Moving From the UK to Russia

Panorama of St. Petersburg at the summer sunset
Image source: Shutterstock / Location: Saint Petersburg, Russia


Capital City: Moscow
Population: 144.4 million
Official language: Russian
Commonly spoken languages: Abaza, Adyghe, Altai, Bashkir, Buryat, Chechen, Chuvash, Crimean, Erzya, Ingush, Kabardian, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kalmyk, Karachay-Balkar, Khakas, Komi-Zyrian, Hill Mari, Meadow Mari, Moksha, Nogai, Ossetian, Tatar, Tuvan, Udmurt, Ukrainian, Yakut
Currency: Rouble
Exchange rate to pound: 1: 0.0098

Russia is situated on the north-eastern part of the Eurasian landmass. To the north, it is bordered by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Pacific Ocean and to the south, by the Black and Caspian Seas. Being the largest country in the world, Russia covers an area of 17 million square kilometres, where Siberia makes up 77% of this. The country is so large that it has 11 different time zones. Rich in natural resources, around 60% of the country is covered by forest and around half of this landmass is uninhabited. You’ll also find Lake Baikal there, which is the largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world. It stretches for 644 kilometres and is around 1,637 metres deep. Meanwhile, the Volga is Europe’s longest river with over 200 tributaries.

If you’ve heard of cold winters in Russia, you’d be quite right as the town of Oymyakon in the Yakuta region in Siberia is probably the coldest town in the world with the lowest recorded temperature ever having been recorded being -77.8 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, the average temperature there between December and January is around -50 degrees Celsius. It’s not all winter though, as the country is so large to stretch as low as the regions of Cannes and Nice. Often dubbed the “Russian Riviera”, the town of Sochi has palm trees, hot summers and mild winters.

Now for some infrastructure. If you’re looking to traverse the wide spans of the country, you can do so via the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Being the longest in the world, it is a total of 9,289 kilometres long and crosses eight time zones. To travel the entire length of the railway, you’d need to spend around one week on the train. In addition, you might be surprised to find out that Moscow’s Kremlin is the largest active medieval fortress in the world, with walls over 2.5 kilometres long and around 20 towers across the grounds. Russia is also home to some beautiful castles with Petergof being built in the first half of the 18th century to rival Versailles in luxuriousness. The site has over 150 fountains. And last but certainly not least, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space. It was in 1961 when he orbited the earth in a 108-minute flight, leading the way for space exploration from there onwards.

Where to live in Russia

Russia is a beautiful country with a lot to offer expats. And being the largest country in the world means that you’ll be spoilt for choice in terms of locations. But which city should you make your next home? Here are some great options to choose from:

Moscow

As the capital of Russia, this city is full of history and is the top choice for many expats. Even though it’s considered one of the most expensive cities in Russia, average housing costs are around 27% less than Munich and 38% less than Paris. The city offers job opportunities in business, language teaching, the diplomatic service and the finance sector, among others.

St. Petersburg

The historic and cultural centre of Russia, St. Petersburg is a beautiful city that’s considered to be a consolidation of Moscow, Paris and Venice. It has numerous stunning neoclassical buildings, museums and theatres. As an expat, you can find work in medicine and medicinal research/supplies, sales management, teaching and education, legal services and more. Salaries, however, are around 2-3 times lower than in Moscow. This means that housing is also more affordable.

Sochi

As mentioned above, Sochi is at the heart of the Russian Riviera as it is considered the most popular summer resort in the country with over 4 million domestic tourists per year. It’s also an attractive place for international students. Boasting both beaches and ski slopes, employment opportunities in tourism are quite abundant.

Nizhny Novgorod

As Russia’s fifth-largest city, Nizhny Novgorod is just a few hours away from Moscow and St. Petersburg by train. It is home to a cluster of IT companies so if you have IT experience, this could be your best bet. Property prices are also much more affordable than Mosco or St. Petersburg and the city has a relaxed atmosphere. As for culture, there’s an abundance of places to visit including the city’s own Kremlin, orthodox churches, 18th-century merchant houses and in winter, there are the ski slopes, too. Meanwhile, in summer, you can also enjoy gorgeous landscapes that overlook the Volga and Oka Rivers.

Yekaterinburg

The third-largest city in Russia, Yekaterinburg is the capital of the Ural region. Since this is a more industrial region, you may find opportunities to work in the mining and retail sectors. Housing in this city is around 50% lower than in Munich, although knowledge of the Russian language will be an advantage. It’s also considered an up-and-coming city that’s also great for raising children.

Krasnodar

A fast-growing regional economy, Krasnodar offers warm weather and lower costs than the rest of Russia and it is located near Sochi. This city has a wide range of contemporary art galleries and is known for its spas, beaches as well as gastronomic tourism. Located on the Kuban River, it has about one million inhabitants which consist of Russians, Ukrainians, Armenians, Greeks and Germans. In terms of employment, you’ll be able to find something in the food and food manufacturing industries and the agricultural sector. Meanwhile, jobs in the creative technologies space are expected to rise in the future.

Tyumen

An industrial centre, Tyumen is often referred to as the best place to live in Russia. It houses Russia’s oil industry and offers many job opportunities in the manufacturing and engineering industries. The city boasts beautiful wooden buildings and historic churches. With a large expat population, it has a prestigious university and offers gastronomic delights in the form of local cafes and bars.

How to become a resident of Russia

Permanent residency

If you’d like to become a permanent resident of Russia, this will entitle you to certain rights including taking up employment without a work permit. In addition, you’ll also be able to leave or exit the country without a visa, have access to Russian social services, you can permanently register at a Russian address, set up a business or engage in self-employment as well as vote in elections and referendums. This is the first step to becoming a citizen of the country.

Permanent residency in Russia is valid for a period of five years. However, you can renew this an unlimited number of times. You need to register your permanent residence with the GUVM every year and you should remember that if your permanent residence permit expires, it cannot be renewed. Furthermore, it will become invalid if you leave the country for a period of six consecutive months.

To apply for a Russian permanent residence, you can do so after one year of legally residing in Russia. Do this six months before your temporary residence permit expires.

The documents you will need to submit for your permanent residence application will depend on whether you’re from a CIS country or another one, and may include:

  • 4 passport-sized photos
  • Passport or valid ID
  • Proof of income
  • Proof of accommodation
  • A medical certificate clearing you of an HIV (AIDS) infection
  • Proficiency of Russian, knowledge of Russian history and the foundations of the Russian Federation

Citizenship

As a Russian citizen, you’ll be issued with a Russian passport, you’ll have full electoral rights in all national elections, have the right to work in the state bodies of the Russian Federation, have the duty to serve in the Russian military, you’ll have the right not to be deported and you’ll be able to live overseas for an unlimited period of time.

To take full Russian citizenship through naturalisation, you will need to renounce the citizenship of your home country in addition to paying the citizenship fee. The process can take up to a year.

There are several ways to become a citizen of Russia. These include: by birth, through naturalisation or by restoration of citizenship to former citizens.

You can also work in Russia on a work visa. However, it should be noted that the country works on a quota system for work visas. Companies that would like to hire a foreign employee must apply up to a year in advance to advertise the role locally and if within a month the position is not filled, the company can proceed to employ a foreigner. One exception is the Highly Qualified Specialist category, which is not subject to quotas or corporate permits. In order to be considered for this category, you need to have a job offer of approximately 29,600 USD or more annually.

Working in Russia

Russia’s main economic sector is in oil and gas, however, expats who work in the field of technology, science and education, as well as teaching English will find a market for their skills. The Russian economy has experienced significant growth over the past few years and Western companies have a presence in construction, development and finance as well as retail and teaching services. Some of the most urgent job opportunities in Russia are for industrial electricians, welders, steel fixers, shuttering carpenters and steel structural fabricators.

Transportation in Russia

Due to large traffic jams and local driving customs, driving a car in Russia is not the preferred choice of travel for many people. However, the public transportation network is broad, punctual and user-friendly.

Rail

The country’s national railway company is Russian Railways, which is government-owned. With almost complete control over passenger services, freight, and infrastructure, the company operates high-speed and intercity trains and owns dozens of commuter rail networks across Russia. Travelling by train in Russia can be a pleasant experience. Around 98% of Russian trains arrive within 5 minutes of the scheduled time. Moscow is probably the largest train hub with nine railway terminals. You can travel by train to: Belorusskaya with international routes to Belarus, Czechia, France, Germany and Poland; Kazansky with international routes to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan; Kiyevsky with international routes to Moldova and Ukraine; Kursky with international routes to Ukraine; Leningradsky with international routes to Finland and Estonia; Paveletsky with international routes to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan; Rizhsky with international routes to Latvia;  Savyolovsky (suburban services); Yaroslavsky which includes the Trans-Siberian Railway and international routes to China, Mongolia and North Korea.

Metro

Seven Russian cities have a metro network of their own including Kazan Metro, Moscow Metro, Nizhny Novgorod Metro, Novosibirsk Metro, Saint Petersburg Metro, Samara Metro and Yekaterinburg Metro.

Metro stations, such as those in Moscow, can be large complexes with multiple interchanges and exits. However, the past decade has seen drastic improvements, especially for tourists with signage in both Cyrillic and Latin. Ticket machines are multilingual and the average cost of a single ticket will be in the region of 55 p. or less.

Buses

Since Russia doesn’t have a public transportation authority, buses are run by a public transportation company at either the municipal level or federal level. Buses also don’t offer a set system of fares. While some cities have a uniform fare others have bus-specific or route-specific pricing. You can expect to pay between 20 p. and 40 p. for a single bus ticket.

Taxis

Taxis in Russia are commonly referred to as marshrutka and are generally a large van or minibus. These taxis typically have specific routes and route numbers but are run by private companies.

Driving your own car in Russia

In order to drive your own car in Russia from the UK, you will need a 1968 International Driving Permit (IDP). 1949 IDPs which were previously issued by the UK may no longer be accepted in Russia. To obtain your IDPs over the counter, you can get it from a UK Post Office as you will not be able to buy an IDP outside the UK. It’s therefore advisable to get your IDP before you travel. Vehicle insurance is compulsory when driving abroad and you are required to carry a green card to drive in Russia. If you’d like to drive your vehicle into Russia, you will need to declare the vehicle with the customs authority at the point of entry. Furthermore, you can bring a vehicle to the country without paying import taxes for a maximum period of 1 year.

Education in Russia

Russia’s education is ranked among the highest in Europe and some of the best in the world. Education is coordinated by the government and general education is free for all. Although most schools are state schools, there are also some private schools as well.

  • Pre-school education

    Pre-school education starts before the age of six and is not compulsory. Children usually attend kindergartens or other pre-schools with a focus on intellectual and physical activities.

  • General education

    General education consists of three stages: primary (four years); basic general education (five years) and secondary education (two to three years).

    General education has a focus on intellectual, emotional, moral and physical development, aiming to develop the abilities to enable students to adapt to life in society, as well as helping them make conscious choices regarding professional education.

    General education is compulsory and the academic year runs from 1 September to the beginning of June and examinations take place in June.

    The language of instruction is Russian in all state-accredited educational institutions. One exception is pre-schools.

    Once a student obtains their school leaving certificate, they will be able to continue to higher education which includes either vocational education or both non-university and university level education.

    General education takes 11 years to complete, with students finishing their education at the age of 17.

Being a student in Russia

Russia offers one of the best mass-education systems in the world, producing a 98% literacy rate, which exceeds that of most Western European countries. The country’s top universities are located in Moscow and St. Petersburg, with Moscow State University and Saint Petersburg being the most well-known. Universities usually have extremely competitive entry requirements and hold special entry exams each year.

Tuition in Russia is significantly affordable when compared to the quality of education which it gives an individual. Tuition can range from $2,000 to $8,000 annually. Additional costs may include room and board and books ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 annually.

Healthcare in Russia

The Russian Ministry of Health is responsible for the Russian public healthcare system and the sector employs over two million people. Federal regions have their own departments of health that oversee local administration. Generally, healthcare in Russia is free to all residents through a compulsory state health insurance programme. However, the quality of healthcare is considered low and the public healthcare system has been criticised owing to poor organisational structure, lack of funds, outdated medical equipment and poorly paid staff. As a result, private healthcare is the choice for many expats in Russia. It is available in numerous areas.

Takeaways

The broad territory of Russia offers a wide seasonal range from bone-chilling winters to hot sunny summers, and also features 11 time zones. This gives you a lot of opportunities to choose where you wish to settle depending on your personal preferences. The country’s cities are connected via the Trans-Siberian railroad, famous for being the longest in the world. If Russia sounds like the country you would like to make your new home, we at Fantastic Removals have your back. Moving abroad is a tough process and we can help make it easier!

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