Russian citizenship is one of the most underrated passports globally for many people, and recently it has become more straightforward to obtain. According to the 2021 Henley Passport Index, which ranks every passport of the world each year, Russia is number 48 out of 110. Having a Russian passport gives access to 110 countries around the globe visa-free or visa on arrival.
There are several ways to get a second passport worldwide, but for qualified professionals, there is probably no country easier to apply for citizenship than Russia in 2021.
Let’s look at exactly why Russia has an easy route to citizenship.
Why is Russian citizenship easy to get?
Let’s face it, Russia is facing a demographic crisis of epic proportions, and the only way the government seems to be addressing the problem is by attracting foreigners to Russia to live and work. The last ten years have seen the Russian government make amendments to the laws that regulate Russian citizenship. Three legislative changes made Russian citizenship more attractive on the world stage and much easier to obtain.
The first significant change granted permanent residence permits to highly qualified specialists working in Russia. Historically, a permanent residence permit based on employment was valid only as long as you had a job. Quite simply, if you quit your job, you lost your permanent residence permit. Now, the Russian government has proposed a bill requiring permanent residence permits for highly qualified specialists to be independent of their employment.
Another change in 2019 created a list of professions, which the Russian government deemed critical to the country’s development. The change allowed Russian employers to hire significantly more foreign workers with reduced bureaucracy. Working in these professions leads to the right to apply for Russian citizenship under a simplified procedure.
The last change came in early 2020 when the Russian government removed the requirement to renounce your existing citizenship to become a Russian citizen. Before this change, many expats may have wanted Russian citizenship, but their need to abandon their current citizenship was a severe barrier. Now, you can have dual citizenship.
Do I need to know Russian to apply for Russian citizenship?
Yes, you MUST pass a Russian language test to apply for Russian citizenship. Depending on the route you take to gain Russian citizenship, you also may have to take exams on the Russian language, history, and law.
Why You Should Consider Russian Citizenship
There are many advantages to Russian citizenship common to all citizenships, like visa-free travel access, voting rights, and ease of movement. Russia offers many other benefits for a potential business owner and aspiring professionals. In 2020 and 2021, US News & World Report rated Russia the best country to start a career. The World Bank ranked Russia number 28 in the world for ease of doing business in 2020.
Here are a few of the advantages of Russian citizenship:
- Complete access to one of the lowest income tax jurisdictions in the world (13-15% flat tax)
- Freedom of movement to live wherever you want in Russia (even residence permit holders can only live in the region where they receive their residence permit)
- Freedom to work in Russia in any part of the country and any job
- Opportunity to vote in Russian federal elections (Russian residence permit holders can vote in municipal elections.)
- Eligibility for all federal programs for Russian citizens (Russia has generous programs for families with multiple children, for example)
- Complete freedom to conduct business with minimal competition in many sectors in one of the world’s largest markets
- The Russian passport is ranked number 48 in the world
- No need to renounce current citizenship (this was a requirement in Russia until 2020)
Let’s look at the three most accessible routes to Russian citizenship in 2021.
Getting Russian Citizenship by Working in Russia
The easiest route to Russian citizenship for most people is just getting a job in Russia.
Russia created a highly qualified specialist work visa in 2002. The only requirement to be considered a highly qualified specialist is a job offer from a Russian employer paying over two million rubles ($26,000) per year. For certain professions, the salary requirement is only one million rubles ($13,000) per year.
There are significant advantages to having a highly qualified specialist visa. There are tax benefits, and the visa is valid for three years instead of 1 with a typical Russian work visa.
Arguably, though, the most significant advantage of being a highly qualified specialist is that you may immediately apply for a permanent residence permit valid for three years. You can renew it indefinitely as long as you keep your job. Once you have a permanent residence permit, after three years, you may apply for Russian citizenship.
Yes, you read that right; if you make $26,000 or more per year in Russia for three years, you may apply for Russian citizenship. You don’t have to invest in real estate, and you don’t have to get married.
It gets even better, though. We mentioned that the Russian government created a list of certain professions where the requirement for a highly skilled specialist visa is only $13,000. This list includes English teachers.
But for English teachers, it gets even better still. English teachers are also part of the list of 135 “qualified specialist” professions, which the Russian government deems essential to the country’s continued economic and cultural development. The Russian government allows people working these jobs to apply for a permanent residence permit after six months of work in Russia. After one year, you can then apply for Russian citizenship.
Yes, that is right, it is entirely possible to work as an English teacher in Russia, making $13,000 per year for one year and apply for Russian citizenship.
If you know of another country with an easier route to citizenship than that, let us know in the comments!
Even working in a white-collar job in Russia has a direct route to Russian citizenship after three years.
You MUST pass a Russian language test to apply for Russian citizenship in either case.
Getting Russian Citizenship through Marriage
One of the most common ways to get Russian citizenship was through marriage to a Russian citizen. Until 2020 though, you had to renounce your existing citizenship. Even the most hardened critics of the United States or Europe know that renouncing their American or European citizenship would have many personal ramifications as Russian citizens cannot travel freely to the US or Europe. This requirement was a significant barrier for most foreigners in Russia wishing to obtain Russian citizenship.
With this requirement to renounce prior citizenship gone, many foreigners are seriously considering Russian citizenship. Many are already able to apply because they have lived in Russia for years married to a Russian spouse.
Strangely, the time it takes to apply for Russian citizenship based on marriage can be much longer than as an English teacher in the right circumstances.
If you are married to a Russian citizen, you may apply for a temporary residence permit. For more information on the process, check out our guide to temporary residence permits in Russia, the most comprehensive available in English.
After one year on a temporary residence permit, you must apply for a permanent residence permit. Currently, there are discussions to eliminate the temporary residence permit.
Once you have been married for three years and living in Russia for three years, you may apply for Russian citizenship.
You MUST pass exams on the Russian language, history, and law when applying for residence permits based on marriage. You MUST also pass a Russian language test to apply for Russian citizenship.
Getting Russian Citizenship through your Russian Child
If you have a child with Russian citizenship, it is straightforward to apply for Russian citizenship, but you must meet a few requirements.
If you live in Russia, have a Russian child, and a Russian spouse, you may apply for Russian citizenship.
If you only have a Russian child (younger than 18) and are not married to a Russian citizen, you may apply for a permanent residence permit. A significant positive aspect for many foreigners applying for a permanent residence permit based on their child is that you do not have to take the Russian language, history, and law exams.
If you have an adult child, you may apply for Russian citizenship directly regardless of other circumstances.
You MUST pass a Russian language test to apply for Russian citizenship.
We hope you see that it is not hard at all to get Russian citizenship in 2021. No one is talking about how easy Russia has made it to get Russian citizenship, which is good. Despite its (undeserved) reputation in the West, Russia is a country to consider living and working. You can find a wealth of information on Expatriant about living and working in Russia based on years of experience.
We regularly advise clients on the best way to acquire Russian citizenship; if you are interested in a consultation, please reach out to us on our contact page.
For information on all of the legal means to stay in Russia, check out our Ultimate Guide to Legal Residence in Russia.