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Residence permit

How to Get a Residence Permit II
Text by John Harrison and Stephen Lapeyrouse

Stephen Lapeyrouse

n the first installment of this series on getting a residence permit (see Passport, April 2009) I described how the application process is initiated and how to go about applying in the first stage of getting a temporary residence permit ( – Razresheniye na vremennoe zhitelstvo).

Intrepid American citizen Stephen Lapeyrouse, who as it happens is not married to a Russian and therefore had to apply under the quota system as described in the April article, went through the process described in that article and lived to tell the tale:

“The advice in the April issue to present letters of recommendations from people who appreciate your work here in Russia, was useful in my case. I presented five letters when I submitted my application form for a spot on that month’s quota and I am sure that they made a difference. I admit I was a little surprised to see my name on the list of people in the quota for that month, but seeing my name there was in a sense false security, because really it is only the beginning; that’s when things start.

“You have two months: to gather all the necessary documents, complete the application form, and submit your application for a temporary residence permit. People told me the process was really complicated, with ‘20 documents to fill in and long queues’. In fact there are only a few documents (about six), and virtually no queues or long waits. (Though each applicant must go to special clinics – not common polyclinics – in their area of Moscow, so perhaps this might vary.) There were three medical tests: for HIV/AIDS, for tuberculosis and drug use at three different clinics. Results were available in a day or two (the tests were done in minutes), although I waited a week for the blood test. Before you get each test done you have to pay a few hundred rubles or so at a Sberbank. But as you know, there are many of these banks across Moscow. The medical tests can all be completed in about two weeks max, unless there are some unusual circumstances.

“The really time-consuming documents are, first, getting hold of a document confirming that you do not have a criminal record. Americans have to get this letter from some government office in their place of ‘permanent US residence’; in my case the court office in the county where I lived. That document has to be notarized, then sent to the secretary of state of the state where you live, for the second difficult document, the apostille. (This is a necessary, internationally-valid document which certifies the notarization of the other document. You must have them both. Google “apostille”). This must be done in your place of origin, and, for Americans at least, can not be done at the embassy.) This can take a few weeks, and I recommend starting the process immediately, as it is impossible to get an extension on the two-month period within which you can submit documents for the permit. I was actually first told that for Americans the documents might have to be done by the FBI which is complicated and can take 6 months! I didn’t think this was necessary as there was no such stipulation in the instructions or the forms I had to fill out. In fact, the migration officer who received my completed forms and documents didn’t want to accept them at first for this reason, but he made a phone call to some top office in Moscow and was told to his surprise – and my relief! – that documents from the local state government were accepted.

“Your passport needs to be translated and notarized, and you need copies of your registration and current immigration card [the white slip of paper you fill in when you enter the country]. As a tip, I would say that you should make sure that your name is spelt the same way on all your documents (in Russian) as in your notarized passport translation.

“I am now waiting for news on whether or not I will get my temporary residence permit. I am confident that everything will be okay. I was told it should come in about 4 months, and there seemed no question as to whether it would come! In general, if you follow the rules and don’t have to get things done in a hurry, everything is cheap, and possible. The stipulation that you wrote about in the April issue, that you have to prove your income or show you have hundreds of thousands of rubles in the bank, appears to have been dropped. In my experience, the process is not onerous, and is doable. I had expected terrible inconvenience, long lines, dirt and worry; I was pleasantly surprised.

“I would add a couple of things: first that, unless you have at least basic Russian, the process can be a bit intimidating, and I would suggest having a friend at least help you at the first clinic to get started. (And for sure let a Russian fill in the application form for you!) Also, take all your personal documents with you to all of the clinics and other places, as you never can be sure what they might ask for!”

Visas have become an expensive headache in recent years. The is in a way a different kind of headache, but one which leads to a relatively stress-free coming and going, living and working in Russia – when you get the Permanent Residence Permit (which is the third part of the permit process).

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