Russia to expand use of biometrics to identify foreign citizens and immigrants seeking work

Russia to expand use of biometrics to identify foreign citizens and immigrants seeking work

The Russian government said it intends to make increased use of biometric data when identifying foreign citizens, according to proposals related to reforming Russia’s migration and citizenship regulations described in a Kremlin statement Saturday.

A document outlining policies for the next five years states, “[The] standing migration rules are not clear and unified enough. The level of digitalization in the fields of government services and state control of migration remains low.”

The new amendments apply to laws regulating the procedures for entering Russia by foreigners with electronic visas.

The new procedures emphasized the government’s expressed need to magnify the employment of extended biometric technologies and controls when identifying foreign nationals when they enter via border control access points; are provided public services; or are bound by identification restraints and management.

In addition, the new immigration entry procedures are said to be essential for controlling and monitoring public health safety inspections, and that biometric registration is therefore incumbent prior to allowing foreign nationals to enter Russia. It is unclear from official government organs or Kremlin authorities whether any of this is specifically in response to the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus. As of Monday afternoon, 17 new confirmed infections were reported in addition to 14 existing infections and 3 “total” recoveries.

The new migration policy has been described as having been designed to establish “a favorable environment for Russian-speaking foreigners, as well as people who have a ‘similar mentality and culture,’ which the Kremlin has only vaguely described and elaborated, though it did state this policy pertains to individuals and persons from countries with “positive social ties to Russia,” as well as persons who are regarded as “vulnerable.” These categories of individuals will be capable of being granted citizenship status pursuant to a shortened process.

The procedure to obtain Russian citizenship will also be adjusted. In addition, RT reported Sunday that “a third, ‘special’ way to receive Russian citizenship is envisioned for foreign nationals deemed ‘particularly valuable’ for the country,” noting that, “(a)s the criteria is rather vague, the document says the final decision regarding ‘particularly valuable’ people will be made personally by the president of Russia.”

President Vladimir Putin signed the new laws for Russia’s migration and citizenship policy, Federal Law on Amendments to Articles 25 and 2517 of the Federal Law On the Procedure for Exiting and Entering the Russian Federation, and to Article 11 of the Federal Law On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation.

According to the Kremlin and news reports, “flaws” in immigration laws have allowed immigrants entering the country for work to seek illegal methods of getting into the country and to work without the proper permits, bypassing biometric identity requirements. The reforms are designed to prevent this from continuing as the government seeks to crackdown.

Under the new rules, entrepreneurs looking to hire foreign workers will be able to do so through a new state-supervised information procedure by requiring prospective foreign workers to be vetted and recommended by state employment agencies, described by one account as “an apparent attempt to eradicate the existing shady schemes in the distribution of foreign workers.”

A biometric enabled residency permit will be required as a person’s primary identification document which delineates the status of all immigrants in Russia. The existing “temporary residency permits” in effect will be eliminated because, as the Kremlin stated, they are no longer effective or accurate.

According to the Kremlin, it will be mandatory for all foreign nationals seeking a permit for an extended period of time in Russia to create an individual account in the government’s identification database system; acquire a special authenticate identification document with a digital signature; provide the government with their biometric data; and verify that they are not infected by or a carrier of a contagious pathogen.

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