Moving to Moscow?
Moving to Moscow
At a Glance:
- You will need a visa to move to Moscow — use a reputable visa agency to take some of the weight off your shoulders.
- It’s not easy to find accommodation in Moscow, so do your research and be patient.
- As a global city, Moscow has several expat neighborhoods designed for the international community, although these tend to be more on the pricy side.
- We would recommend using a real estate agency (or at least a Russian-speaking friend) to help you find your new home.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow has become an international metropolis, attracting an influx of Western expats eager to live and work in this enigmatic city. However, due to the economic and political difficulties the country has experienced in recent years, many expats have left or decided against moving to Moscow. The bureaucratic hurdles have also contributed to the decline of Moscow as an expat destination. Nevertheless, the city has a lot to offer ambitious or adventurous expatriates looking to further their careers in a multinational company or to enjoy life in this megacity. Many expats arriving in Moscow are specialists in their field, or else foreign correspondents or embassy employees. Language teachers are also often attracted to the city.
First Things First: Visa Requirements
Moving to Moscow or going there for short-term visits typically requires a visa. Only citizens of some of the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) can enter and stay Russia without one, while some nationals may enter visa-free for short stays — it is worth checking beforehand if this applies to you. To apply for short-term business and tourist visas, a letter of invitation from a Russian citizen or organization is necessary.
Expats moving to Moscow in order to take up employment need a work visa. This can only be issued after a work permit for a particular position has been successfully acquired. Normally, your potential employer in Moscow takes care of the application process. Unless you fall under the new immigration category of “highly qualified specialists”, the application process is relatively complicated and takes around four months.
It is generally easier to hire one of the many established visa services (such as VFS Global or Real Russia) to deal with immigration authorities. We recommend getting in touch with your nearest Russian embassy for up-to-date information on visas and the application process.
Facing Difficulties: Deciding Where to Live
Before moving to Moscow, it is important to understand the layout of the city. Moscow has developed in circles around the original historical center. Today, the city is divided into twelve okrugs, or administrative divisions. These in turn are divided into districts, of which there are 146 in total. Unsurprisingly, the city’s central districts are where many major corporations and businesses, as well as government buildings, are located. Moscow’s most expensive housing is also here.
Finding suitable accommodation is among the most difficult parts of moving to Moscow. Some say it is easier to find work than a decent apartment. Here is some advice on how to best go about the task.
Expats moving to Moscow have a choice between expatriate-only communities in wealthy suburbs and a more local experience in other neighborhoods. Families with children often prefer the expat compounds. These usually have international schools nearby, their own medical facilities, and plenty of green space. Others may prefer the centrality of the Garden Ring or the slightly more Russian experience in other suburbs.
When deciding where to live in Moscow, take into account your office location, international schools for your kids, and other daily necessities such as shopping opportunities. Commuting in Moscow can be a very stressful and time-consuming affair. You don’t want to end up spending four hours in your car every day.
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