Germany is to relax visa requirements for skilled workers from Russia, just as the country s domestic intelligence agency warned of a heightened risk that Russian nationals working for German firms could be recruited for industrial espionage.
The visa application process is being simplified by exempting Russian workers with specialised expertise in areas such as IT and communication technology from case-by-case assessments through the federal employment department, according to Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
The global approval for access to the labour market will last until September 30 and only applies to Russian employees of German companies earning at least €43,992 a year.
Between the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the beginning of May, Germany has issued more than 600 visas for Russian skilled workers, which allow for a longer stay in Germany than the 90 day, so-called Schengen visa.
The German foreign office told news agency dpa it had issued around 350 work visas via its Moscow embassy in April, in addition to a further 190 working visas issued by the general consulate in St Petersburg. Most of those who were in receipt of visas were already working for German firms, dpa said.
Germany is home to more than 235,000 Russian passport holders, more than any other country in the European Union.
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution issued a special warning last week that Russian nationals who were about to move to Germany, and those already working in the country, were more vulnerable to being blackmailed or otherwise pressured into collecting information of use to a Russian economy that is increasingly cut off from global knowledge networks.
Russia is increasingly isolated due to the sanctions imposed in response to the war in Ukraine, according to the report. Its economy is cut off from the know-how and technologies of the west. The domestic intelligence agency said that recruitment attempts could take place during mandatory appointments with Russian embassies or other bureaucratic bodies.
The report said that they could try to exert pressure via reprisals against relatives or acquaintances who have remained in Russia. Russian intelligence services do not shy away from threats and blackmail. Asked if the German government is introducing special measures to vet Russian working visa applicants, a spokesperson said that standard security checks of applicants are being made within the visa process. Human rights NGOs said the German government was not doing enough to ease the visa application process for independent journalists facing repression in Russia.
A number of 70 Russian journalists and media professionals, most of whom are employees of the Russian TV channel Dozhd and the news website Meduza, have been put on a humanitarian visa list drawn up by the German culture ministry but do not yet qualify for the more generous visas for skilled workers.
Nancy Faeser, a spokesman for the interior minister, said we want to offer Russian journalists who are being persecuted in Russia protection in Germany. We want to speed up entry and speed up the process of entry.