There are many reasons why someone might want legal residence in Russia. As in most other countries, obtaining a Russian residence permit (similar to a US green card or leave to remain in the UK) allows a foreign citizen to live legally in Russia. The foreign citizen may also work without the need for a work permit or work visa. Because finding sponsorship for a work visa is usually quite difficult, many foreign citizens opt for residence permits in Russia if they are able to apply for them. Unfortunately, the process of obtaining a residence permit and the requirements to apply are quite strict, most foreign citizens encounter difficulties trying to obtain a residence permit in Russia. 

Typically, a residence permit is the first step on the path to citizenship in any country. The situation is not much different in Russia, and most people who are applying for residence permits in Russia are looking to eventually obtain Russian citizenship. It is not a requirement that you pursue Russian citizenship if you apply for a residence permit though. 

In Russia, there are 2 different kinds of residence permits – temporary and permanent, and typically, one would apply for a temporary residence permit and then apply for a permanent residence permit. A temporary residence permit is essentially a conditional residence permit that allows a foreign citizen to live in Russia for 3 years and cannot be renewed or extended. After you have been in Russia for one year with a temporary residence permit, you may apply for a permanent residence permit, which is granted for an indefinite period starting November 1, 2019. 

Temporary Residence Permit

The temporary residence permit is usually the first step in obtaining legal residence in Russia and for some people, Russian citizenship. It is a stamp in your existing passport. As mentioned above, there are significant benefits to having a temporary residence permit in Russia. 

As a temporary residence permit holder, you are entitled to the following benefits:

  • Reside in Russia for 3 years
  • Work in Russia without a work permit (ONLY in the region the permit was issued)
  • Register as an individual entrepreneur
  • Apply for a permanent residence permit after 1 year in Russia on a temporary residence permit
  • Access to public medical care and state hospitals 

There are also a few restrictions for temporary residence permit holders. The two key restrictions being that you may only work in the region where the temporary residence permit was issued and you must be present in Russia for more than 6 months in any one calendar year. If you leave Russia for more than 6 months of the year, you can lose your residence permit. 

Eligibility for Temporary Residence Permit

In theory, anyone can apply for a residence permit in Russia. Unfortunately, the reality is much different. There are two ways in which you may apply, the first is under the quota system. Every year, the Russian government decides how many residence permits will be granted for each region. The number varies greatly year by year, for example, in 2017, there were 110,000 quota spots available and in 2019 there were 83,000. Each region has a limited number of quota spots available, for example, Moscow had about 2000. If you look into the statistics further, 96% of the quota spots go to citizens of the former Soviet Union. If you are from a Western country and you live in Moscow, a city of 16 million people, it is practically impossible for you to get a quota position. 

There are many companies that will advertise that they can help you get a position under the quota, but be very skeptical. It is almost unheard of that a person with Western citizenship receives a quota position to apply for a temporary residence permit. 

Fortunately, there are unlimited positions outside of the quota provided that you meet certain criteria. 

Grounds for Temporary Residence Permit Outside of Quota

The following people may apply for a temporary residence permit outside of the government quota:

  • A person under 18 with a foreign parent, adoptive parent or guardian who holds a temporary residence permit (the temporary residence permit is issued to the child with the same validity as the parent, adoptive parent, or guardian)
  • A person under 18 who applies for a temporary residence permit with their parent, adoptive parent, or guardian
  • A person married to a Russian citizen living in Russia (The temporary residence permit is issued in the same region where the spouse has permanent residence in Russia.)
  • A person over 18, or over 18 under their native country’s law, with a disability or partial disability applying for a temporary residence permit together with their parent, adoptive parent, or guardian
  • A person over 18, or over 18 under their native country’s law, with a disability or partial disability whose parent, adoptive parent, or guardian has a temporary residence permit (the temporary residence permit is issued for the same validity as the parent)
  • A person who has invested in the Russian economy in an amount determined by the Russian Government
  • A person who has applied to serve in the military (for active duty)
  • A person who is a member of the government program for the relocation of compatriots living abroad and their family members
  • A citizen of one of the countries of the former USSR who received a public university degree in Russia and completed the licensed course
  • A Ukrainian citizen or stateless person who permanently lived in Ukraine and has refugee status or has received temporary refuge in Russia
  • A person who is permanently relocating to Russia in accordance with international treaties on the rights of relocating persons

These are the only grounds under which you can apply for a temporary residence permit outside of the quota. If none of the grounds above apply, you may also check out the grounds to apply for a permanent residence permit below. If none of them are applicable to you, there are still other ways in which you can move to Russia and stay legally longterm. For more information, please see the end of this post or you can contact us.

Application Procedure for Temporary Residence Permit

If you have determined that you are eligible to apply for a temporary residence permit under the quota or outside of the quota, you need to prepare the required documents. The basic steps are as follows: 

  1. Pass medical exam 
  2. Pass exams on the Russian language, Russian history, and basics of Russian law
  3. Pay the government fee to apply (this is done at Sberbank typically)
  4. File application documents for the temporary residence permit (this can be done online or at the local branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Police) 
    • 2 copies of the temporary residence permit application form 
    • 2 passport photos sized 3.5 x 4.5 cm
    • Passport
    • Criminal record certificate from home country apostilled and translated to Russian 
    • Medical certificate
    • Exam certificates: Russian language, history, basics of Russian law
    • Migration card
    • Registration notification
    • Confirmation that government fees were paid
    • If filing outside of the quota: documents confirming relevant legal grounds for application (marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.)
    • *All documents which are not in Russian, must be translated to Russian and apostilled (the Russian translation must also be notarized in Russia).
  5. Hear back on whether the application was accepted or denied
  6. If your application was accepted, you will need to get fingerprinted and then you will receive the temporary residence permit stamp in your passport.
  7. Apply for a temporary residence permit visa
  8. Once you have a visa, you will need to formally register in Russia at the address where you live. 
  9. After you are registered, you will need to apply for a Tax ID.

At the end of the process, you will have to notify the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Police) of your registration each year. Once you have lived in Russia with the temporary residence permit for a year, you may apply for a permanent residence permit, which is the next step in obtaining permanent residence in Russia, and if you like, obtaining Russian citizenship.

It is important to note that there are certain people who can apply for a permanent residence permit without obtaining a temporary residence permit first. Before beginning an application for a temporary residence permit, please look over the next section on permanent residence. It is likely that no one will tell you that you are able to apply for permanent residence if you also qualify for temporary residence. You will only waste time and money doing both if you don’t have to do so.

For a free legal consultation on a temporary residence permit, please contact us at contact@expatriant.com. We work with a team of verified lawyers who will evaluate your case and tell you the best way to navigate Russian immigration law and obtain residency. You can also find an extensive list of frequently asked questions at the end of this article.

Permanent Residence Permit

The permanent residence permit is very similar to the temporary residence permit except that as of November 1, 2019, it is issued for an indefinite period of time. Therefore, once you have a permanent residence permit, you can legally stay and work in Russia indefinitely.

Obtaining a permanent residence permit in Russia provides the following benefits:

  • Ability to reside in Russia permanently and freely choose your place of residence in Russia
  • Free travel into and out of Russia without a visa or time limit
  • Ability to work in any region of Russia 
  • Free access to public healthcare
  • Access to the state pension system
  • Access to free higher education
  • Right to own residential real estate and register there
  • Right to vote in and be elected to local municipalities

Having a permanent residence permit in Russia comes with many benefits, but you must remain in Russia 6 months out of the year. If you spend too much time outside of Russia, you can lose your permanent residence permit. In addition, you must submit a notification to the local authorities each year on your registration in Russia. 

Eligibility for Permanent Residence Permit 

There are many grounds to apply for a permanent residence permit in Russia. The grounds listed below are the most common.

  • A foreign citizen who has lived at least one year on a temporary residence permit (application for a permanent residence permit can be made after six months)

In the following instances, it is possible to apply directly for a permanent residence permit without applying and living for at least one year on a temporary residence permit.

  • A foreign citizen born on the territory of the RSFSR and was a USSR citizen
  • A foreign citizen under 18 whose parent, adoptive parent, or guardian is a foreign citizen with a permanent residence permit in Russia
  • A foreign citizen under 18 if they receive a permanent residence permit together with their parent, adoptive parent, or guardian
  • A foreign citizen with a parent, adoptive parent, guardian, son, or daughter who is a Russian citizen living permanently in Russia
  • A foreign citizen over 18 who under their native country’s law is deemed disabled or partially disabled if they apply for a permanent residence permit together with their parent, adoptive parent, or guardian
  • A foreign citizen over 18 who under their native country’s law is deemed disabled or partially disabled if their parent, adoptive parent, or guardian has a permanent residence permit in Russia
  • A foreign citizen who is a Russia native speaker (in accordance  with Article 33.1 of Federal Law 31.05.2002, No. 62-FL “On Russian Citizenship”)
  • A foreign citizen who themselves or whose close relatives, including spouses, were deported from the territory of Crimea
  • A foreign citizen who has the status of highly qualified specialist (their family members may also apply for a permanent residence permit)
  • A foreign citizen who is a qualified specialist and has worked for more than 6 months on a special list of jobs designated by the Ministry of Labour and Social Development as long as during the 6 month period the employer has paid taxes to the State Pension Fund
  • A foreign citizen who has graduated magna cum laude from a government-approved full-time study program at a university in Russia  
  • A person who lives in Russia and whose Russian citizenship has been terminated for any reason
  • A person who lives in Russia and whose application for Russian citizenship has been denied (unless this decision was made due to a crime)
  • A person who had USSR citizenship and lives in Russia, but does not have Russian citizenship or citizenship of any other foreign country (Their children may also apply.).

Almost everyone who applies for a permanent residence permit in Russia will likely do so based on having lived in Russia with a temporary residence permit or being employed as a highly qualified specialist. If you are unsure of which grounds apply to you, please contact us at contact@expatriant.com.

Application Procedure for Permanent Residence Permit 

If you have determined that you have grounds to apply for a permanent residence permit, the procedure will typically look like the following and take about 4 months.

  1. Have grounds to apply for a permanent residence permit (see grounds above)
  2. Pass exams on the Russian language, Russian history, and basics of Russian law
  3. Complete the application form 
  4. Pass a medical exam
  5. Provide confirmation from your bank that evidences funds or tax documents
  6. Provide confirmation of place of residence
  7. Pay the government fee to apply (this is done at Sberbank typically)
  8. File application documents for the permanent residence permit
    • 2 copies of the application form
    • Confirmation that all government fees have been paid
    • Passport 
    • 4 passport-style photos sized 3.5 x 4.5 cm
    • Documents confirming your source of income in Russia (statement from bank or tax documents)
    • Documents confirming your place of residence exists (lease or deed)
    • Confirmation that you passed the medical exam
    • Confirmation that you passed the exams on the Russian language, Russian history, and basics of Russian law
    • Documents that confirm grounds for your application (these vary based on your grounds for application)
    • Employment contract (Only for highly qualified specialists)
    • Temporary residence permit
    • Marriage certificate and spouse’s passport (if applicable)
    • Birth certificate, and if older than 10 years old a notarized agreement to relocate to Russia
  9. Receive approval for your permanent residence permit
  10. Receive permanent residence permit within 15 days of approval
  11. Register at your address within 7 business days

Once you have your temporary residence permit, you are required to file with the local authorities annually to confirm that you are still in Russia. If you obtained a permanent residence permit before November 1, 2019, you also must renew your existing permanent residence permit before it expires for one that is valid indefinitely. If you do not have a permanent residence permit that is valid indefinitely and you do not renew it, it will be annulled and you will have to leave Russia. 

Once you have lived in Russia for 5 years, you may apply for Russian citizenship. If you are married to a Russian citizen, this is reduced to 3 years. Information on applying and obtaining Russian citizenship can be found below.

In certain circumstances, a permanent residence permit can be annulled. The following are the most common reasons for annulment of a permanent residence permit: 

  • Providing false information or documents on the application
  • Residing outside of Russia for more than 6 months 
  • 2 or more administrative violations in a year
  • Committing a crime
  • Discovery of infectious disease, including HIV or a drug addiction
  • No place of residence after 3 years in Russia
  • Breaking the law or extremism
  • Not notifying authorities of your presence in Russia

Russian Citizenship

Most people who are applying for residence permits in Russia are ultimately looking to obtain Russian citizenship. If you are looking to stay long-term in Russia, a permanent residence permit will provide you with all of the benefits of Russian citizenship except for the right to vote (in all elections), run for regional or federal office, serve in the military, serve on the crew of a vessel under the Russian flag, work for the government, police or public security service, or work as a civil air pilot. Of course, the other restriction is that you must be present in Russia for 6 months per year when on a permanent residence permit. 

For those of you who are interested in gaining Russian citizenship the process typically goes as follows:

  • Receive temporary residence permit
  • Live in Russia for one year with the temporary residence permit
  • Apply for and receive a permanent residence permit
  • Live in Russia for 5 years (3 years if married to a Russian citizen) with the permanent residence permit
  • File documents for application for Russian citizenship
    • The documents required highly depend on the basis for which you are applying for citizenship so a list is not provided
  • If all documents are submitted you will be granted Russian citizenship
  • File for Russian internal passport
  • Receive passport
  • Permanently register and receive registration stamp in your passport

As the law currently stands, you must formally renounce your existing citizenship in order to obtain Russian citizenship. “Formally,” simply means that you must send a letter renouncing your citizenship to your embassy and provide this with your application for Russian citizenship. The Russian government does not check this, but once you become a Russian citizen, it is mandatory to inform the Russian government of any other citizenship that you may have. 

Renouncing citizenship is a significant stumbling block for citizens from Western countries. Fortunately, it seems that this requirement may be abolished in the future, though currently, it is still the law. 

Because of the highly individual process of obtaining citizenship, we recommend that you speak with a Russian immigration lawyer. We work with verified lawyers. If you are interested in speaking with a lawyer, please contact us at contact@expatriant.com.

Other Means to Stay Legally in Russia

If you do not qualify for a residence permit in Russia, temporary or permanent, all is not lost. There are still other ways to stay in Russia long term, but they require navigating a bit more bureaucracy. The best method to stay in Russia long term if you are not eligible for a residence permit is to open a limited liability company (LLC or OOO in Russian). Under Russian law, it is possible to open a company that doesn’t have any turnover. If you open a company you can become the general director and issue yourself a work permit and work visa. This process usually takes around 6 months. 

The costs associated with opening a company in Russia are quite reasonable. Once the company is open, there are a number of technicalities that must be satisfied. The company must have an official address and file tax declarations and immigration paperwork as well as other administrative paperwork. On top of this, there are regular tax filings and any employee, including the general director, must be paid a minimum salary. Therefore, there are additional start-up costs as well as on-going maintenance costs associated with this method for long term residence in Russia. If you are committed to staying in Russia long term and do not plan on getting married, we highly suggest this route. 

Of course, opening a company and ensuring that it complies with all of the laws is complicated, especially if you don’t speak Russian. We work with a team of verified lawyers who have decades of experience helping expats open companies and obtain work permits on the basis of their company. If you are interested in speaking to us about opening a company in Russia and understanding the costs involved, please reach out to us at contact@expatriant.com.

Conclusion 

As you can see, there are many methods to stay legally in Russia long-term. If you are planning to build a career or have a family in Russia, we highly recommend you ensure that you are fully in compliance with all applicable immigration laws.

This post is meant to be informative and does not constitute legal advice. We highly recommend that you speak with a qualified Russian immigration lawyer to understand the options that may be available to you. When we lived in Russia, it was quite difficult to find a verified lawyer who would charge reasonable prices for their services. This is one of the reasons we created Expatriant. We work with verified lawyers so that you get top quality service and fair prices. If you have any questions at all or would like to speak with a Russian immigration lawyer, please contact us at contact@expatriant.com.

Ready to take your career abroad? Browse open positions in Russia today!

I lived in Russia for 5 years. Over those 5 years, I started a few companies, worked as an English teacher, worked at a large Russian tech company, and worked at an international law firm. I want to share my experience living and working abroad so you can do the same!

1 COMMENT

  1. I’ve live in Moscow for several years on a tourist visa from USA. I bought few flats in Moscow suburbs, I was wondering if I qualify for a Temporary or Permanent Residence. What is the amount require to qualify?

    Thank you,
    Manny Ongsing +7 916 260 3468

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