Russia will ease barriers to migrant labor within a single economic space but will maintain controls on workers coming from other countries, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Friday.
"In the framework of the single economic space that is being built by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, we will be steadily lifting barriers to the free movement of labor," he said.
He warned, however, that Russia would continue to exercise "an extremely careful approach with regard to foreign workforce."
"I ask [our partners] to treat this with understanding," he told a session of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC).
Putin said unemployment levels were a significant factor, noting that although they were falling, "the number of people out of work is still too high."
He said the latest jobless figures showed that 8.6% of the working-age population, or 6.4 million people, was unemployed, compared to 9.5%, or 7.1 million, at the peak of the crisis.
Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan signed treaties on a Customs Union and a Single Economic Space in February 1999, but it took until late last year for Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan put their integration on a fast track, launching the union on January 1.
Putin said Russia had already taken "a number of steps to make foreign workers feel more at home in Russia."
He said a law was recently adopted simplifying the licensing procedure for foreign workers.
On Thursday, President Dmitry Medvedev signed into law amendments aimed at legalizing the status of millions of foreigners working in Russia.
Under the amendments, foreign migrants who come from former Soviet republics to Russia on a visa-free basis to work for private individuals, as nannies, housekeepers or in other domestic jobs, must have their fingerprints registered to receive a special work permit. The new documents will not cover migrant workers employed by companies.
Russia is attractive to migrants from impoverished post-Soviet states who can easily enter the country and send money home to support their families.
ST. PETERSBURG, May 21 (RIA Novosti)