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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Contentious Registration Rule Is Scrapped

After two weeks of confusion and complaints, Moscow's visa and passport department has reversed itself and resumed stamping residency permits in the passports of travelers holding multi-entry commercial visas, visa agencies and business lobbyists said.

The new rule would have required frequent business travelers to reregister every time they entered the country.

"They have changed it back," Alexei Filipenko, the head of Visa Delight agency, said Friday. "They have already begun stamping."

"We've heard the same," said Andreas Romanos, the head of the Association of European Businesses, which has written two letters asking for clarification on the issue but has yet to receive an official reply.

"The last I heard on Friday, it was back to normal," Andrew Somers, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, said Sunday.

The reversal followed protests by the Association of European Businesses and the American Chamber of Commerce, although it remained unclear why the rule had been adopted and why it had been scuttled.

Registration stamps for travelers using commercial visas had in the past been placed both on migration cards and in passports, but officials in Moscow abruptly began stamping only migration cards at the end of August. Travelers have to give up the card when they leave the country, so the new rule meant that after returning, they had to send their passports with new migration cards and letters from their landlords to the city police's passport and visa department to be reregistered.

The Moscow visa and passport department refused to comment on the situation Friday. But the Federal Migration Service, which is part of the police force and has overall responsibility for the registration of foreigners, insisted that there had been no change one way or the other over the past two weeks.

"Nothing has changed, and everything remains the same," Federal Migration Service spokesman Konstantin Poltoranin said.

He suggested that visa agencies were simply uninformed about the registration issue -- a claim that the agencies strongly denied.

"We're not making it up," said an agency representative, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to spoil his agency's relationship with registration officials.

The registration imbroglio came shortly after the Federal Migration Service introduced new health tests for foreigners seeking work permits. The migration service is requiring that foreigners undergo tests for six diseases -- including leprosy and syphilis -- as part of the process for obtaining permits.

The American Chamber of Commerce, which has appealed the requirement, said that the Federal Migration Service was standing by the tests but was expressing an interest for information about how other foreign countries dealt with the issue.

The Association of European Businesses said the Federal Migration Service had told it that it was willing to accept tests carried out abroad.

The Federal Migration Service initially ordered that the tests be carried out at state-run clinics, but it later relaxed that rule to include private local clinics.

The American Chamber of Commerce said it expected the migration service to provide a list of clinics -- including foreign-run clinics and perhaps those abroad -- this week.