Russia, officially the Russian Federation, is the largest nation in the world. Its territory is almost twice that of China, but its population is only 150 million. It stretches from Europe to Asia and most of its territories are uninhabited. Due to its size, the country has 11 time zones. So moving to Russia can have a completely different meaning depending on which city you go to. Given the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, emigration to Russia can be difficult, especially for citizens of some nations.
The capital is Moscow and the official language is Russian, although many other languages are spoken within the federation by the various ethnic groups. The currency is the ruble.
Russia, with 11 million immigrants (8% of the population), is second only to the United States in the number of immigrants, in the world. Most come from the former Soviet republics. Westerners live mainly in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
If you are thinking of moving to Russia for work, it is essential to know Russian. Unless you work for a multinational corporation, in a call center, or in a language school where English is sufficient. In all other cases, you will need to know Russian, which is not an easy language, and you will also need to know how to use the Cyrillic alphabet.
Moving to Russia visas
To enter Russia you need a visa, there are several types. To apply for a visa, you need a letter of invitation from the company/person inviting or hosting you. There are also agencies that issue these invitation letters for around €20. For those who want to save themselves the paperwork, there are also many agencies that will issue you a visa for a fee.
Visa issuance times are usually not long, they are issued in a couple of weeks at most. The required documents are:
- Passport with a remaining validity of at least 6 months (18 months in case of a work visa)
- Letter of invitation from the company/person hosting you or being asked to join you
- Health insurance that covers the entire duration of your stay. You can purchase it on the Internet or directly at the visa center
The most common types of visas are:
- Tourist visa: you need a letter of invitation from the hotel where you will stay. With this visa you can stay in Russia for a maximum of 30 days, which cannot be extended. Together with the visa you will need to purchase health insurance, which must be issued by a company approved by the Russian Consulate
- Visitor visa: you need a letter of invitation from the host. It is valid for a maximum of 90 days and for one city only
- Student visa: you need a letter of invitation from a Russian language school or university where you will study. It is valid for between three months and one year, depending on the length of the study programme
- Work visa: you need a letter of invitation and an employment contract from the company that hired you (which must have a license to hire foreigners). It has a duration from 90 days to three years (in the case of highly skilled workers). It can be a single or multiple entry. The passport must have a remaining validity of at least 18 months
- Business visa: you need a letter of invitation from a Russian company. If you do not receive an invitation, you must contact an agency that will issue you one. It allows you to move freely in Russia. There are different types with validity of 3, 6 or 12 months, with double entry or with unlimited number of entries. In any case, you are allowed to stay for a maximum of 180 days per year. Note that if you are traveling to Russia for the first time, you do not need to apply for a business visa, but for a tourist visa
You can get all the information you need about visas on the website of the Russian Visa Center, which has offices in many countries around the world.
As soon as you enter Russia, you must register. Usually you will be registered by the agencies that issue the invitation letter.
If not, you can register at a local registration office. Registration is not required if your stay in Russia is less than 3 days.
Move to Russia, finding accommodation
Housing costs can vary widely by state and city. A one-bedroom apartment in a good area of Moscow costs between 25,000 and 50,000 rubles per month ($450-900 at current exchange rates). In St. Petersburg, the same studio apartment costs about 15,000/25,000 rubles per month ($250-450), and if you move to other cities, the cost drops even further.
According to a survey of the real estate portal Mir Kvartir, the lowest rents in major Russian cities are as follows: In Yekaterinburg and Samara, a 1-bedroom apartment can be rented for as little as 5,000 rubles. In Omsk and Ufa the rent for a one-room apartment is slightly more expensive. In these cities the lowest price is 5,500 rubles. The cheapest apartments in Voronezh, Krasnoyarsk and Rostov-on-Don cost about 6,000 rubles. For an apartment in Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Perm, Kazan and Volgograd you will have to pay at least 7000 rubles per month. Moscow and St. Petersburg are the most expensive Russian cities. The minimum cost in the capital is over 17,500 rubles, and in St. Petersburg, 10,000 rubles.
I am not questioning the survey, but if you do not want to end up in an apartment where Soviet furniture is falling apart, the wallpaper is peeling off the walls, and you open the apartment door to find an alcoholic sleeping on the doormat, my advice is to spend a little more.
You can search for apartments on real estate websites and negotiate directly with landlords, but in this case you need to know Russian.
Otherwise, you need to hire a good real estate agent. When you sign the contract, you must pay a deposit equal to one month’s rent, which will be returned to you when you move out. You will also have to pay the brokerage fee, which is usually equal to one month’s rent.
Since it is common in Russia for the hot water supply to be cut off in the summer for maintenance, you should always check if the apartment has an electric boiler.
Rental websites in Russia
I point you to the most important websites for apartment hunting:
- Avito, classifieds website
- Sutochno, short-term rentals, (English)
- Naydi Dom, website for rental
- Thelocals, website for rental in Moscow
- Mirkvartir, popular rental website
- Land Mark, real estate agency in Moscow, (English)
- Moscow-Rentals, real estate agency in Moscow, (English)
Moving to Russia Health Insurance
All Russian citizens and foreign residents are entitled to free public health care. However, due to the lack of equipment and the poor condition of the buildings, the service is very poor. Therefore, all Russian citizens who have the opportunity take out private health insurance. This is highly recommended.