Illustration by Ezra Smith

The asylum procedure takes months, in many cases when refusals have to be appealed it can take years. During this period, life goes on as usual: people, seeking refuge in our country, fall in love and get married.

Many believe that marriage to a Russian citizen provides the refugee additional protection. Unfortunately, this is not the case. On the contrary, sometimes marriage to a Russian woman can significantly reduce the refugee’s chances of obtaining official status. Why this happens is explained in the article by “Civic Assistance”.


It is not uncommon for refugees who are going through the process of obtaining asylum in Russia or in the process of appealing against a refusal to meet, fall in love, and marry Russian citizens.

In theory, it is easy to legalize a marriage in a registry office, where a foreign citizen only needs a certificate from the embassy that he is not married, as well as a valid national passport.


Although Russia formally has an asylum system and the country is a member of the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, it is nearly impossible for the overwhelming majority of refugees to obtain any protection from the State.

In fact,they face a lengthy procedure of consideration of petitions, appeals, detentions, administrative fines, and placements in custody. They are not provided a work permit and access to health care.

While asylum seekers appeal to refusals, they are legally located in Russia. However, if law enforcement officials find that refugees, for example, have expired visas or do not have a registration, they can bring them to administrative responsibility for failure to depart Russia (Article 18.8 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation). One of the forms of punishment for this offense is deportation from Russia.

Refugees, who are in the process of obtaining legal status and are married to a citizen of the Russian Federation, cannot apply for a residence permit.

Therefore, they can neither legalize their immigration status nor leave the territory of Russia, since it is dangerous for them to return to their homeland, and they have nowhere else to go.

Due to the lack of official immigration status even in the presence of a registered marriage with a Russian citizen, asylum seekers can be deported at any time – the decision of deportation is made at the discretion of a judge.

Marriage to a citizen of the Russian Federation by itself is not a direct reason for not ordering deportation. In practice, the court has the right to interpret it in favor of the foreign citizen along with other indications of settling in the country.

Nevertheless, this fact is often either ignored or is viewed by judges as an attempt to receive legalization at any cost.


The established jurisprudence under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which proclaims respect for the right to private and family life, does not oblige the state to unconditionally accept on its territory foreigners married to the citizens of the state.

Thus, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in similar cases made decisions on fairly subjective grounds and the ‘evidence’ of the case that aroused suspicion.

For instance, in the case of Schembri and Others v. Malta, the European Court of Human Rights decided that marriage to a foreign citizen was not genuine, describing it as a “marriage of convenience”, which annulled the effect of Article 8. Among the evidence relied on by the court were rare visits and a short time spent living together.

Following the practice of the ECHR, family relations can take place even in the absence of an officially registered marriage.

The presence of /family life’ may be evidenced by one of the following factors: cohabitation, duration and stability of the relationship, kinship, or close personal ties.

Translated by Dzheveira Karimova

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