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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Ease Rules for Expatriate Drivers

Expatriates living in Russia have regained their right to drive using an international driving permit or a notarized translation of their national license, traffic police officials said Wednesday.

"As of mid-September, foreigners living in Russia can drive any vehicle with their international driver’s license, regardless of the type of license plates it has," said Dmitry Kirillov, deputy head of the department in charge of licensing at the state traffic inspectorate, or GIBDD.

A government decree signed Jan. 1 limited the use of international permits to cars registered outside Russia. This category was expanded in June to include foreign representative office and diplomatic cars with yellow and red plates.

But expats driving locally registered cars with standard white plates were expected to have Russian licenses, obtained only after passing a complicated written exam.

Kirillov confirmed that foreigners can now drive those cars with their international permits or national licenses, provided they "conform to the UN convention on international traffic." If not, their owners should have a notarized translation of their licenses, he explained.

Over the last nine months, expats have been stopped regularly by the GIBDD and many have had their cars impounded.

The article limiting the use of international or national driver’s licenses by foreigners was annulled Sept. 8 by a new government decree, No. 670.

However, traffic inspectors do not appear to be aware of the changes and continue to impose penalties on expatriate drivers for driving without a Russian license, said Bruce Bean, a partner with the Moscow office of law firm Clifford Chance Puender.

"In practice, it would take a few weeks for the new rules to be fully functional," Bean said in an e-mail interview Wednesday. If you are stopped, he advised, pay the fine and appeal it in court.