Russia: Duma to Encourage Migrants to Learn Russian

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Fri Jun 27 20:15:37 UTC 2008

Duma to Encourage Migrants to Learn Russian

For immigrants seeking status in Russia, their language skills will
soon give them an upper hand. Senators at the Federation Council have
developed a bill that, if passed, will test foreigners on their
Russian and offer simplified registration based on the results.

"I am certain that migrants are interested in learning the Russian
language so that they can more easily adapt to the country," Sergei
Mironov, the speaker of the upper chamber of Russia's parliament, said
Tuesday at a session dedicated to language acquisition. Launched by
the Council Committee on National Policy, the initiative sought to
better the lot of migrant workers who come to the country without
sufficient knowledge of language, cultural traditions, history, and
law that would help them adapt.

The bill developed by the committee would encourage migrants to learn
Russian in several ways. A series of amendments to the law regulating
a foreigner's status in Russia aim to make it easier for those who
speak the language to get long-term visas and work permits.

For instance, migrant workers who come here to make money would be
offered a work permit that would last for two years instead of one.
Senators are also encouraging employers to pay for Russian lessons for
workers that they value, in exchange for simplified status renewal
procedures for their employees.

The Federal Migration Service told The Moscow News that it knew about
the proposed bill, but a spokeswoman declined to comment on how her
agency would be involved.

A system has already been developed that would test foreigners on
their knowledge of Russian, much like TOEFL exam. It would determine
language proficiency at six levels, from the most basic - when a
person knows about 700 Russian words - to full proficiency. More than
160 educational facilities are currently equipped to test language
skills among migrants.

The bill is still in its initial stages, a spokeswoman for the
Federation Council underlined, saying that a number of changes had yet
to be made before it was sent for the usual three rounds of hearings
in the lower chamber of parliament, the State Duma. One of the issues
lawmakers said they had yet to clarify was the financing of the

"At this stage the testing is experimental and optional," the
spokeswoman for the Federation Council told The Moscow News. "Mostly
it is aimed at people who plan to live here for a long time, to work,
to start a family. One of today's problems is that they come here to
work, but they don't know the language or the cultural traditions and
don't want to know."

She added that the amendments would also try to rule out corruption,
which is currently a problem, as migrants find themselves obtaining
fake documents from questionable firms.

According to immigration experts cited at the session, some 8 million
foreigners were registered by FMS last year, while the number of
illegal immigrants is estimated at anywhere between 5 million and 15
million. "In connection to this, it is becoming all the more necessary
to start implementing a targeted state adaptation policy to integrate
migrants into Russian society," a statement quoted on the Federation
Council's site read.

"The Russian language is a miracle for those who want to live and work
legally in Russia," Mironov said Tuesday.

By Anna Arutunyan
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