Having mastered the first hurdle and holding your work permit and Russian Visa in your hands you feel a short moment of happiness. However, many visitors know the pain when they arrive in Russia. They have to register themselves with the Russian local authorities to avoid problems and fines when leaving the country. As most of the visitors are not familiar with the Russian language and don't like to spend time in queues at Russian administration offices they use the services of local service companies which provide a registration paper for a couple of Rubles without any hassle. But this time is over now.
From the legal point, it was never allowed being registered at a fictitious address. However, it was kind of tolerated. Now, being registered at a "virtual address" will be treated as a criminal offense. The person processing such a registration is facing huge fines from 2.000 to 5.000 Euro and jail up to 3 years. The person being registered will be sentenced guilty and fined as well, if it is provable that the person knew that the registration happened under a virtual address.
The registration of a person in Russia was and is still obligatory, but "being simply registered" is not sufficient anymore. The good news is: being not registered has much less consequences and there are things you can do to be more on the legally save side. The Russian law says that non-registered migrants may not be fined at all, at least in theory.
It is important to know that responsible for the registration of a person is the receiving or housing side. That might be the inviting person or institution. The decisive criteria, is the place of stay of that person. This makes the host or landlord usually responsible for the registration. You don't have to go yourself to the registration office. Registration can be done nowadays by post and it shouldn't be a big hassle for the landlord to register you. You only have to make sure that you hand over to your landlord copies of your migration card and passport.
There are some cases where Russian Courts decided that foreigners could be penalized for the missing registration despite of the fact that copy of passport and migration card had been handed over to the landlord. There are other cases where the Russian Court decided that the foreigners could not be penalized for not being registered. Unfortunately, sometimes legal entitlement and reality do not meet each other in Russia. Despite of the fact that the host or landlord is obliged to register the guest, doesn't matter if it is a Russian or foreign person. In the practice you will experience very often that already at the negotiation stage for renting a flat the landlord will tell you that the flat will be lent only without registration.
What can you do now to be on the save side? If the landlord refused the receipt of passport copy and migration card you need to document that you fulfilled your obligation. This can be done, by sending passport copy and migration card by registered mail with content list and receipt confirmation. One could think that this is the best way to be thrown out of your flat, however, if you hold a legal binding renting agreement in your hands, this has even in Russia some legal power and you can hope that you cannot be set on the street easily.
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