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Russia does not have laws that specifically deal with issues of undocumented minors.  Illegal migrants under the age of sixteen are generally not subject to forced removal.  However, they cannot acquire Russian citizenship, even if born in Russia.  Amnesty programs in 2017 were targeted at adult migrant workers specifically from Moldova and Tajikistan.

I.  Background Information

The number of illegal immigrants in Russia is estimated to be between eight and ten million people, which is about 7% of Russia’s total population.[1]  The majority of them come from Central Asian and other former Soviet countries whose nationals enjoy a visa-free regime with Russia.[2]  Officials note that the Ukrainian crisis alone caused the inflow of around 1.1 million people to Russia in 2014–2015.[3]  Because of budgetary constraints, in 2016 Russia was able to deport only 1,650 foreigners out of 4,428 detained for removal.[4]

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II.  Undocumented Children

Russia has not enacted legislation specifically targeting undocumented children.  Because children under sixteen are not subject to administrative responsibility they cannot be forcibly deported and are allowed to stay in Russia with relatives; if there are no such relatives, they are placed in social institutions.[5]  The government does not assign funds for the removal of children under sixteen and such removal can be arranged only at the expense of the child’s family.[6]

Undocumented children have limited access to education, health care, and social assistance.[7]  Only emergency medical treatment must be provided to foreigners free of charge and without delay.[8]  Human rights lawyers claim that Russia is obliged by virtue of international instruments to ensure the right to education and medical treatment for all children, irrespective of their status.  However, by law only children with legal status can be enrolled in schools.[9]  Educational institutions generally admit children who are in Russia on temporary visas.  Such visas usually expire within ninety days, and schools tend to allow children to attend classes at least until the end of the school year.[10]  Reportedly, immigration authorities periodically inspect educational institutions to detect illegal immigrants, and certain schools have been fined for keeping undocumented children.[11]

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III.  Citizenship

Russia follows the jus sanguinis principle.  Therefore, the mere fact of being born in Russia does not grant citizenship to a child.  There are exceptions, however, for children born in Russia to unknown parents[12] or to parents who cannot pass their citizenship to the child.[13]

Acquisition of Russian citizenship is possible for adult applicants who meet the requirements for naturalization.[14] Children (i.e., sons and daughters below the age of eighteen) of naturalized citizens generally acquire citizenship together with their parents.[15] Having a lawful status (normally a permanent resident permit) in Russia is a precondition for applying for citizenship.[16] Therefore, it is not possible for illegal immigrants or their children to apply for citizenship unless they legalize their status.  Acquisition of citizenship is possible for children adopted by Russian citizens,[17] those who have Russian foster parents, and those placed in social institutions in Russia.[18]

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IV.  Amnesty Programs

In 2016, officials announced the possibility of an amnesty program that could extend to three million illegal immigrants.[19]  During 2017 Russia implemented two amnesty programs for illegal immigrants from two specific countries: Moldova and Tajikistan.  These programs came into existence after negotiations at the level of heads of state.  The programs were announced in the mass media but their legal basis is not clear; regulations reportedly have been circulated internally within the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and have not been made public.[20]

The Moldavan program was announced in January 2017 following a meeting between President Igor Dodon of Moldova and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation.  Moldovan citizens with illegal status in Russia had twenty days to appear before the immigration authorities, register, and then obtain a work permit within the next thirty days, or to leave the country within ninety days.  The program allowed Moldovan citizens to legalize their status in Russia and obtain legal employment, but did not provide a path to Russian citizenship.  Subsequently this period was extended to May 12, 2017, as only 10,000 Moldovans of the expected 250,000 were able to take advantage of the program.[21]  About 17,500 “blacklisted” Moldovans who had left Russia and whose entry into the country had been barred because of prior overstays were also eligible to participate in the program.  However, criminal offenders, those who had been deported from Russia or whose deportation hearings were pending, and those who re-entered the territory of Russia despite the travel ban were excluded from the program.[22]

A similar program was implemented from March 25 to April 24 of 2017 for citizens of Tajikistan following a meeting between Russian and Tajik presidents in February of 2017.  It covered 70,000 Tajik citizens illegally residing in Russia.[23]  About 106,000 Tajik nationals were allowed to come back to Russia while 5,000 were permanently barred from entering Russia because of diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis, etc.[24]  

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Prepared by Nerses Isajanyan
Foreign Law Consultant
September 2017

[1] Vladimir Vaschenko, Russia Recounted Migrants, (May 17, 2017), social/2017/05/17/10677761.shtml (in Russian), archived at

[2] Vitaliy Petrov, The Difficulties of Expulsion: Vladimir Kolokoltsev Spoke about the Fight against Illegal Immigrants, Rossiiskaia Gazeta (Dec. 14, 2016), (in Russian), archived at

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Commissioner for Children’s Rights in St. Petersburg, Annual Report for 2016, § 2.3, available at (in Russian), archived at

[6] Id.

[7] Nigora Bukhari-zade, Does Russia Need Children of Migrants?, Fergana (Apr. 5, 2012), (in Russian), archived at

[8] Government Resolution No. 186 on Provision of Medical Assistance to Foreign Nationals on the Territory of the Russian Federation, March 6, 2013, Sobranie Zakonodatelstva Rossiiskoi Federatsii i [Official Gazette of the Russian Federation] No. 10/2013, Item 1035, rdk=&backlink=1 (in Russian), archived at

[9] Commissioner for Children’s Rights in St. Petersburg, supra note 5.

[10] Id.

[11] Nigora Bukhari-zade, supra note 7.

[12] Federalnyi Zakon o Grazhdanstve [Federal Law on Citizenship], No. 62-FZ of May 31, 2002, art. 12, Sobranie Zakonodatelstva Rossiiskoi Federatsii i [SZRF] [Official Gazette of the Russian Federation] No. 22/2002, Item 2031,, archived at, English translation available at, archived at

[13] Id.

[14] Id. arts. 13, 14.

[15] Id. arts. 24, 25.

[16] Id. art. 13.

[17] Id. art. 26.

[18] Id. art. 27.

[19] Vladimir Vaschenko, Illegals in the Law, (Oct. 17, 2016), 10/17/10255073.shtml (in Russian), archived at

[20] Amnesty of Migrants from Tajikistan in Russia: Who Is Concerned and What to Do, RIA (Apr. 17, 2017), (in Russian), archived at .

[21] Dodon: Russia Has Extended the Amnesty Period for Moldovan Citizens, (Mar. 24, 2017), (in Russian), archived at

[22] Amnesty for Moldovan Migrant Workers in Russia: Not All Will Be Able to Legalize, Regnum (Mar. 9, 2017), (in Russian), archived at

[23] Liubov Kuliabko & Ekaterina Gabel, Amnesty Announced to Migrant Offenders from Tajikistan, (Mar. 24, 2017), (in Russian), archived at

[24] 106,000 Tajik Migrants Will Be Able to Return to Russia Again, Regnum (June 13, 2017), (in Russian), archived at