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A Comprehensive Guide on Moving to Russia

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Relocating to Russia

At a Glance:

  • Russia’s economy has greatly diversified in the last few decades, and there are now several attractive industries for expats looking to work in the country.
  • Acquiring a work visa is complicated and needs to be started well in advance of your arrival in Russia — however, the process is much easier if you are eligible to be a Highly Qualified Specialist.
  • Spending more than 183 days a year in Russia means you will be taxed as a resident i.e. at a rate of 13%.

Moving to Russia is often synonymous with relocation to Moscow or St Petersburg in the minds of many expats-to-be. But don’t reduce the biggest country in the world, with its rich culture and history, to just its two largest cities. There are many more places in Russia that attract expats. We have compiled a short selection below.

Moscow — The Russian Capital

Naturally, Moscow is an expat hotspot, thanks to its status as the political, economic and cultural center of Russia. Check out our guide to moving to Moscow for more in-depth information on the nation’s capital. The city’s importance and appeal for expats is hard to beat.

Saint Petersburg — Explore the Treasures of the City

St Petersburg, Russia’s westernmost metropolis, is also popular among expats. Abbreviated to “Piter” by its inhabitants, the city has a lot to offer — not just its employment prospects, but also a lively cultural life and beautiful architecture. The history is also worth exploring, as the city was Russia’s former capital and the seat of the Tsars for hundreds of years.

St Petersburg is one of the most important centers for trade, research, and industry in all of Russia, and comes a close second after Moscow in importance for expats, despite the former having less than half of the capital’s population (five million compared to over twelve million). The city’s main industries include oil and gas production, aerospace engineering, and shipbuilding, as well as various other types of technology production. The city is home to many offices and headquarters of major national and international companies, as well as a large international port, leading it to be described as the “marine capital of Russia”.

The city also hosts the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an economic business conference attracting professionals and executives from all over the world. St Petersburg also has excellent transport links, with highways and rail routes connecting it to the rest of Russia, and Pulkovo Airport offers flights around the globe. Its status as an international and financial hub makes Russia’s “gate to Europe” an intriguing option for expats.

Yekaterinburg — The City at the Imaginary Border

Of course, moving to Russia doesn’t mean you have to settle in the two main Western metropolises above, and the country has much more to offer. Yekaterinburg is located on the border between Europe and Asia, in the Ural region, which has resulted in a fascinating blend of Siberian and Uralian culture. Historically, the city was founded in the 18th century in order to connect the two continents and was known as the “window to Asia”. It also became the mining capital of Russia, a reputation that persists today.

Due to the Ural Mountains’ rich variety of natural resources, particularly minerals and ores, the machinery and metal industry in the city is booming and offers many employment opportunities for experienced expats, especially in the Yekaterinburg-City business park, a large industrial park completed in 2015.

Novosibirsk — Russia’s Heartland

Most people think of Siberia as a frozen wasteland, but the region has much more to offer than that. Siberia’s wealth of natural resources and large industrial output means that venturing into Russia’s central region can be a beneficial career step for many expats. Novosibirsk, the third-largest city in Russia, is the perfect destination for this, with an impressive industrial sector dealing with aviation, metal working, and nuclear energy, among others.

Located in southwestern Siberia and over three thousand kilometers from Moscow, Novosibirsk is a relatively new city, founded in the late 19th century for workers constructing the Trans-Siberian Railway. It is also a major center for scientific research, with more than a hundred scientific institutions in the city, and the renowned academic town of Akademgorodok located just outside.

Despite having a population of only 1.5 million (which is significantly less than that of Moscow and Saint Petersburg), Novosibirsk still has extensive transportation links and its own international airport: Tolmachevo Airport offers flights all over the country and to many destinations in Europe and Asia.

Nizhny Novgorod — Perfect for IT Jobs

Expats using their time in Russia to further their computing career should take a closer look at Nizhny Novgorod. Historically the trade capital of Russia, this ancient city is located in the west of the country and is only 400 kilometres from Moscow. Russia’s fifth-largest city is one of the nation’s hotspots for producing software and hardware. In 2015, the Ankudinovka IT Park opened, providing more opportunity for employment in the technology sector in the city.

It also has a flourishing engineering industry specializing in transportation, especially automobiles. The Gorky Automobile Plant (GAZ) is a major automobile manufacturer located in Nizhny Novgorod. The city will soon become even more attractive for working expats, as it has recently been designated one of the “industrial clusters” of the Russian Federation, which means the automotive industry will benefit from more investment.

Visas and Residency in Russia

Types of Russian Visas

As mentioned in our article on working in Russia,  visa and other permit regulations can be mildly complicated at best and a bureaucratic nightmare at worst. However, with the right preparation — and a good deal of patience — it is definitely manageable.

There are several kinds of visas for Russia, each with a distinct purpose and its own requirements. Below, we have listed the most relevant visa types for expats and the activities it allows them to engage in.

  • Business visa: This visa allows for business-related travel to Russia, such as professional consultations, presentations, congresses, or contract negotiations. This is also the visa you require to attend anything of commercial nature, such as an auction. If it is your first visit to Russia, the visa is usually issued for a duration of up to three months. For frequent visitors, multiple-entry visas for up to twelve months are available as well. The business visa is only issued upon invitation by a person or legal entity from within Russia. It does not allow for any actual employment to be taken up; for this purpose, there is the distinct category of work visa. It is not possible to convert a business visa into a work visa from within Russia: you normally have to leave the country first. However, if you are engaged in the setup or upkeep of imported machinery, a business visa is enough.
  • Work visa: The central piece to the puzzle of your future expat life in Russia. Acquiring a work visa is the most important step to be taken before you actually relocate. Taking care of this procedure is mainly your employer’s responsibility, but there are certain duties that you will need to tend to yourself. We have discussed the matter of work visas and the special category of visa for highly skilled professionals in detail in our article on working in Russia.

 If you would like to bring your spouse and/or dependent children along on your expat venture to Russia, make sure to inform your future employer so they can include any accompanying family members in your work visa application.


After your arrival, you have to notify the local immigration authorities about your place of residence within seven business days. If you have a work contract with a company in Russia, they usually carry out this task for you. Make sure to clarify whether it is your responsibility or theirs beforehand, violations against Russian immigration regulations can have unpleasant consequences. In the worst case, they could even lead to deportation.

Residency in Russia and Professional Assistance

Most expats reside in Russia on their work visa for a predetermined stretch of time, usually up to three years. Officially, you have a temporary visitor status. Should you opt to stay in Russia beyond your original expat assignment, you need to apply for a temporary residence permit.

As with many other bureaucratic processes in the country, this is a rather intricate task for which you may want to seek professional assistance. Luckily, relocation and immigration agencies offering legal advice and practical help are readily available throughout the major expat hotspots in Russia, although you should make sure that your chosen agency is reputable and experienced. Your employer should be able to recommend one to you.

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