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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foreigners May Face Revised Visa Regime

The State Duma's geopolitics committee is drafting a new law regulating foreigners, but there are as yet no plans to return to the regimentation of the Soviet era.

"I do not think that we will write a stricter law to deter people from coming to Russia," committee chairman Alexei Mitrofanov said after a meeting Thursday at which an early draft of the law was discussed.

"But fines for violating the visa regime will certainly rise. Money formerly had no significance, and now it does," Mitrofanov said.

The committee will submit a draft of the law to the full legislature on March 4.

The reserve of Mitrofanov, a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, contrasted starkly with some statements by his party boss, who has frequently lashed out against the increased presence of foreigners in Russia.

The committee's draft law would provide for an improved centralized system of registering foreigners in Russia.

Committee members proposed an "American-style visa regime," meaning that visas should contain full information on a foreigner's status in the country, including work permits and medical information.

The idea was encountered with hostility at the Foreign Ministry, committee members reported.

"The Foreign Ministry doesn't much want to deal with this, since they would have to reorganize the entire system," Mitrofanov said.

The draft law would also increase the role of the Health Ministry in screening foreigners who wish to enter Russia, including mandatory "complete medical exams" for citizens of "certain countries," Mitrofanov said, without specifying the countries he had in mind.

"When people talk only about AIDS, this is not right," he said, adding that such diseases as Hepatitis B are much more widespread.

In a press release, the committee said that a new law on foreigners had been necessitated by the changes in Russia's status since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Specifically, the committee pointed to the "transparency" of Russia's borders with the CIS countries which resulted in uncontrolled movement of refugees into Russia, and the "gradual massive settlement in certain regions of the Far East of emigrants from China, Korea and Vietnam which could lead to dangerous demographic consequences."

More than 500,000 foreigners are currently residing in Russia, the committee said, citing official government data.

In considering weightier matters, the Duma has not forgotten its own interests. On Wednesday the Committee on Organization passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a health club in the parliament, Itar-Tass reported.

The club would contain an exercise room, a dental clinic, and a center for the prevention of colds.

There are also proposals for an "office of psychological relaxation" and a winter garden.

The funds are to come from the federal budget, according to Itar-Tass.