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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Foreigners Confront Tighter Travel Rules

Foreigners registered in Moscow must inform migration officials of their whereabouts if they take a trip to another Russian city that lasts more than 10 days, a senior Federal Migration Service official said Thursday.

The change comes under a new law that also requires foreigners to alert migration authorities every time they enter or leave the country. The rules are sowing confusion in the foreign community, and Vyacheslav Postavnin, deputy head of the Federal Migration Service, tried to clarify them to a bewildered group of businesspeople Thursday.

A foreigner must hand over his registration papers to migration officials if he travels to St. Petersburg, for example, and stays there for more than 10 days, Postavnin told a briefing organized by the American Chamber of Commerce.

The foreigner's "inviting party" -- an employer, landlord, hotel or other Russian host -- must then register him with local migration officials and deregister him after he leaves for Moscow, he said.

"If he says in a hotel, then it will all be done automatically for him," Postavnin said. "He won't experience any problems."

Back in Moscow, the foreigner must re-register within three days of his return, he said.

The Jan. 15 law -- which requires foreigners to hand over their registration papers via their inviting party -- has been touted by migration officials as a simplification of the registration process. The inviting party is merely required to submit information about the foreigner's passport, visa and migration card to the local branch of the migration service or send it by registered mail.

But the law is steeped in vagaries, and Postavnin spent much of Thursday's briefing asking attendees to inform him personally about problems they encounter in registering their foreign employees.

One woman in the audience told Postavnin that during an attempt to register foreign employees at a migration office in Moscow, officials told her that for each foreigner the company must submit his passport, visa, registration, a letter from the company, and a letter from the local building-utilities administrator offices. Furthermore, she was told that both the foreigner and his landlord must both come down to the branch.

Another audience member said post office employees were refusing to handle the registration documents, while another said local migration officials had acknowledged that they did not know the new rules.

One audience member described the new law using the famous phrase uttered by former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin: "We hoped for better, but it turned out like always."

Postavnin promised that kinks in the system would be worked out "in the nearest future."

Postavnin did make one concrete clarification concerning foreigners currently in Russia with valid visas and registrations pre-dating the new law. If such foreigners leave the country, they will be registered under the new law upon return, he said.

This means that the foreigner's inviting party is required to inform local migration officials of the foreigner's arrival within three working days of his entry into the country.

Migration officials then issue a registration card that the foreigner carries at all times as proof of being in the country legally. The card makes obsolete the previous practice of placing a registration stamp in passports.

The inviting party is also required to inform authorities if the foreigner leaves Russia, and it has two working days from the day of departure to do so.

AmCham president Andrew Somers said he expected migration officials to clear up the confusion surrounding the law soon.

"I don't think that we'll have any negative long-term effects," he said.