Bid to fight Russia’s sham marriages by legally binding foreigners to same region as spouses

In a bid to fight sham marriages and extremism, Russian lawmakers have prepared a bill requiring foreigners, who marry citizens and receive a residence permit, to live and work only in the same region as their spouses.

The bill has been developed by the Interior Ministry and will most likely be drafted in the State Duma in September, the Izvestia newspaper reported on Tuesday quoting sources in parliament.

Interior ministry’s bill makes it easier for foreigners to obtain Russian citizenship

The sponsors of the motion noted in comments that Russian Family Code lists the “absence of cohabitation” as a reason under which a marriage can be recognized as invalid. They also wrote that foreigners often register false marriages with citizens in order to get a residence permit under simplified procedure.

Such schemes are difficult to detect and the punishment for a fake marriage is relatively light – usually the disclosure leads only to the cancellation of the union and deportation of the foreigner involved in it.

To correct the situation the Interior Ministry experts propose to allow foreigners who get their residence permit through marriage (or other close relation to a citizen) to live and work in the same region as their spouses or relatives.

The head of the Lower House Committee for Ethnic Issues, MP Ildar Gilmutdinov (United Russia) said in press comments that the foreigners who marry citizens only for residence permit usually register their marriages all over the country but live and work only in the most economically-advanced regions, like Moscow and St. Petersburg, creating disproportionate pressure on infrastructure and state agencies.

Fast-track Russian citizenship planned under new Duma bill

The lawmaker also said that the new restriction would not be applied to those who move to the country under the state program of resettling of ethnic Russians. Chairman of the Lower House Committee for Development of the Civil Society, MP Sergey Gavrilov (Communist Party) promised to support the new bill and emphasized that it would not violate anyone’s privacy and is not a state intrusion into family affairs.

Last year Russia’s Federal Migration Service reported that the number of foreigners who naturalized as Russians after marrying citizens grew from 683 in 2009 to almost 35,000 in 2016. The overall number of naturalized Russian citizens in 2016 was over 265,000.

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