Azerbaijan is a former Soviet Union country in the Caucasus region of the Middle East that covers an area of 86,600 km2. As a contiguous transcontinental nation, Azerbaijan is situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Asia. The country is bordered by Armenia, Russia, the Caspian Sea, Iran, and Georgia, and shares cultural, historical and trade ties with all of these diverse lands.
When the country declared its independence in 1918, it became the world’s first ever Muslim majority democratic nation. The country itself is secular and all of the main political forces are aligned with no religion, although the vast majority of the more than 9.5 million Azerbaijani residents follow the religion of Shia Islam and around 15% are Sunni Muslims.
More than 90% of the country’s inhabitants are originally from Azerbaijan, but there are an increasing number of expat communities, such as Russian, Armenian and American. The official and most widely spoken language is the Turkic dialect, Azerbaijani. Around 90% of the population speaks this as a first language, followed by Russian and English, which are spoken in a significant number of schools and communications services.
Due to its unique geographical location and close proximity to the Caspian Sea, as well as the sun’s radiation and air masses that are brought in from a vast array of locations, Azerbaijan is subject to one of the world’s most diverse climates. The country is situated on the northernmost part of the subtropical climate zone, on the north-west of the Iranian plateau. Cold Arctic winds that are blown in from Scandinavia and Siberia contribute to the extreme range of temperatures that the country experiences. Highly elevated places in Azerbaijan, such as the Shamakhi District, have snowy winters and average temperatures of 2°C. In other parts of the country, the Greater Caucus mountain ranges block the icy winds and regions such as the Araz Plains and Julfa have bright sunshine all year round and high temperatures of more than 40°C.
Anyone intending on moving to Azerbaijan from overseas should consult their local Azerbaijani embassy. The embassy will be able to provide detailed advice relating to individual circumstances; this is also where potential expats can obtain a visa application form.
Before being granted a visa, expats must provide the consulate with a completed application form, one passport style photograph, a valid passport, a letter of invitation, and proof of address in the form of a rental agreement, utility bill or recent bank statement.
It is important to note that there are some areas of the country that are off-limits to foreign visa holders. Occupied parts of Azerbaijan such as Nagorno-Karbakh are temporarily out of the control of the Azerbaijani government due to occupation by Armenia.
In order to apply for a permanent residency visa, foreigners must have been residing in Azerbaijan with a temporary visa for a minimum of two years and provide an official medical certificate confirming that they are able bodied and well. Following the “one window” principle, expats can apply for both residence and work permits to the same authority, the State Migration Service.