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Monday, March 26, 2007

How Does Russia Despise Foreigners? Let LR count the ways . . .

The Moscow Times reports:

Expatriates beware: You now have to prove that you aren't a drug addict to work in Russia.

A little-noticed regulation came into effect at the start of this year that requires foreigners who work or intend to work here to have their blood tested for traces of drugs. Evidence of the drugs is reason for authorities to refuse to issue a work permit. The regulation indicates that authorities want to know whether a foreigner is addicted to hard drugs such as cocaine or heroin, not marijuana or hashish. "On receiving a work permit, the employer must present medical certificates confirming the absence in the employee of illnesses associated with drug addicts," the regulation says.

Foreigners should not be concerned about the fact that the certificate is only valid for three months, the Federal Migration Service said. "The regulation says that documents are to be submitted once in a year," a service spokesman said Thursday. "So a certificate of a drug test will also be needed only once." But if a foreigner wants to undergo an operation at a hospital or apply for a loan at a bank, he will need to present a certificate that is still in effect. If that comes more than three months after the test when the work permit was issued, the foreigner will have to go for a second test. Essentially, the arrangement is the same as with HIV testing, which is mandatory for both work permits and one-year visas. A 1995 law aimed at preventing the spread of AIDS requires the HIV test. That certificate also lasts for three months, and a foreigner may need to take the test again to receive certain goods or services during the year.

Foreigners contacted Thursday were in the dark about the drug test regulation. "I've never heard about such tests," said Richard van Wageningen, a Dutch citizen and CEO of British Telecom for Russia and the CIS. "I barely needed my HIV test." Roland Nash, a Briton and head of research at Renaissance Capital, expressed surprise. "They are just increasing the number of hoops that one has to jump through for the honor of working in this country," Nash said. He said Russian bureaucracy seemed to be getting worse. "It is just another inconvenience that makes things more complicated," said Marisa Fushille, director of the Moscow American Center, a public library. "But if it is a law, there is no way to avoid it."

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