More expensive work permits: immigration rules get stricter

Over 80% of the Russian population has already felt the effect of worsening economic situation in Russia, Interfax news agency reported recently. Starting the New Year life of foreign workers willing to legally stay and work in Saint Petersburg also gets more complicated.

Starting January 1, 2015, new city law “On setting up coefficient indicating regional particularities of Saint Petersburg labor market” came into effect. The law was already dubbed “the law increasing the cost of work permit for immigrants”. Starting New Year immigrants pay 1,5 times more for the work permit: its price has increased to Rb 3,000 from 1,200 the year before.

One more reason for a headache was added for working immigrants, who are already obliged to pass a language test in Russian, buy a medical insurance policy, go through obligatory procedure of fingerprinting and take medicals tests. The price of work permit was increased, city legislative assembly deputies stated, in order to increase taxes on immigrants and increase tax collection for the city budget.

Some experts believe that this increase of the price of work permit will also help to decrease the flow of “guest workers” coming to Russia and increase the number of Russians at lower paid positions while the life expenses of immigrant workers will not allow them to live in Russia given Rb 15,000-20,000 salaries.

Besides that, the State Duma of the Russian Federation has made yet another “present” to foreign workers by increasing the period of ban on entry to the Russian Federation – up to 5 years – for those who over-stayed in Russia for up to six months and up to 10 years for those who over-stayed in the country for nine months or more.

People in the street, who have joyously picked up the aggressive rhetoric of the authorities, are celebrating this. But are there any reasons for celebrations and joy really? Given the fact that an average salary of an Uzbek citizen working in Russia is 4-5 times lower than that of a Russian citizen and while not less than half of immigrant workers live in Russia illegally, avoiding legalization of their status here, it is unlikely that the number of people willing to come to Russia for work will decrease, while the number of those unwilling to spend more money on settling their legal status will definitely become smaller. Moreover, while the price tags in shops are increasing and the salaries remain unchanged, chances are that the number of illegal immigrant workers will increase. And, contrary to what the Russian border guards expect, people who were blacklisted in Russia for violation of immigration rules are very likely to return to their countries, get new passports and return to Russia in order to work.

For these very reasons, I’m of the opinion that the adoption of this law is really not so grounded, however much state officials and experts insist on that. Instead of establishing proper control over the use of illegal immigrants as workers by companies, instead of banning illegal intermediary companies, who supply cheap labor force to large companies, the authorities once again introduce tougher measures aimed against immigrants themselves, which already demonstrated their complete ineffectiveness both in our country and elsewhere. Given the love of “easy buck” among the bureaucrats, these measures are likely to result in even greater corruption, and a deeper economic crisis as a result of that.

In the troubled economic situation, which our country faces now, the only way out can be seen in seeking for a better balance between the rights and freedoms of the local population and those of immigrant workers, while improving social justice in forms similar to those that exist in most of the civilized countries should be high on the agenda. This should be the basis of a national policy of the government, especially as far as labor immigration is concerned. The problem, however, is that hardly anybody rushes to implement these principles in our country.

by Sergey Mikheyev

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