expedited application procedure.
Most foreign individuals are required to hold permanent residency for at least five years before applying for citizenship. Those who are married to a Russian citizen, however, may apply for citizenship immediately after receiving temporary residency. Note, however, that many officials are either not informed of this right or are against granting it. In many cases, unfortunately, to claim this right, you will need to enlist the help of a professional lawyer skilled in this area who can press the officials to follow protocol.
To claim this expedited procedure, the applicant must prove that he or she has been married to a Russian citizen for no less than three years. The spouses must have also lived together during that time. This is shown by submitting the marriage certificate and spouse's passport as part of the application package for citizenship.
There are several methods by which a foreign individual may live in Russia long-term. Each method must be considered carefully, and the process of applying for the status must be approached with patience, preference, and careful planning. However, for those who are motivated strongly enough by money or love, everything is possible.
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