Working in Moscow
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Find out how to get a job and work in Moscow
Are you considering working in Moscow as an expat? In recent years, numerous professionals have come to Russia’s capital to work as diplomatic staff, business developers or language teachers. In this guide, you’ll find information on the job search process and business life.
Employment in Moscow
At a Glance:
- To find work in Russia’s capital, ask your current employer about a company transfer or check out a Russian job site.
- The work permit process is long and complicated, so start early and be patient!
- Your employer will take care of your social security contributions, although we would recommend acquiring private health insurance in addition to this.
- Russia has double-taxation treaties with a number of countries, so check if this applies to you.
Moscow is Russia’s undisputed economic and financial center. Greater Moscow’s workforce produces over a quarter of Russia’s entire GDP. With an unemployment rate of just 1.3% in 2017, the capital has the lowest unemployment rate in all of Russia.
Many of Russia’s largest companies have their headquarters and the majority of their staff working in Moscow. Nearly all multinational corporations which have entered the Russian market are based in the city as well. This makes Moscow an attractive option for expats from all over the world.
As the city is Russia’s capital and major political center, another large share of the expatriates in Moscow are diplomatic staff, foreign correspondents, and employees of cultural institutions. There is also a high demand for foreign native speakers working as language teachers.
Moscow’s Main Industries
Moscow’s economy has changed drastically since Soviet times, when the city was reliant on its manufacturing and engineering activities. Nowadays, the service sector employs many Muscovites, thanks to the city’s growing tourism and retail industries. Moscow is also Russia’s financial center: it is home to the Moscow Exchange (the national stock exchange) and almost all of the country’s major banks, including Sberbank, which is the largest in Eastern Europe.
Despite the decline in Moscow’s manufacturing sector, the city is still a major industrial center of Russia and home to the national headquarters of many major companies, with mechanical engineering, food processing, and research and development (R&D) being the most prominent sectors.
Where Will You Be Working?
Many expats have their offices in commercial districts such as Kitai-Gorod or the area around Paveletsky station just south of the Garden Ring. The city is continuously investing in an entirely new commercial neighborhood in the Presnensky District, the Moscow International Business Center (Московский Международный Деловой Центр), also known as the “Moscow City” project. While construction is still ongoing, the district already contains a vast number of futuristic office buildings.
During his time in office as Russia’s president, current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced the establishment of the Skolkovo Innovation Center just outside of Moscow, which is intended to be Russia’s own “Silicon Valley”. With this initiative, the government hopes to attract more high-tech and research-based companies and to get more tech-savvy entrepreneurs interested in working in the city. Although the center is experiencing various infrastructural and financial problems, it is nevertheless a sign that the government is willing to invest in new technology.
Looking for a Job: Search Wisely
Depending on your background and qualifications, realizing your dream of working in Moscow may or may not be easy to fulfill. There is a high demand for foreign experts, but it is generally limited to specific sectors. Skills in the fields of construction, business development, IT, and finance are much sought after.
Your most promising option for working in Moscow is to check directly with companies from your home country or multinationals in your field which are doing business in Russia, as these are the most likely to hire expats.
Alternatively, there are many online recruitment consultancies which can help you find a job in the capital to match your qualifications. If you would like to go job-hunting on your own, you might find the following websites useful:
- The Moscow Times Career Center
- SuperJob.ru (website in Russian)
- In Job
- Xpat Jobs
Remember that due to work permit quotas, locally advertised jobs may not always be an option for expats.
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Moscow: Work Permits and Social Security
Priorities: Work Permits
Getting the necessary work permit for Russia is a complex and time-consuming procedure. The country has a quota regulation for foreign workers. Companies wishing to employ foreign staff have to submit an application specifying the number and nationality of employees they wish to hire a year in advance.
If a potential employer’s request to hire foreign employees is granted, job vacancies have to be registered with the authorities. If no local candidate has been found within a month, the company receives a corporate permit. Now, the application for an individual work permit can be filed. This requires translated evidence of qualifications and a health certificate. In a best-case scenario, this process takes three months.
An exception to this lengthy process, however, is in the highly qualified specialist category, which is not subject to quotas or corporate permit requirements. Highly qualified specialists are foreign professionals in a particular sector, and eligibility for this category depends on their wage. If working in the educational or scientific fields, you need to earn more than 1 million RUB (approx. 17,600 USD as of 2017) per year, and this rises to 2 million RUB (35,300 USD) if working in any other sector. However, if you are planning on working in one of Russia’s Special Economic Zones (SEZs), you only need to be earning 700,000 RUB (12,300 USD) per year. Visas for highly qualified specialists are issued for up to three years at a time, with an option to extend it for a further three years. The visa simply requires an application to the state application body, and the authorities must consider it within 14 days.
It’s a Different Story for CIS Nationals
Unlike other nationals, workers from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries do not need to go through such a lengthy and complex process. They need to apply for a work patent within 30 days of their arrival in Russia, and have 30 days in which to confirm their knowledge of the Russian language, history, and legislation in an exam. Only once the exam has been passed can they receive the work patent.
After receiving the patent, they have 60 days to find local employment. They can then work for up to twelve months, and the patent is renewable once.
Everything You Need to Know about Taxation
All expats working in Moscow are liable to pay Russian income tax. Non-residents are taxed only on their income from Russian sources. In this case, the tax rate for all types of income is 30%.
If you live in Russia for at least 183 days during a 12-month period, you are considered a resident under Russian taxation law. Tax residents are taxed on all their income, including income from non-Russian sources. Since the tax reform of 2001, there is a flat income tax rate of 13% for most types of incomes.
One exception is the abovementioned highly qualified specialist immigration category. Expats who have entered the country on this visa are eligible for the standard personal income tax rate of 13%, even before officially becoming a Russian tax resident. Additionally, Russia has signed double taxation treaties with a number of countries.
The Social Security System in Moscow
Everyone employed in Russia must be insured through the social security system — however, it is up to your employer to pay the contributions, so you do not have to worry about this responsibility. Social security in Russia is fairly comprehensive, covering unemployment, unexpected sickness, and an old-age pension, among other things. However, we would recommend getting additional private health insurance on top of this, as the country’s state medical facilities leave a lot to be desired.
Professional Qualifications for Moscow
Teaching English as a Foreign Language
Teaching English as a foreign language is a very popular option for young people who would like to gain some international experience in Moscow as well as native speakers who cannot find a position in their original profession. In recent years, a large number of private language institutions have sprung up all across the city. The demand for foreign language teachers is continually high, and chances are good for native speakers of languages such as English, French, Spanish, or German to find a teaching position.
On the downside, teacher salaries are usually not the most competitive. Before you accept a teaching post, carefully check the conditions you are offered. Finally, research the reputation of your potential employer — stories of scams are quite frequent.
Language Skills: Don’t Expect Too Much
English skills are a lot less common in Moscow than they are in many other European capitals. The average taxi driver or shop assistant probably knows a couple of English words at the very most. To make daily life easier, it is strongly recommended to learn at least some basic Russian for your life in Moscow.
In the business world, on the other hand, English is more widely spoken. Some positions, especially those in Russian companies, require knowledge of both Russian and English. For those working for one of the many multinationals, however, fluency in just English is often sufficient.
How to Behave in the Moscow Business World
In the Moscow business world, assertiveness and patience are assets in meetings and negotiations. Although meetings should be arranged well in advance, it is not unusual for them to be rearranged with short notice. Punctuality is not as important as elsewhere, and side conversations in meetings are acceptable. If circumstances are favorable, business deals may be concluded extremely spontaneously. Expect things to go a lot slower, though, when dealing with government agencies.
Dress formally and conservatively while in Moscow. Pay attention to your shoes and make sure they are always polished. The shoes are what many Russians will look at first when sizing up a new acquaintance.
A thing which often confuses newcomers is the use of Russian names. Every person in Russia has three names: a first name, a patronymic (a middle name derived from the father’s first name), and a family name. In formal situations, people should be addressed by their title and last name. For closer acquaintances and business relations, however, calling someone by their first name and patronymic is both affectionate and polite.