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Foreign Graduates of Russian Universities will Be Eligible for Simplified Naturalization

October 9, 2019

Russian authorities are putting together a bill that would make it easier for foreign graduates of this country's universities to obtain Russian citizenship, as they would no longer be required to take out a residence permit. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is drafting appropriate amendments to the Russian Citizenship Law and the Foreign Nationals' Legal Status Law.

In an explanatory note accompanying the bill its authors admit that international students currently have to go through a complicated procedure when applying for Russian citizenship. Experts agree that rules must be simplified in response to the changing social and economic environment.

Alexey Maleev, Vice Rector for International Programs and Digital Innovation at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), says that, with new divisions of labor emerging due to game-changing technologies and burgeoning service industries, human capital is becoming more important than financial or material assets. There is a worldwide competition for talent going on, made fiercer by globalization and increased population mobility. Alexey Maleev adds that an influx of 20–30-year-olds would be good not only for the country's economy but also for its demography.

Under existing legislation, graduates of Russian universities and scientific institutions are eligible for some form of simplified naturalization only after having worked in the country for at least three years and received a permanent residence permit, to get which they must first obtain a temporary one. It is as temporary residents that they can currently stay on in Russia after graduating.

The government is now moving to overhaul this procedure by dropping the three-year residence requirement. This means that foreign nationals will be entitled to apply for Russian citizenship as soon as they have been awarded a Russian university degree, subject to having duly registered their residence. Caveat: only graduates of public, or “state”, educational or scientific institutions will be eligible for simplified naturalization. It will not be available to holders of degrees issued by private, commercially run universities.

The new rules are expected to come into effect as early as December next year. They are designed to make sure that Russia's economy and science get the highly skilled workforce they need.

Evgeniya Satalkina, head of the International Education Office at Saint Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU), says that simplified naturalization would, on the one hand, increase a gifted foreign graduate's chances of landing a job with a Russian company and carving out a successful career in this country. On the other hand, it would give Russia a competitive advantage in the global education marketplace and a powerful tool for recruiting talent from around the world, as its universities should see an inflow of students from countries with fewer job opportunities.

​The Federal Project for Exporting Education calls for increasing the number of international students pursuing intramural courses at Russian universities from 220,000 in 2017 to 710,000 in 2025. The project aims to increase the appeal of Russian education to overseas students, make their stay in Russia more comfortable, promote Russia's visibility and brand recognition in the global education marketplace and, ultimately, multiply revenue from education-related exports. Enhancing the image of Russian higher education is likewise an objective of Project 5-100 which seeks to render Russian universities more competitive relative to their global peers.

Offering facilitated naturalization to students who have graduated with honors from Russian universities would be consistent with the goals of the Federal Project for Exporting Education, says Alexander Bedny, Vice Rector for International Affairs at Lobachevsky University. This would support Russia's effort to attract global student talent while providing its companies with employable graduates equipped with sought-after skills.