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Russia: Mandatory Russian Language Test for Labor Migrants

(Dec. 31, 2012) Federal Law No. 185 on Amendments to Federal Laws on the Status of Foreigners and on Education entered into force on December 1, 2012. (ROSSIISKAIA GAZETA No. 262 (Nov. 14, 2012) [official publication, in Russian].)

Under the amendments, labor migrants who come to Russia from abroad will not be able to obtain work permits without proving their knowledge of the Russian language. Passage of a special test and the receipt of a certificate will serve as proof of such knowledge. (Id.) According to commentaries on the amendments issued by the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation, only those who intend to work in the fields of customer relations, communal and housing services, and retail operations will be required to pass the test. (Migrants’ Russian Skills Will Be Tested as of December [in Russian], NOVAYA GAZETA (Dec. 3, 2012).) Other official documents can be used as a proof of Russian language ability if they are recognized in Russia. For example, a diploma issued by a university in the former Soviet Union will be accepted, because at that time all Soviet republic college-level education was conducted in Russian. (Id.)

The test was developed, the commentaries state, by taking into account the specific, typical abilities of migrants. It is relatively short and simple, consisting of 25 lexical and grammar questions; and the administration time is up to 90 minutes. By comparison, the citizenship exam includes 75 language questions administered during a time period of up to three hours. (Id.) Three new test-taking facilities were opened in Moscow to offer the exam. The test can be taken in all the constituent components of the Russian Federation. (Id.)