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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Improvements Are Still Failing to Register

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Any law designed to simplify the country's unwieldy registration process for foreigners should be welcome news. But something is wrong when no one -- including law enforcement officials -- seems to understand a law more than three weeks after it comes into force.

At issue are new rules to introduce a "one-window" process allowing foreigners to register their place of residence much more easily. The inviting party -- the foreigner's employer, landlord, hotel or other host -- can simply take the necessary information to the local migration or post office and receive the necessary documentation. It sounds simple enough.

But the rules, outlined in a Jan. 15 law, are steeped in vagaries. Local and federal migration officials are contradicting one another in explaining the rules. Lawyers who specialize in labor issues are scratching their heads, and at least one hotel in St. Petersburg has stopped admitting foreigners altogether for fear of being slapped with a hefty fine.

The American Chamber of Commerce believes the problem will be resolved quickly, but it still asked a senior migration official to explain what was going on.

The official, Vyacheslav Postavnin, did clear up some of the uncertainty, telling AmCham members Thursday that a foreigner registered in Moscow who plans to visit, say, St. Petersburg must de-register at home and re-register in St. Petersburg if the trip is to last more than 10 days.

The new law had left unclear the registration requirements of domestic travel. It does say, however, that foreigners have three days to register upon their arrival in Russia and three days to de-register before they leave.

Postavnin acknowledged that there had been serious problems with the introduction of the new system and said they would be sorted out shortly.

Hopefully this will, indeed, be the case.

Making the process simpler could improve the lives of many foreigners, the vast majority of whom are from countries with which Russia has an open visa regime, such as the former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. Many lack registration, and this renders them defenseless against harassment by law enforcement officials.

Still, no compelling argument has been made to support the new requirement to register, de-register and re-register. The rule should be junked. And junking it might help on the way toward the ultimate goal of jettisoning registration laws altogether.

There is little if any proof that the registration system actually helps prevent terrorism, as many of its supporters argue. There is, however, overwhelming evidence that the system is a major contributor to corruption. Furthermore, there have been a series of Constitutional Court rulings that confirm that it contradicts the country's fundamental law.

Sooner or later, the time will come for registration to go.