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Relocating your employees to Russia
Disclaimer: Due to the current circumstances in Russia and Ukraine, the information in this article could be outdated or incorrect. Are you planning a corporate relocation to Russia? Consider hiring an expert or ask a professional relocation company to help you with your relocation.
Being the biggest country in the world, it is no surprise that many international companies have found their way towards Russia. Especially the large cities Moscow and St Peterburg have a greatly diversified economies and now house offices of many international corporates. This also leads to expats coming to Russia. Moscow is the expat hotspot, being the political, economic and cultural center of the country. St Petersburg also has a growing expat community, due to the city being an important center for trade, research and industries. Rules and regulations around immigration and work permits can be very complicated given the communistic history of Russia. In this article, we give you the most important information to get started when you want to relocate one or more of your employees to Russia.
Acquiring work and residence visas is complicated and time consuming. Some even say that it is ‘bureaucratic nightmare at worst’. Only foreigners from Belarus and South Ossetia can work in Russia visa-free. In general, for international businesses there are two types of visas that could be interesting:
- Business Visa
This type of visa is meant for employees or entrepreneurs coming to Russia to attend a congress, business meeting, seminar, or other business related activities. The visa gives short term access to Russia only.
- Work Visa
If an employee is going to work and live (together with their family) for a specific amount of time, employed by a Russian company, a work visa is required. Applying for a work visa is the responsibility of the employer. Each situation is treated independently and a permit is allowed based on a few requirements. Employees employed as a highly qualified specialist make the most change to succeed. They can apply for the HQS-visa. This visa is also mostly used by corporates when relocating their employees to their Russian subsidiary or affiliate (intra company transfers). The visa is granted for 3 years and can be renewed unlimited, but no longer than 3 years each. An employee is seen as highly qualified when earning more than 167.000 RUR or 2230 EUR per month. The Russian employer is obligated to arrange health insurance for the employee.
Other work visas are more difficult to obtain. Therefore, it is advisable to give the relocating employee the salary that is sufficient to get approved as a highly quality specialist.
Can the partner and children come to Russia as well?
The partner and children of the employee can come to Russia for residence on the same visa approval as the employee. It is important to arrange this immediately on the visa approval, otherwise the process will take much more time. Children are also allowed for schools on that visa.
The quality of daily life in Russia has progressed rapidly the last decade. Public services such as housing, schooling and healthcare improved, while the costs of daily life remain relatively low. Therefore, expats can sometimes live a more luxury life with the same money as they are used to in their home country. However, Russia still is a strange country regarding some rules and public services. Therefore, moving to Russia can be experienced with a huge culture shock.
Expats normally search for housing in the city center of the city they are going to work in, mostly Moscow and St Peterburg. Living in the suburbs is usually not the preference, since traffic can be a chaos around the bigger cities in Russia. Most housing options are city apartments of international compounds (gated areas) just out of the city. Due to the population growth in these cities, there is high demand for housing. Our advice is to start house searching in time or hire a local expert in the housing business.
Children of expats can both attend public or private (international) schooling. Since Russian language is used throughout the public schools and English is not wide spoken; most expats prefer international schooling. There are plenty of international schools in the bigger cities that teach in different languages and according to different educational methods.
The public healthcare system cannot be compared the standards in Western countries. The quality of healthcare is okay, but the system around it is inefficient and problematic. Waiting lists are long and administration is a problem.
Therefore, attending private healthcare makes more sense. This has very high quality but that also comes with a price tag. Healthcare insurance is a must when desiring private healthcare. For most working permits, the Russian employer is obligated to pay for the employee’s insurance.
Other points of attention
Very little people in Russia have a sufficient proficiency in English language. In the bigger (international) business, this is usually not a problem. However, in daily life, schooling and the different instances, most people only speak Russian. Learning (a bit of) the Russian language is very recommended when relocating to Russia.
Russian laws and regulations are complex, and consequences of errors are very unpleasant. In the few days after arrival of the expat, the employee has many responsibilities for different instances. Make sure you know what your employee must do and when in order to prevent these consequences. At worst, they could even lead to deportation or withdrawal of the work visa.
On a positive note, Russian working circumstances and environments are considered as one of the best in the world. Employee satisfaction is very high, salaries are good compared to daily life costs and vacation days by law are higher than the average. Each employee has at least 28 vacation days a year; but some employers give them even more. Also, there are more than 15 public holidays in Russia.
People approved with a work visa, can immediately apply for a permanent residence permit. After three years, they can also apply for Russian citizenship. This makes Russia the easiest country for foreign workers to gain permanent citizenship.
Costs of relocating to Russia
The price of the visa application is not fixed and depends on several factors:
- The nationality of the applicant
- Type of visa
- The length of intended period of stay
- Processing time
In general, costs vary between 30 and 500 EUR.
Shipment costs to Russia are quite expensive. This is because of high import taxes and strict rules. Shipment by plane is rare and therefore even more expensive. Shipment by sea makes more sense. Goods usually arrive in the harbor of St Petersburg. Shipment to St Petersburg is therefore often cheaper than other cities in Russia. To give you an impression, an average household shipment from Western Europe to Russia will cost you 1500 EUR.
Costs of living in Russia
The costs of living in Russia are lower than countries in Europe and the most other Western countries. Food, drinks and other groceries are extremely cheap. House prices really depend on the size and the location. An average 3-bedroom apartment in Moscow costs between the 1100 and 3100 EUR per month. An average 3-bedroom apartment in St Petersburg costs between 625 and 1245 EUR per month.
Income is Russia is taxed at a rate of 13%. This makes the tax rate on income one of the lowest in the world. This means that the expat will get more out of their money than they are used to now. However, this high salary has also an effect on the expat lifestyle. Expats in Russia have high standards and therefore their lifestyle becomes expensive. Big houses, going out for dinner often and regular trips within Russia and abroad are just some examples of the expat lifestyle.
Hire a professional relocation manager
Especially because of the complicated bureaucratic processes within Russia, a professional relocator becomes a necessity. This relocation manager can also help to make the employee feel at home in their new country, since many expats tell that they experienced a huge culture shock when moving to Russia. Voerman International has a own office in Russia and has many experience with move management and relocation management in Russia.Back to overview