MOSCOW, December 1 (RIA Novosti) - Migrant workers arriving in Russia to find employment face tests of their knowledge of the local language from today, as a new law comes into force.
All foreigners working in housing maintenance services, retail stores or public services are required to demonstrate a basic knowledge of Russian, and will be tested on it when getting work permits.
Most of the workers arriving in Russia to work in such trades are from the former Soviet Republics, particularly Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Similar practices exist in many other countries, said Federal Migration Service (FMS) head Konstantin Romanovsky.
"Knowledge of Russian will give labor migrants more security and comfort," he said. "Without knowledge of Russian, its impossible for foreign citizens to integrate properly in our society."
Foreign citizens from states where Russian is the official state language - currently only Belarus and the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, recognized as independent by Russia - will not be required to take the language test.
The Migration Service expects 140,000 workers to take the test in 2012-13. Taking the test will cost 5,000 rubles (around $160), but may be cheaper in future, the FMS says.
Migration is a contentious issue for Russia, with widespread disquiet in some sectors of society about the increasing numbers of foreign workers coming to Russia to live. The government is aware, however, of the need for cheap labor in many sectors, as the economy is dogged by low productivity and many sectors such as construction are heavily reliant on guest workers.