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The Bottom Line

Visa, Registration Rules to be Revolutionized
Vyacheslav Postavnin, deputy head of Russias Federal Migration Service told a spirited American Chamber of Commerce audience at a Moscow breakfast meeting that migration policy has undergone substantial changes recently. Policy is moving away from the restrictive measures applied to prevent illegal migration towards a policy driven by social and economic policy.

A new law on migration registration, signed into effect on July 18, and taking effect January 15, 2007, means foreigners will no longer have to seek permission, but only to notify the authorities by mail to register a visa.

Amendments to other laws easing the bureaucratic burden on foreign companies and their foreign employees are pending.

Mr. Postavnin impressed the Chamber audience as a clearheaded, pragmatic and accommodating government official. Time and again he invited individual participants who raised specific questions to refer the matter to him. He gave the audience his address and gave Andrew Somers, the president of Amcham his e-mail and web site address and handed out all the visit cards he had with him to eager lawyers and company representatives who greeted him at the end of the meeting.

He promised that procedures were being developed to ensure that no one seeking migration documents would have to wait more than 20 minutes.

A graduate of the Moscow Aviation Institute and holder of a law degree, Mr. Postavnin announced that he has issued instructions to all offices of the Foreign Migration Service reaffirming to them exactly what the new rules and procedures entail and holding them liable if they create their own ad hoc discretionary orders at the local level.

He acknowledged this has been a problem for business throughout Russia. Representatives of our service do not always correctly implement the principles locally, or interpret the laws in their own way.

The intensity of the debate was evident from the opening question when Chet Bowling of Alinga Consulting Group asked who should be getting a work permit for foreign employees of a foreign company, who have no representation in Russia but who are sent to Russia to work in a Russian organization.

I anticipated this question with horror, said Mr. Postvanin. our legislation does not envisage (such a situation). I can only hope you will initiate a proposal and we may then consider passing appropriate legislation.

Asked by one incredulous participant if it could really be true that a work permit would be issued in 20 minutes, he said I understand that for our country it sounds like something out of a fairy tale. I must say it applies not only to the Federal Migration Service but also Rosregistratsiya, which deals with agencies interacting with people on issues such as Russian passports and the registration of real estate. Everyone who lives in this country knows it sometimes can be complicated and stressful. One hates to stand in queue and deal with gruff officials. We are aware of all this but now there is a commitment and a confidence that we will be able to reduce this procedure and make it acceptable to our society.

All this streamlining of bureaucracy is being spearheaded by the Federal Commission on Administrative Reform headed by Mr. Sergei Naryshkin, the Kremlin chief of staff.

The notification procedure will apply to everyone, whether it is registration at the place of residence or registration at the place of temporary stay, you will not need a permit. You only need to notify the authorities, Mr. Postavnin said.

Expanding on how this will apply to registering your visa and place of stay upon arrival, Postanin made clear that if the sojourn was up to three days there was no need to register at all and if longer than three days then the inviting party will be able to obtain a special form from any post office. By completing it and mailing it, the proof of postage becomes the proof of notification.

A representative of oil service company Schlumberger said they had difficulties in the regions where branch offices could obtain work permits for foreign employees but could not make invitations for working visas. What should we do, she asked.

As for invitations, such problems do exist in some regions, but we have reversed the trend.

Asked if she could bring such cases to him, Mr. Postavnin replied, Of course. He recalled that there had been a big problem with Sakhalin, the oil field development centre off the Far East coast of Russia, and he personally had to address it with the help of Amchams Somers.

Mr. Postvanin announced that pilot programs in St Peterburg and Moscow Oblast would start this year offering a one window service for work permits. He also said his service was preparing to introduce remote access which would allow people to send data for work visa and work permit applications and registrations by e-mail. We only have to prepare a couple of instructions and we will start to work this way shortly, without waiting for further documentation. So, if you have a large volume of documents, lets cooperate and tune up this system.

A full transcript of the meeting is available at: www.amcham.ru. On the same site the complete list of documents required for foreign work permit applications by organizations is displayed.
Another level of inconvenience when flying

Heathrow Airport, London

A glimpse at the future of airline security was revealed last month when British authorities foiled a plot involving suicide bomber missions on several planes traveling from the UK to the USA. Britain and America were again facing terror threats of epic proportions and MI5 issued the highest alert possible: CRITICAL, meaningan attack is expected imminently. Arrests were announced and the country waited tensely for the latest news, praying that the threat had, for the time being, been averted.

Meanwhile, restrictions on air travel were quickly and radically tightened. A clearer picture of the plot emerged. The terrorists had planned to use liquid explosives to blow planes out of the sky causing mass murder on an unimaginable scale. No hand luggage was allowed on planes leaving UK airports. The only thing passengers were allowed on planes was a clear plastic bag containing the following:

  • Pocket sized wallets/purses plus their contents (e.g. money, credit cards, identity cards) and NO HANDBAGS.
  • Travel documents essential for travel.
  • Prescription medicines and medicines sufficient and essential for the flight (e.g. diabetes kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic.
  • Spectacles and sunglasses but no case.
  • Contact lens holder without bottles of solution.
  • For those traveling with an infant; baby food, milk (the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger) and sanitary items sufficient for the flight.
  • Female sanitary items.
  • Tissues and/or handkerchief.
  • Keys (no electric fobs).

Additional demands were also specified:

  • ALL passengers must be hand searched and their footwear and all the items they are carrying must be X-ray screened.
  • Pushchairs and walking aids must be X-ray screened and only airport-provided wheelchairs may pass through the screening point.
  • ALL passengers boarding flights to the USA and all items they are carrying, including those acquired after the central screening point will be subjected to secondary search at the boarding gate.

Attacks on planes have for some time been the obvious, if ambitious choice for terrorists intent on destruction. Since 9/11 air marshals have patrolled American and international flights. Sharp items such as tweezers and razors have been banned from hand luggage. At the security gates, vigilant airport security staffers scan bags and search people for anomalies that may have slipped through the net. The security seemed to be working and after the paranoia of 9/11 subsided, we all became more comfortable with flying with the knowledge that a seemingly impregnable security net surrounded air travel.

The news on August 10 was a sharp blow to our new found comfort. Technology has quickly advanced to the point where liquid explosives concealed in a soda can or even a babys bottle would be powerful enough to blow up an airplane.

This fast advance in technology also means we travel with an ever expanding range of electronic equipment. Nowadays, who travels on a flight without a personal iPod or CD player? For business people everywhere, laptops and their advanced computer technology have meant that precious hours that in the past would have been lost during air travel can now be economically utilized in the comfort of the cabin. It seems only a matter of time before a terrorist committed to destruction finds a way of using an innocent-looking mainstream gadget as a smoke screen for something more deadly. For the foreseeable future, stringent restrictions and vigilance seem to be the only way to maintain the security of air travel.







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