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Russia: Passports Will Be Issued In-Person Only

(Oct. 6, 2009) On September 8, 2009, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation confirmed as legal the existing practice whereby an individual may only submit to police authorities his application to receive or renew a passport in person. This decision was made in response to a petition filed by a person who permanently resides in Hawaii and has dual Russian and U.S. citizenship.

Under Russian law, each individual who is 45 years of age is obligated to re-register with the authorities and receive a new domestic passport, which serves as a national ID card. The petitioner attempted to submit an application for a new passport through her attorney and proposed that she come to Russia to pick up her passport in person when it was ready because, as she stated, she could not stay in Russia the minimum two-week period required for processing passport claims and be unable to leave the country during that period because of a lack of proper Russian documentation. Her American passport is not recognized by the Russian authorities and cannot be used for exiting the country. After her request was denied by the Russian Federal Migration Service and her passport had expired, the woman petitioned the Supreme Court to rule the practice of requiring in-person submission of applications illegal and cancel relevant provisions of a Passport Regulation issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Police) in 2006, because the requirement is not stated in the Regulation directly but was introduced by legal practice in the course of its implementation.

The Supreme Court sided with the defendant (the Ministry of Internal Affairs), stating that the refusal to accept passport applications by mail or through attorneys is correct, because such an option is not specifically mentioned in a government resolution of 1997 that served as the basis for other implementing documents. The government and the legal community agreed that making changes in the procedure right now would not be justifiable, due to national security concerns and widespread corruption and mismanagement in local passport offices, although they recognized that this practice may violate the interests of thousands of Russian individuals. (Dmitry Karelin, No Passport If You Are in Hawaii [in Russian], GAZETA.RU, Sept. 8, 2009, available at