State Looks to Attract Foreigners to the East

The government is considering eliminating immigration caps for skilled workers in Siberia and the country's Far East to meet rising demand for industry specialists beyond the Ural Mountains.

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov breached the possibility in a speech delivered at the Baikal economic forum in Irkutsk, according to a statement from the forum.

"It's possible that we need to examine the practicality of preserving quotas for highly qualified immigrants to Siberia and the Far East," Shuvalov said Tuesday, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported. "Russia is in need of people possessing high qualifications and a high level of education."

Shuvalov did not reveal any concrete plans to roll back the current limits on immigrants to the country's far-flung regions, where some projects, particularly in the energy and mining sectors, require technical experts that the country's limited corps of skilled workers cannot always provide.

"The basic principle ought to lie in the fact that the necessary personnel should be where they are needed," Shuvalov said.

A spokesperson for the Health and Social Development Ministry, which sets the country's immigration policy, said she could not comment on Shuvalov's remarks, as he does not work in the ministry.

She said, however, that the ministry has not considered eliminating caps on permits in the regions referred to by Shuvalov. "No such plans have been made as of now," the spokeswoman said.

The proposal comes after a summer in which the ministry has been forced to revise its caps because of high demand for foreign specialists. In Moscow alone, the annual allotment of 300,000 work permits had been met by May.

In June, the government increased the caps in Moscow and several regions, including six territories in the Far East.