Find A Job
Russia is a vast and fascinating country to live and work in, with a wide range of opportunities for expats seeking employment, from teaching English to the oil and gas industry to engineering or finance. The political situation is not always positive, but on the whole, Westerners will find themselves welcomed by ordinary Russians. Moscow is the main centre for big international companies, but you may wish to look further afield: there are opportunities as far away as Siberia. St Petersburg is also a major centre for expat work, with over a million foreign personnel resident in the city already, a figure which is expected to rise.
You will need a work visa called a Standard Work Permit unless you are a permanent resident and if you are planning to work in the country for any length of time. If you are in Russia on a short term contract – less than 90 days – you can obtain a Business Visa: the paperwork for this is rather less complex.
If you apply for a Standard Work Permit, you and your employer will need to submit certain documents and your employer must first have permission to ask for a permit. They will also need to issue you with a letter of invitation, also known as a ‘voucher.’ You will then need to approach the Federal Migration Service with the following:
• application form (in Russian)
• your passport
• 1 x colour passport photo
• your employment history/an official document equivalent to the Russian Diploma of professional education
• medical certificate (you will need to take an HIV test)
• receipt of your application fee
You will need to update this once a year. Note that it can take over a month to have your work visa processed.
A Business Visa can be processed in the local Russian consulate and is likely to take within one working day. You will not need a medical certificate to apply for this visa and Russian consulates often have a digitized system enabling you to print out any missing documentation, thus streamlining the process. However, you will need a letter of invitation from your prospective employer.
If it is relevant to you, you can also apply for a Highly Skilled Specialists Work Permit in your home country.
There are also agencies which will assist you with the visa application process for a fee, but you will still have to attend the local consulate in person in order to have your biometric data, such as your fingerprints, registered.
There are some noted skills shortages in Russia and the problem is likely to increase – which is good news for skilled expats in certain sectors. One such sector is IT: it is estimated that 41% of IT workers find a new job in under a month. There is a high demand for data analysts, programmers and technical specialists.
It is a similar story with supply chain managers, administrative personnel, and engineers, particularly in the latter case in aviation.
Russian employment experts report that a skilled seamstress can earn more than an office worker. Welders are also in short supply.
Agriculture is also a sector which lacks skilled personnel at present, particularly agronomists and technical specialists in crop and livestock production.
Pharmaceuticals, medicine and biotech also recruit heavily from the expat market.
You will have a significant advantage if you are bilingual, but note that Russian companies – looking outward towards a global market – are seeking English-speaking personnel.
Russia currently runs on a 40 hour week: 9 hours per day (with a break for lunch) from 9 a.m. – 5 a.m. The working day will finish at 4 p.m. if the next day is a public holiday.
You will be entitled to annual paid leave of at least 28 calendar days in one year. You can use your leave in full once you have worked for an employer for at least six months.
You can claim maternity leave for 140 days at 100% of your salary – 70 days before delivery and 70 days after. Paternity leave may depend on the company and is considered unusual.
The minimum wage in Russia is currently 12,130 rubles ($195.5) per month.
Your spouse will be able to join you in Russia but they will need an invitation/voucher from your employer (unless you are on a Highly Skilled visa, in which case the rules are somewhat more relaxed) and will also need to apply to the Russian General Directorate of Migratory Affairs (GUVM).
However, they will not be able to work automatically and you will need to contact the GUVM to establish the possibility of their application for a separate work permit.
You can make speculative applications to companies, but you will still need to be sent a letter of invitation once you have secured employment. Depending on your area of work, it is a good idea to contact companies directly in your sector and find out whether they have an existing base in Russia: international companies are more likely to take on international hires and the country is home to a large number of multinationals.
There are a number of job boards and recruitment agencies which cover Russia, and you may wish to go down this route if you are, for example, working in a particular specialized sector such as medicine or engineering.
Applying For A Job
A standard CV/resume is fine but it is advisable to have any headings translated into Russian. You will usually have to upload your CV/resume online.
Comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation in Russia is still not comparable to Western nations. There are no separate laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in Russia, for instance.
Qualifications And Training
It is advisable to have any copies of your qualifications apostilled and translated.
Apply For A Visa/Permit
Russia is a vast and fascinating country, and a popular destination for both tourism and employment. However, its bureaucracy can be challenging, and obtaining a visa is not always straightforward. Read on to learn about the processes involved.
If you are from Britain, the USA, the EU, or a number of other countries, you will need a visa to enter Russia. There are various types available, and which one is best for you will depend on why you are travelling there. The Russian Federation issues visas for:
• Humanitarian purposes
• Private purposes (such as visiting family or friends)
You will need an invitation from a sponsor to enter Russia. If you are travelling there simply for the purpose of tourism, this can be your hotel reservation.
You will need to attend the Russian consulate in London, Manchester or Edinburgh if you are a British citizen, in order to submit your biometrics. Make sure you arrive at the consulate early, as queues can be long. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months after the expiry date of your visa.
To enter Russia for any purpose, a US citizen must possess a valid US passport and a bona fide visa issued by a Russian embassy or consulate. It is impossible to obtain an entry visa upon arrival, so travellers must apply for their visas well in advance.
Travellers who spend more than seven days in Russia must register their visa and migration card through either their sponsor, at the local Federal Migration Service (FMS), or landlord, at the local post office or FMS. Travellers staying in a hotel must register their visa and migration card with their hotel within one day.
You must sign an immigration card every time you arrive in Russia. This will be given to you at passport control. The card is in two identical parts. One part will be retained by the immigration officer. You should keep the other part safe or your departure from Russia could be delayed. Hotels, hostels, or other receiving entities, will not accept guests without an immigration card.
If you intend to remain in the country longer term, you will need to apply for temporary residence. Temporary residence is granted for a three-year term. The issuance of temporary residence permits (razreshenie na vremennoe prozhivanie) is subject to a quota established annually by the government for each separate region of Russia. Certain categories of foreign citizens are not subject to the quota, for example, investors.
Temporary residence permits are issued by an FMS, on the basis of an application filed personally, either with a local FMS or with a Russian embassy outside Russia, and should be reviewed within six months. If approved, you can get a visa to enter Russia with a four-month validity period, which you should extend when you obtain a temporary residence permit.
The following documents are required to obtain a temporary residence permit:
• An application form
• Four photos
• Police certificate
• Proof of income
• HIV certificate
• Proof that you are not a drug addict and do not have any infectious diseases
If you are applying from the UK, a standard, single-entry visa will cost you £101.40. This includes a £38.40 administrative fee.
It can take up to 20 business days to process your visa using standard service, and up to three business days using urgent service, depending on your visa category.
You will need a work visa called a standard work permit, unless you are a permanent resident, if you are planning to work in the country for any length of time. If you are in Russia on a short-term contract – less than 90 days – you can obtain a business visa, and the paperwork for this is rather less complex.
If you apply for a standard work permit, you and your employer will need to submit certain documents, and your employer must first have permission to ask for a permit. They will also need to issue you with a letter of invitation, known as a ‘voucher.’ You will then need to approach the Federal Migration Service with the following:
• Application form (in Russian)
• Your passport
• One colour passport photo
• Your employment history / an official document equivalent to the Russian diploma of professional education
• Medical certificate (you will need to take an HIV test)
• Receipt of your application fee
You will need to update this once a year. Note that it can take over a month to have your work visa processed.
A business visa can be processed in your local Russian consulate and is likely to be ready within one working day. You will not need a medical certificate to apply for this visa, and Russian consulates often have a digitised system enabling you to print out any missing documentation, which streamlines the process. However, you will need a letter of invitation from your prospective employer. If you have an entry one-year business visa, you will be able to continuously stay in Russia for a period not longer than 90 days every 180 days.
If it is relevant to you, you can also apply for a highly skilled specialists work permit in your home country.
There are agencies that can assist you with the visa application process, for a fee, but you will still have to attend your local consulate in person in order to have your biometric data, such as your fingerprints, registered.
Get Health Insurance
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer “Moratorium” or is it “Full underwriting” and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
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Rent Or Buy Property
Renting is very common among the expats that live in Russia. Many of the available rentals are apartments in high rise blocks, and flatshares (particularly in larger cities) are also quite common. You can expect to pay a security deposit that is equivalent to one month’s rent, and sometimes your first month’s rent must be paid in advance.
Tenancy agreements must be drawn up in both Russian and the tenant’s native language. Terms are usually restricted to between one and three years. Utilities are typically included in monthly rental prices, but you should always double check this.
In Russia, rental payments in cash are not uncommon. Generally speaking (with permission from the landlord, of course), tenants can assign, sub-let or transfer rights to the property. You are often also allowed to make various alterations to it.
Rent contracts for a period of one year or more should always be registered in the State Registration Office.
The rental market in Russia (particularly in Moscow) is mostly dominated by agencies. Even when conducting your search online, you will likely find that the majority of the postings are done via agencies. You should be aware that there are many fraudulent websites. Some of the genuine, popular sites include:
If you decide to go down the route of using an estate agent, or end up finding a listing that you like that has been posted by an agency, bear in mind that their commission will usually be equivalent to one month’s rent.
If you can read and speak Russian, then you will have more luck finding a private landlord by looking out for adverts in local shops and newspapers, as well as by asking around within your friendship circle.
According to online statistics website Numbeo, the average one-bedroom city centre apartment costs around 24,037.41 руб (Russian Rouble). This is equivalent to £260.52 or $324.02. An apartment of the same size but further out of the city costs closer to 16,448.31 руб (£178.27 or $221.72). A three-bedroom apartment in a central city location costs, on average, 43,152.47 руб (£467.69 or $581.50) in monthly rent, whereas its more suburban counterpart can cost a little over half of that amount.
Firstly, be on alert for any potential property scams. Secondly, the way in which properties are advertised may initially confuse you if you are unfamiliar with it. In Russia, you will see that an apartment may be referred to as a “three-room apartment”, but this is the total number of rooms (excluding kitchens and bathrooms). So a three-room apartment is most likely to be an apartment with one or two bedrooms, a living room and/or an office or study, rather than three bedrooms.
Unrestricted foreign ownership of property has been permitted throughout Russia for the past decade. However, purchasing property remains relatively unpopular among expats.
If you don’t speak Russian, it is highly advisable to work with a reputable property agent, as well as a local lawyer, throughout the buying process.
Before you do anything else, you should check that no former residents are registered to the property. This may seem strange, but there is a law in Russia that you cannot move into a smaller property if you have a child. Therefore, some people move illegally and the child’s name remains registered at the property.
Another issue that could throw a spanner in the works is due to tax incentives. Certain tax incentives can prompt some sellers to declare only part of the sale.
If you do not encounter either of these issues, then the process should be relatively straightforward. Once you have made an offer that the seller agrees to, the process can start, and the two of you will need to gather the necessary documentation. For example, you will need your passport, the title deeds, and a certificate issued by the Urban Registration Office stating there are no legal barriers to the purchase. You will also need a floor plan of the property.
Once this has all been actioned, you can sign a preliminary agreement. If no more background checks are required, you can start proceeding towards the completion of the sale. This occurs in the bank, with the buyer placing the deposit in a safe deposit box for the vendor to collect (once they have proved their identification to the bank).
After this, deeds and titles can be transferred and registered and the sale completed. Additional costs to take into account may include notary fees of 0.7% to 1.5%, registration fees of 0.01% to 1%, and estate agent fees of 2% to 5%.
Foreign citizens are able to obtain a mortgage from a local bank for the purchase of residential property. One condition is that the mortgage must represent a maximum of 80% of the total price of the property. Depending on the institution and the type of property being purchased, maximum loan-to-value rates can range from as low as 40% to as high as 85%. In order to be accepted for a mortgage in Russia, the mortgage payments, plus any other personal debts, must not exceed 35% of the borrower’s net income.
Move Your Belongings
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
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Register For Healthcare
QUICK LINK: Russia health insurance
Russia has a two-tier health insurance system, comprised of mandatory public health cover and private insurance. Whether you choose to rely on public health insurance or take out private cover will depend on your own circumstances; we will look at some of your options below.
Russian healthcare is governed overall by the Russian Ministry of Health (министерство здравоохранения) but is regionally organised. The country has a reputation for a low standard of healthcare and was ranked by Bloomberg in 2019 to be the world’s 95th healthiest country: significantly behind Western European nations but also falling behind most Eastern European states as well.
You are likely to find the best quality of healthcare in Moscow and other large cities, but provision in rural and more remote areas is very limited. Corruption is also said to be present in some hospitals, with bribery being not uncommon. There are severe shortages – of beds, equipment and medical personnel – across the national healthcare system and some well-publicised horror stories about poor facilities.
There is a state health insurance system, OMI/OMC (обязательное медицинское страхование), and you will be able to access this as an expat employed in Russia.
In theory, national health insurance (OMI) covers all Russian citizens and residents. If you are working in the country or have a residence permit, therefore, you will be able to access public healthcare. In an emergency, you will be treated regardless.
However, OMI is limited, often applying to a specific hospital and being non-transferable. Thus many Russians choose to opt either for comprehensive private cover if they can afford it, or for top-up cover to deal with anything beyond basic treatment.
You should check with your employer to see if they offer VHI – voluntary health insurance (добровольное медицинское страхование, ДМС) – which acts as a supplement to the basic policy. Russian local insurance is geared towards the corporate sector: the bulk of its market consists of group policies purchased by employers.
If you are not employed, you may still be able to access public services under limited circumstances.
Your employer will sign you up with OMI when you start your job, but check that this has been done, and check, too, whether you are to be offered VHI.
You can also register yourself through a local GP surgery. You will need to submit your:
• residence permit
• proof of address
Open A Bank Account
The official currency of Russia is the ruble, or rouble, which can be subdivided into 100 kopeks. You’ll often see the shorthand sign for Ruble displayed as RUB or rub.
Russian cash includes:
• Banknotes of five, 10, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 rubles.
• Coins of one, five, 10 and 50 kopeks plus one, two, five and 10 rubles.
All Russian banknotes in legal circulation were issued in 1997 or later. Any notes you are given which were printed before that date cannot be used as legal tender. With money production technology continuing to improve, new versions of notes are released most years in an attempt to stop forgeries.
Finding ATMs And Cash In Russia
At one stage, US dollars were accepted as an alternative to the ruble, especially when the Russian currency was facing periods of uncertainty. Despite this now being illegal, many tourists are still able to shop with dollars in Moscow. A high exchange rate is often applied but visitors find this simpler than obtaining rubles and trying to understand their true comparative worth. As an expat, always pay in rubles.
If you’re out in the middle of the countryside you will struggle to find an ATM outside a market town. However, they are easily found in cities and can be used 24 hours a day. After all, more than 90 of Russia’s cities have populations of more than 200,000, and 13 are home to at least a million people. Moscow alone has more than 12 million residents, and those people need access to their money.
As long as you have a four-digit PIN, your debit or credit card will typically be accepted in an ATM. This is because the CIRRUS and PLUS (Visa) systems are used across the globe. There may be some exceptions, so check with your bank before you leave home. Remember that each card has a daily withdrawal limit – be aware of yours.
You’ll generally pay a small fee to use an ATM in Russia unless it has been provided by the bank where your account is held. The amount should be shown on the screen before you confirm the transaction. If you don’t have a Russian bank account, you’ll also be charged a foreign exchange fee and have to accept the exchange rate applied. Foreign credit card companies will apply immediate interest to your cash withdrawals in Russia.
You can also obtain rubles at currency exchange booths if you want to legally exchange clean dollar or euro notes. These booths usually offer better exchange rates than hotels, so you’ll get more rubles for your dollar.
Do be aware of your safety when carrying and handling cash. Avoid dark alleyways and keep your wallet secure and away from thieves. Keeping a wallet or purse in the pocket of your shorts is no deterrent to a well-practised pickpocket. Don’t stand in shops, cafes or the street with a wallet open, showing a pile of money. Get used to the notes so you don’t have to look at them all to find the right one for the payment. Better still, keep the larger notes in a separate part of your wallet so people nearby aren’t aware of how much you are carrying.
Using Debit And Credit Cards In Russia
Some items in Russia are much cheaper to buy than you may expect, including groceries, caviar, petrol, books and symphony tickets. However, other things are outrageously expensive. Eating out or staying in a hotel will cost enough to give you pause for thought, and housing in Moscow uses up a significant part of most people’s income.
Luckily, most retailers and facilities accept card payments, with only small businesses still insisting on cash. You’ll be asked for a four-digit PIN, which some US citizens may struggle with, but signatures will often be accepted as a substitute. Taxi drivers usually get summoned and paid through an app which requires card payments.
Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted cards, followed by American Express and Eurocard. A few venues will accept Diners Club cards but this is not common.
If you use a debit or credit card issued outside Russia, your card provider will probably charge you a currency exchange transaction fee for every purchase and may also apply an unattractive rate of exchange. You can avoid many of these fees by acquiring a card from a Russian bank or credit card provider once you’ve arrived in your new home. This usually means opening a bank account first.
Reasons To Open A Bank Account In Russia
If you’re just in Russia for the short term, you may be happy to get by with your existing bank account and credit cards. The currency exchange fee will be an added cost to be aware of, but it shouldn’t make a significant difference to your budget.
However, for medium to long term moves, a local bank account is highly recommended. Over the years, foreign transaction fees and exchange rates will take their toll. If you are likely to want a Russian mortgage or loan in the future, your good credit history needs to be established in the country. This increases your chances of credit acceptance and makes you eligible for lower interest rates.
You won’t have problems accessing the rubles in your bank account when you go abroad either, so if you have to return home suddenly you can take comfort that your money is not trapped in Russia.
Choosing A Bank Account In Russia
Although Russian banks have moved on from their periods of deep uncertainty and instability, the industry is riddled with allegations of deep-rooted corruption, money-laundering, personal shareholder enrichment and a lack of transparency.
More than 350 Russian banks, roughly a third of the total in existence, have lost their licenses in recent years. The Russian state has moved to rehabilitate others, firstly through the State Deposit Insurance Agency (DIA) and then by the Central Bank Consolidation Fund. Some people have criticised the government for wanting to seize control of the banks in order to raise funds for expansion of state power at a time when the country is subject to US and EU sanctions.
Whatever the reality, Russian bank leaders are aware that the industry is expected to clean itself up or suffer the consequences.
Four of the largest banks in Russia which offer a large branch and ATM network are:
You might want to consider how close the bank branches and ATM machines are to where you live and work. In addition, look carefully at the terms and conditions to see which level of account charges work best for the way you use your bank account.
The majority of bank branches in Russia are open Monday to Friday 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Documents Needed To Open A Bank Account In Russia
You can open a Russian bank account online, by post or in a branch. However, to meet international fraud prevention banking controls, you will be asked to supply a number of original documents for inspection and scanning. Some banks will ask you to bring your documents in person to the branch. All requested documents must be valid and recent. These include:
• Residency visa
• Proof of address
The bank should also confirm the level of your income and its source, both for their credit checks and to identify possible money laundering attempts. You may be asked for recent payslips or a reference from your employer.
Non-residents are permitted to open accounts with some Russian banks. However, you will typically be expected to complete the application by personally attending a designated branch.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them “on demand” whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic – your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up – ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution – many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine – but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent – many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money – such as the proceeds of a property – a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
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Learn The Language
Russia is a challenging but fascinating country in which to live and work. If you are intending to relocate here, you may be wondering how fluent you will need to be in Russian, or in the many languages which also are spoken across this vast country. Will you be able to get by in English? We will answer some of your questions below.
The only official language in Russia is Russian, an East Slavic tongue spoken by around 260 million people worldwide and an official language of the United Nations, but there are 35 other languages which are recognised, and around 100 minority languages. These vary widely, from the Turkic languages spoken in Central Asia to the Mongolic tongues of Siberia, to the linguistic hotspot of the Caucasus. Some languages, like Enek and Orok, are almost extinct. There are also a wide number of dialects across the country, as well as related languages such as Ukrainian.
The majority of the Russian population are at least bilingual in Russian and their local tongue, and may well speak other languages as well, such as English, German, French and Turkish. Remember that in order to learn Russian, you will first need to familiarise yourself with the Cyrillic alphabet, which differs considerably from the Latin one. Some of the Soviet Union’s former colonies have either adopted the Latin alphabet or are in the process of doing so, but this is not the case in Russia.
English is spoken in the country, but not widely and not necessarily fluently: many people will understand a few words but will not be able to hold a conversation. This is particularly true of the older generation, including those who grew up under Soviet rule, and people in more rural areas. You should find that English is reasonably widespread in big cities such as Moscow and Kiev, particularly among younger people. However, in more remote areas, such as Siberia, you will find that relatively few people speak the language.
In the workplace, you will find that English is spoken in some international companies but may not be the in-house language: it is advisable, therefore, to learn at least some Russian for business purposes.
You will find a multitude of online resources for learning Russian and it is a good idea to take a look at some of these before you land. You can also check out courses of Russian at Russian Centres of Science and Culture (RCSC), which are available in over 50 countries. 90% of the lecturers are native speakers of Russian.
However, there is a great deal of language provision offered in Russia itself, from private language schools to one-to-one tuition. Russians take education seriously and you will find that your teachers are usually highly professional. Teachers of Russian as a Foreign Language say that it takes about a year to get a decent understanding of the language.
You can enrol for an actual university course, or a summer school. Institutions such as The Higher School of Economics and Tomsk Polytechnic University run international summer schools but also host Winter Schools in Russian. If you are employed in the country, you could enquire whether your company has links with a local training centre or offers in-house provision.
You can also team up with a ‘language buddy’ for language exchange or find a local meet-up group. Moscow, for example, has a number of these groups, organised by the expat community and others. Try to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible: once you have mastered the alphabet, you will find that some words are familiar, deriving from French or Latin, and the language has a few loan words in English, too. This makes it seem more familiar, but getting a grip on Cyrillic is crucial.
You may be intending to go out to Russia in order to teach English. There is a demand in the Russian market for English teachers. It is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It is also preferable if you have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA. You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, or in summer schools.
It will also be helpful to have at least a Bachelor’s degree as most language schools require this: basically, the rule of thumb is that the more qualifications you have, both in TEFL and in academic subjects, the easier you will find it to get work. You can expect an average monthly salary of around US$1500 – 2000 and the cost of living is comparatively low.
You are most likely to find work at a private language school, such as English First, and in cities such as St Petersburg or Moscow, but you may also find that there is a demand for private tuition, too. You will need a work visa called a Standard Work Permit unless you are a permanent resident and if you are planning to work in the country for any length of time.
If you are seeking work in translation or interpreting, you will obviously need to be highly proficient in Russian, and will also need the relevant qualifications.
Choose A School
Education in Russia is free and compulsory between the ages of 6-15. Educational levels are generally good – the post Soviet population is among the best educated in the world, with high literacy rates, but recent economic instability has meant that public spending in the educational sector has decreased, leading to inevitable challenges.
The higher education system in particular has been described as ‘vulnerable to corruption,’ still an endemic problem in the country. However the OECD reports that the country scores well on class sizes, which tend to be small. Students scored just below average in the most recent OECD PISA rankings.
Kindergarten is available from the ages of 3-7, usually organised by local authorities, but other types of daycare provision for working parents are available.
Secondary education is compulsory for all children in Russia and usually starts at the age of 6-7. It is divided into stages, as follows:
• Elementary school in Russia lasts for 4 years (grades 1-4).
• Middle school lasts for 5 years, from grades 5-9, and at the end of this, students take the OGE state exam in Russian, Mathematics and two more subjects to receive a certificate of Basic General Education (Attestat ob Osnovom Obshchem Obrazovani).
• High school then lasts from grades 10-11 and is usually regarded a preparation for university entrance. At the end of this, students must pass a Certificate of Secondary General Education (Attestat ob Sredem Obshchem Obrazovanii). Students may also choose to attend a vocational/technical school which focuses on less academic subjects.
The school year runs from September – June. School days in the public sector usually run from 8 am – 2 pm.
The language of instruction is Russian, so if your child is not bilingual, you may choose to go down the route taken by many expats and enrol your child in one of the country’s international schools. These will offer a variety of curricula, for instance the British national curriculum, American qualifications, or the International Baccalaureate, but you will find French, German, Saudi and Indian schools as well.
Russia has 50 IB World Schools, of which 23 are authorised to offer the IB Diploma. 33 of these are state schools: these may teach IB programmes in English but will publish school information in Russian. They are mainly in Moscow and include elementary, middle and senior schools. International schools here may be bilingual, such as the Moscow Economic School which teaches in English and Russian and offers an international curriculum. If the language barrier is likely to be an issue, be careful to check the languages of instruction in any chosen school, but you will find plenty of schools that are monolingual.
For example, the International School of Moscow, run by international educational provider Nord Anglia, follows a British national curriculum and is an accredited examination centre for University of Cambridge International Examinations and Edexcel, the awarding organisation of GCSEs and A Level examinations. It is accredited by the Council of British International Schools (COBIS). It runs a performing arts programme in collaboration with Julliard and a STEM programme designed with input from MIT. A recent survey showed that 100% of its graduates went on to university entrance, including some of the world’s leading universities. Fees range from €16K-31K per annum.
The XXI Century Integration School is an independent day school for girls and boys from Kindergarten to Grade 11 (ages 5-18). It offers the National Programme, or the IB Diploma Programme. You will need to apply directly to the school for its fees. This is one of the schools whose information is in Russian.
The Anglo-American School of Moscow offers American High School Diploma/ IB Diploma. It teaches ages 4-18 and is a co-ed independent, private non-profit day school catering to 1,200 students. It is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Fees run from US$18K – 32K and there is a $10K capital fee on enrolment.
Cambridge International School Moscow offers the Cambridge International Curriculum/ IGCSE/ A-Level for ages 3-19. It is a co-ed independent day school catring to 600 students. It is managed by the Cambridge International Schools Group. It offers an option to study the Russian State curriculum starting at the age of seven and leading to the Unified National Examinations at the end of year 13.
You will need to contact your selected school directly for a full range of fees. Check not only for tuition costs, but also for one-off maintenance/capitalisation payments, registration and admission fees. Check whether you are entitled to a sibling discount. Enrolment policies will vary between establishments but you may need to provide previous school reports as well as supporting documentation relating to your residency. Your child may also be assessed, for instance in English language proficiency.
Homeschooling has been legal in the country since the fall of the Soviet Union. Around 50,000 – 100,000 students are estimated to be currently in homeschooling programs. It is advisable to consult your regional educational authority, however, particularly if you want to enter your child for any national exams. If you are interested in alternative education, you will also find Montessori schools in Russia.
Finally, do keep an eye on the political situation: this should not normally affect your child’s education but recently tensions between Washington and Moscow have resulted in the Russian government denying entry to 30 teachers, around one fifth of the teaching staff at the Anglo-American School of Moscow, which is run by the Embassy.