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MOSCOW, February 28. /ITAR-TASS/. The Russian government has supported the idea to introduce a simplified procedure to receive Russian citizenship by graduates of Russian higher educational establishments, investors and entrepreneurs. The proposal by the Federal Migration Service and the Economic Development Ministry, which took shape in draft amendments to the bill “On Citizenship,” has already made a lot of buzz.
Discussions on whether it is acceptable to “sell” citizenship for money have flared up in society. Now, due to the events in Ukraine, where the president has been ousted in violent anti-government protests, the process of drafting a bill to streamline citizenship acquisition by residents of the CIS, a loose association of former Soviet states, has accelerated as well.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev believes the idea to grant Russian citizenship in a simplified procedure to those whom the Russian economy needs is justified. Medvedev said this at a government meeting on Thursday where a relevant bill was being considered.
Russia is ready to give the green light to at least two categories of migrants wishing to become Russian nationals. First of all, these are graduates of domestic higher educational establishments (according to Education Ministry data, 100,000 foreigners, mostly from CIS countries, studied in them in 2013), who have worked in Russia for at least three years.
“They have already proven by their biography that they want to connect their life with Russia. These are good specialists who are demanded on the labor market,” Medvedev said.
Besides, similar to western countries, a simplified naturalization procedure is proposed for businessmen and investors. In order to hope for a Russian passport, an entrepreneur should do his business in Russia for at least three years, and annual earnings should be at least 10 million rubles ($277,000 at current rates).
As regards investors, the demands are the following: at least 10 percent in the authorized capital of a Russian legal entity carrying out activities on Russian territory, and then - either the entity’s net assets should constitute not less than 100 million rubles ($2.8 million), or the aggregate taxes paid by that entity should be at least 6 million rubles ($166,000) annually for at least three years in a row.
The draft law contains no recommendations on granting citizenship in exchange for real estate purchases.
Not every foreigner who invested money in the Russian economy will be able to receive citizenship in line with the simplified scheme. “Not any foreigner who invested funds in real estate will become a candidate for Russian citizenship. The types of economic activity in this case will be defined by the government,” Valentina Kazakova, head of the Federal Migration Service’s citizenship issues department, said at recent hearings in the Public Chamber.
Kazakova noted that the legality of funds invested in the economy would certainly be checked. “There are bodies that check how these revenues were gained. They certainly have to be legal,” she said.
When the document was being discussed, a dispute arose among experts whether a foreigner who graduated from a Russian higher educational establishment should work within his specialty. “We decided that we will not necessarily link work and specialty as not all Russians work within their specialty after they graduate from institutes,” the Migration Service official said.
The bill has many critics. In the opinion of Vladislav Grib, a deputy secretary of the Public Chamber, the practice of granting citizenship may create extra load on the state budget. The payments mentioned in the document are too small compared to how much the state will eventually spend on pensions, insurance and other payments for its new citizen, the expert said.
In Grib’s opinion, the proposed conditions of citizenship acquisition for students are also too mild. “The student should work in Russia at least five years, and only after that should he be given a residence permit but not citizenship,” Grib told the Kommersant daily in an interview.
The head of the Russian Federation of Migrants, Madzhumder Amin, on the contrary, believes that the service’s initiative will improve the investment climate. The organization Amin represents has sought the introduction of such practice since 2007.
Meanwhile, Alexander Zhukov, first deputy speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, the State Duma, from the ruling United Russia party, said Thursday the presidential administration and government are working on a draft law on a simplified procedure to grant Russian citizenship to CIS nationals. “This issue is really being worked on, and not only by State Duma factions but also by the presidential administration. The government is also working on this bill,” he said.
Two draft laws on a simplified procedure of granting Russian citizenship were submitted to the State Duma in February. The bills’ authors are lawmakers from the factions of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Communist Party. One of the bills streamlines the procedure of granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainian nationals of Russian origin, and the second one to other residents of former Soviet republics.
According to Zhukov, the draft laws have not been worked well enough.
Meanwhile, the number of Russian passports kept growing even before the emergence of the initiatives to streamline the procedure of Russian citizenship acquisition. In line with Federal Migration Service statistics, 95,737 people received Russian citizenship in 2012, and 135,788 people in 2013.
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