Russian residence permits are popular among expats, and we get many requests about them. Most people understand the grounds for applying but check out our ultimate guide to legal residence in Russia if you want to read more about these. There are definite pros and cons associated with actually getting a residence permit in Russia. Let’s look at the significant advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of Getting a Russian Residence Permit
Let’s look at the biggest pros of getting a Russian residence permit first.
You Can Easily Apply for Russian Citizenship
The biggest pro of getting a Russian residence permit is applying directly for Russian citizenship after some time. Over the past five years, Russia has slowly started allowing many new categories of people to apply for Russian residence permits hoping that they eventually turn into Russian citizens. The time required before applying for citizenship depends on the grounds of your residence permit. If you marry a Russian, it is three years. If you are a highly qualified specialist, it is five years. If you have specific jobs, it is only one year.
Check out our article on how a Russian passport is one of the easiest to obtain in the world for more information about applying for Russian citizenship.
No More Visas
Once you get a Russian residence permit, you don’t have to get new visas repeatedly. No more visa runs abroad. Russian visas are for a fixed period. Unless you are an American, the longest you can stay in Russia is three months out of six months on a business visa. Some citizens must go to their home country to get a new Russian visa every three months.
When you get a new visa, you are spending extra money on flights and hotels while you’re waiting for it. With a residence permit in Russia, you can stay in Russia as long as you have the residence permit.
Ability to Open a Sole Proprietorship
If you’re on a visa in Russia, you can’t start a sole proprietorship. We won’t get into the details of why you might want to start one, but it is a more tax-friendly way to do small business in Russia. If you are a small business owner in Russia, creating a sole proprietorship is a massive benefit.
If you have a residence permit, you will also have access to a simplified tax regime that applies to sole proprietors, and it’s much easier to do small business. As a sole proprietor, you can have up to 100 employees. For more information on small business in Russia, check out our practical guide to running a small business in Russia as a foreigner.
Access to Free Medical Care in Russia
When you get a residence permit in Russia, you get free medical care through all state hospitals. Now, arguably, the free medical care in Russia is not of a high standard, so somebody with serious health issues probably wouldn’t look at this as a major pro. Still, if you need routine medical care, you have access to it for free in Russia. It also depends on where you live. Moscow, St. Petersburg, and larger Russian cities have much better public healthcare than smaller cities. You also have many great private clinics in major Russian cities.
You Can Work Anywhere in Russia
One of the biggest reasons why our readers want to get a permanent residence permit in Russia is for the right to work. A residence permit grants you the freedom to work for any employer anywhere in Russia. There are some bureaucratic hurdles associated with moving your residence permit because you must apply for it in a particular region. If you’re married, you have to apply where your wife is registered. It is possible to move to another area of Russia once you’ve already gotten the permanent residence permit.
The freedom to work anywhere for any company is a huge benefit for most expats living in Russia.
Are you looking for a job in Russia? It isn’t as hard as you think to land a job in Russia.
Getting Legal Assistance is Cheap
Compared to Western countries like the US, the UK, or Western Europe, hiring a lawyer to help you through this process of getting a permanent residence permit in Russia is very cheap. It will also save you a massive amount of time.
It is cost-effective to have a lawyer help you walk you through the process and make sure you have correctly filled out all of the documents. If you use a lawyer, they will fill out and organize all of the papers. The immigration lawyer will also go with you to the appointments at the immigration center. All of the lawyers we work with also speak English well.
The legal fees are significantly lower than in the US, for example. Just the application fee for a green card in the US can be $1,500 or more. A lawyer will charge thousands of dollars just to fill out the application and coach you through the process on top of the application fee.
We frequently have people reach out asking for help, and they say that 100,000 rubles ($1,400) Is a lot of money, and they don’t want to spend that much. The alternative is waiting in line for days in Russia.
If you are from a Western country, you’re thinking, okay, how bad can it be to apply for a residence permit in Russia by myself? Unfortunately, in Russia, the immigration authorities are looking for every reason to deny your application. If you have one tiny mistake, they will send you home to make the change. A lawyer has personal relationships with the immigration officers and, in many cases, can edit your documents at the immigration center, something you will be unable to do.
Even if you go with a translator, you will stand in line for days on end, waiting to submit your documents. If you hire a lawyer in Russia to get a permanent residence permit, they will do everything on your behalf, and it will be many times cheaper than doing the same in the US or Europe. Contact us if you want to discuss using an immigration lawyer in Russia to apply for a residence permit.
Cons of Getting a Russian Residence Permit
There are a few significant disadvantages of getting a residence permit in Russia, and you need to be aware of them before you begin the process.
Long Process to Get a Russian Residence Permit
The process of applying for a residence permit in Russia can take four to six months. Unlike in the US, if you start the green card process in the United States, you can stay until you finish the process. In Russia, if you’re on a short-term visa, you can start the process but will have to leave Russia to get another visa and come back to pick up your residence permit. Only then can you stay in Russia.
You Must Stay in Russia for at least Six Months Per Year.
Many people want the freedom to go to Russia whenever they please, but you have to stay there for more than half of the year if you get a residence permit. It only has to be six months plus one day. Fortunately, I’ve never heard of anybody getting hassled for spending six months and one day in Russia.
You will lose your residence permit in Russia if you do not meet the residency requirement of more than six months in Russia per year. Once you apply for citizenship, that requirement to spend time in Russia ends, but you will have to spend considerable time in Russia for a few years.
You Must Report Certain Worldwide Assets to the Russian Tax Authorities.
There are many reporting requirements for Russian residents and citizens, and reporting alone is tedious for many foreigners.
Because it’s all in Russian, you might have to hire somebody to help you do it, and you must report everything each year. If you’re an American living in any other country, you also have to declare your Russian bank accounts to the United States. Many people don’t know about these obligations, and the fines can be steep for not doing it.
If you become a permanent resident of Russia, you now have Russian tax obligations, but the US tax obligations you had before are still applicable.
Imagine if you’re an American who grew up in the UK and have a house in the UK and US and Russian bank accounts. You have to report all of the accounts in multiple countries, and it gets very complicated.
We can help you find a trusted accountant in Russia if you need one.
You Must Pay Russian Taxes.
As soon as you become a resident of Russia, you have to pay Russian taxes. The reporting is simply additional bureaucracy. Likely, depending on where you’re coming from, Russian tax rates are lower. Your government will also most likely have a tax double tax treaty with Russia, so you’re not double taxed on certain incomes or investments twice. It is essential to keep in mind that complications will arise.
Complicated scenarios arise very quickly if you’re a resident of Russia and you have citizenship and assets in other countries. Be aware if you’re applying for a Russian permanent residence permit, you should probably have someone in your home country and Russia who can help you navigate tax issues. If you get caught on the wrong side of these rules, you can end up in hot water in Russia or worse. No one wants to go to jail because they didn’t know the law in Russia.
You Must Declare All Other Citizenship and Residence Permits.
The final con of getting a residence permit in Russia is quite simple. You need to report any other passports and residence permits you have in other countries. Again, this is a bureaucratic process that must be done all in Russian and annually. It is reasonably easy to do, but many people don’t want to disclose which citizenship or residence permits they have worldwide. You don’t have a choice, and the fines can be steep for failing to declare.
Hopefully, you learned that there are both pros and cons of a Russian residence permit. If you have any comments or questions about getting a permanent residence permit in Russia, contact us.
Here is a list of articles that will be helpful if you choose to pursue a residence permit in Russia:
Living in Russia: 17 Things to Know Before Moving
Everything You Need to Know About Temporary Residence Permits in Russia
Can I Get a Residence Permit by Working in Russia?
Legal Residence in Russia – The Ultimate Guide