Russia: Residence registration system, including legal requirements to change residence registration when moving from a residence with multiple co-registrants and whether consent from co-registrants is needed (2014-February 2015) [RUS105091.E]

Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa

1. Overview

Sources indicate that Russians are required to register their residence with authorities (The Moscow Times 17 Jan. 2013; Open Democracy 7 Mar. 2013; Professor Emeritus 18 Feb. 2015). Sources indicate that residence registration is needed to access social services such as health care and education, or to obtain employment (ibid.; The Moscow Times 17 Jan. 2013), open a bank account or obtain a driver's license (ibid.).

2. Legislation Pertaining to Residence Registration

In a report of a 2012 fact-finding mission to Russia entitled Chechens in the Russian Federation - Residence Registration, Racially Motivated Violence and Fabricated Criminal Cases, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the Danish Immigration Service [1] interviewed an official from the Federal Migration Service (FMS) who said that the two main pieces of legislation pertaining to residence registration are Resolution No. 713 of 17 July 1995 and the Law of the Russian Federation No. 5242 of 25 June 1993 (amended 2 Nov. 2004) on the Rights of Citizens of the Russian Federation to the Freedom of Movement, the Choice of a Place of Stay and Residence Within the Russian Federation (DRC and Denmark Aug. 2012, 37). Sources interviewed by the Danish Immigration Service during a follow-up fact-finding mission in 2014 stated that there have been no new laws or regulations regarding residence registration since 2012 (Denmark Jan. 2015, 75). Resolution No. 713 of 17 July 1995 is Attachment 1 of this Response and the Law of the Russian Federation No. 5242 of 25 June 1993, is Attachment 2 of this Response.

3. Requirements for Deregistration from a Residence with Multiple Co-registrants

Information about the requirements for deregistration from a residence with multiple co-registrants, and whether consent is needed from the other co-registrants when changing one's residence registration, was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a professor at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, UK, who was the former head of the Development of Russian Law program at the Faculty of Law at the University of Helsinki, said that deregistration is only a problem in cases in which there is no new residence to register, such as if someone moves abroad (Professor 25 Feb. 2015). She said that the regulations on registration indicate that when changing residence registration, the individual should first register at the new address within seven days, and would then be automatically deregistered from their previous address (ibid.). According to the Professor, consent is not needed to leave a property and there is no legal provision indicating that a co-registrant can prevent another registrant from deregistering from an apartment or house (ibid.). The source further indicated that in situations in which spouses separate, consent is not needed to leave a property; it is needed only to sell co-owned property (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

In contrast, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, a professor emeritus of political science who specializes in the politics of law and post-Soviet politics at the University of Toronto [2] said that the need for evidence of consent from other co-registrants of a residence may arise when one of the registrants seeks to deregister to move to another residence (18 Feb. 2015). He said that he was unsure under which "legal instrument" this requirement is specified, but noted that failing to provide adequate proof of deregistration elsewhere is a common obstacle for changing one's registration to a new residence (Professor Emeritus 18 Feb. 2015). He further stated that deregistration may fail because other co-registrants may try to "extract concessions from the mover" (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

The Professor Emeritus noted that in a case in which a wife or husband wishes to deregister as part of a "unilateral separation," the registration office could legally require consent by the other spouse in writing (ibid.). He explained that the separation of spouses involves both housing and family law, both of which are complicated (ibid.). He noted that consent is not required after a divorce or after a certain time limit (ibid.). Corroborating information about the requirements for deregistration when spouses separate could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

4. Requirements and Procedures for Registration

According to the 2012 Danish fact-finding report, representatives from the NGO Vainakh Congress in St. Petersburg, a national cultural organization (Higher Professional Education Portal of St. Petersburg n.d.), indicated that residence registration was formerly the responsibility of the police, but is now only under the jurisdiction of the FMS (DRC and Denmark Aug. 2012, 35). The report further indicates that, according to an official of the FMS, FMS is the "sole authority responsible for residence registration" and registration is carried out at local FMS offices throughout Russia (ibid., 34). The FMS official further stated in 2012 that until 2014, residence registration could also be conducted through municipal authorities (ibid.).

According to the FMS official interviewed during the 2012 Danish fact-finding mission, Russian citizens can register their residences by going to the FMS office or mailing their documents, and need to provide

a copy of their internal passport, a residence registration application form stating the new address and the reason why they want to change residence, and a letter of consent from the owner of the apartment accepting the registration at the address and a rental agreement. (DRC and Denmark Aug. 2012, 37)

The 2012 fact-finding mission also reports the following:

FMS stated that if one wants to register in a privately owned apartment one will need the consent from the owner to register. If one wants to register with someone who is renting a private owned apartment or house one would also need the consent to register from all other tenants above 16 years of age who are registered at the address. If any such tenants object to the registration the registration would be turned down by the FMS. (ibid., 38)

Similarly, the Professor Emeritus indicated that registering a new permanent residence requires evidence of consent of all the other residents (Professor Emeritus 18 Feb. 2015). He noted that if one resident were to marry, the other registered registrants living in the apartment or house could block the registration of the new spouse if they were to object to registering that new spouse (ibid.).

The Professor Emeritus explained that Russian legislation from the early 1990's "confirms the requirement to register [one's residence], but leaves open the documents that a person must supply" and that the rules governing the documents required for registration - including the type of proof required for deregistration - have changed multiple times, and, in practice, the process is "even more varied" (ibid.). According to the same source, the complexity of the existing rules for residence registration "facilitate corruption" and the requirements are sometimes waived as a result of a bribe (ibid.).

According to the 2012 Danish fact-finding mission report,

As reported by different experts [who requested anonymity and who are familiar with registration of residence issues], variations in the procedure of registering residence could be attributed to the fact that not all employees in the FMS or the municipal authorities are always fully aware of the procedures and document requirements. It was added that even though a small incentive could sometimes be needed to expedite residence registration, both corruption and ethnically based discrimination happens on a case by case basis and is not institutionalized as such. (DRC and Denmark Aug. 2012, 39)

5. Changes Affecting Residence Registration (2012-2015)

Sources indicate that in June 2012, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the State Migration Policy Concept of the Russian Federation through to 2025 (The Moscow Times 12 Feb. 2013; Russia 13 June 2012). According to an article published on the Russian government's website, the Concept is "a set of opinions and ideas as regards the content, principles and main areas of activity by the Russian Federation with regard to migration" (ibid.). The government website indicates that the Concept "defines measures for promoting the development of internal migration by Russian citizens," in addition to addressing immigration issues (ibid.). Without providing details, the Professor stated that the "December 2012 Conception of Migration Policy and consequent laws in 2013" have served to tighten registration rules in the past two years, making officials "more demanding than before" (Professor Emeritus 18 Feb. 2015).

Sources from 2013 indicate that Russian authorities plan to tighten registration rules, with violations entailing a fine or criminal charges (The Moscow Times 17 Jan. 2013; Open Democracy 7 Mar. 2013). The Moscow Times reports that President Vladimir Putin has decided to fight "'elastic apartments'" - small apartments where several thousand migrants are registered (The Moscow Times 17 Jan. 2013). The source indicates that, while the legislation is aimed at controlling illegal immigration, the proposed fines would also affect Russian citizens, including families who have not properly registered each resident, and landlords who fail to register tenants (ibid.). In an interview with the Danish Immigration Service in 2014, a representative of Memorial, a Russian historical and human rights organization (Memorial n.d.), indicated that, due to a new requirement, if a person is registered at one residence but lives at another, the owner of the dwelling where the individual is registered "may be tried and even imprisoned" (Denmark Jan. 2015, 75). She explained that, as a result, residence registration has become "much more difficult" (ibid.).

However, a representative from Chechen Social and Cultural Association [3],told the Danish Immigration Service that registration of residence has become "much easier" in Moscow compared to 2012, because the FMS set up one service centre where registrants can go and receive all the necessary information and submit the required documentation, involving fewer administrative steps (ibid., 76). The source indicates that the new procedure takes a couple of days, and the registration is valid for five years (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

Notes

[1] The DRC is a Copenhagen-based NGO that provides assistance to, and advocates on behalf of, conflict-affected populations (DRC n.d.). The Danish Immigration Service, a government agency under the Danish Ministry of Justice, is responsible for processing asylum cases in Denmark (Denmark n.d.).

[2] The Professor Emeritus indicated that he has written affidavits in refugee cases noting obstacles posed by residence registration in Russia and other former Soviet countries (18 Feb. 2015).

[3] According to information provided during the 2012 fact-finding mission by the same representative of the organization, the Moscow-based Chechen Social and Cultural Association was founded in 1999 and has had its present name since 2005 (DRC and Denmark Aug. 2012. 42).

References

Danish Refugee Council (DRC). "Facts About DRC." [Accessed 25 Feb. 2015]

Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and Danish Immigration Service (Denmark). August 2012. Chechens in the Russian Federation - Residence Registration, Racially Motivated Violence and Fabricated Criminal Cases. [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015]

Denmark. January 2015. Danish Immigration Service. Security and Human Rights in Chechnya and the Situation of Chechens in the Russian Federation--Residence Registration, Racism and False Accusations. [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015]

_____. N.d. Danish Immigration Service. "The Danish Immigration Service." [Accessed 25 Feb. 2015]

Higher Professional Education Portal of St. Petersburg. "National Organizations St. Petersburg." [Accessed 23 Feb. 2015]

Memorial. N.d. "Homepage." [Accessed 27 Feb. 2015]

The Moscow Times. 12 February 2013. Asida Agrba. "Latest Developments in Russian Migration Policy." [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015]

_____. 17 January 2013. "The Propiska Sends Russia Back to the USSR." [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015]

Open Democracy. 7 March 2013. Mikhail Loginov. "Knock, Knock: The Return of the Propiska?" [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015]

Professor, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Oxford Brookes University. 25 February 2015. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Professor Emeritus of political science, University of Toronto. 18 February 2015. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.

Russia. 13 June 2012. "Concept of the State Migration Policy of the Russian Federation through to 2025." [Accessed 19 Feb. 2015]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The following were unable to provide information for this Response: two professors from Carleton University specializing in European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies; a representative at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ottawa ; a representative at the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Toronto; a representative at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC.

Attempts to contact the following were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: ANNA – National Centre for the Prevention of Violence; an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Toronto; an associate professor of political science and women's studies at Brooklyn College, City University of New York; Civic Assistance Committee in Russia; Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Montreal; Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ottawa; Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, DC.; a human rights activist in Russia affiliated with Memorial; a professor specializing in nationalist and ethnicity studies at the Institute of Philosophy Russian Academy of Sciences in Russia; a professor specializing in public and private international law at the University of Toronto.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International; Centre for Information and Analysis; ecoi.net; Factiva; Freedom House; International Civil Society Centre; International Crisis Group; International Organization for Migration; Institute for War and Peace Reporting; IRIN; Human Rights Watch; Open Society Foundations; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Russia Today; SOVA; The St. Petersburg Times; United Nations – Refworld, ReliefWeb; United States – Department of State.

Attachments

1. Russia. 1995 (amended April 16, 2012). Resolution No. 713 of 17 July 1995. (Annex 4 of Chechens in the Russian Federation - Residence Registration, Racially Motivated Violence and Fabricated Criminal Cases, 68-80) [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015]

2. Russia. 1993 (amended 2 Nov. 2004). Law of the Russian Federation No. 5242 of 25 June 1993 on the Rights of Citizens of the Russian Federation to the Freedom of Movement, the Choice of a Place of Stay and Residence Within the Russian Federation [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015]