There are a plenty of people who wish to move to Russia nowadays. The flow of migrants across countries has not left the Russian Federation out. While Russian immigration processes are apparently quite simple, they can be difficult for those unaware of the subtleties and nuances of the system.
Immigration to Russia: Options
Immigration to Russia has its effects on national, political, economic and family systems. There are several grounds on which foreigners are legally able to settle on Russian soil: moving to be with close relatives, employment and business, studying at a Russian educational institution, marriage to a Russian citizen, immigration for scientists and artists, employment of highly-qualified specialists, or people with refugee status.
● Moving to be with relatives in Russia
Programs for family immigration exist in almost all countries in the world. Post-Soviet Union families still have very close ties. Borders may have separated brothers, children, and parents but the natural desire to reunite with families makes the move to Russia one of the biggest reasons for immigration. Legislation recognises the status of close relatives such as parents and children, brothers and sisters, and grandparents.
● Employment and business
It is possible to move to Russia to open a new business or invest in an existing one. Foreigners who plan to invest not less than USD $10 million in the development of the Russian Far East can apply for Russian citizenship under the simplified procedure. It could include investment in the acquisition of real estate or shares in a local enterprise. Following investment in Far East property or enterprises, a foreigner has to own them for three years after getting citizenship.
● Studying at a Russian educational institution
Over 900 Russian universities are ready to accommodate foreigners who wish to study in Russia. There is an opportunity for foreign students to study on a fee paying basis, or for free by competing along with everyone else . Educational programs are offered in English and Russian. Graduates of Russian educational and scientific institutions who have worked in Russia for at least 3 years, paying all fees, have a right to citizenship. The number of foreign students in higher education institutions has multiplied one and a half times in the last 5 years.
● Marriage to a Russian citizen
It is recognised by international and Russian law that family unity is considered inviolable. After a civil marriage to a Russian citizen a foreigner has the right to start applying for temporary resident status under a simplified procedure which is outside the quota. After three years of official marriage, a foreigner may apply for citizenship.
● Immigration to Russia for scientists and artists
Russian immigration law is favourable for foreigners who can bring tangible benefit to the country. For example, foreign academics and artists may easily gain temporary or permanent residency. There is also the possibility of acceleration to citizenship. This category also includes foreign sportsmen, representing the country at international competitions.
● Immigration for a person with refugee status
Russia, like many other countries, has faced a forced migrant flow. To gain refugee status in Russia, a migrant has to prove to the immigration authorities that their position is in danger in their home country. This might be from military actions, political, national or religious persecution.
Employment for immigrants
Most jobs for immigrants are in wholesale and retail trade, construction, social and personal service, hotels and public transport. Statistics for women include trade (48.9%), communal services (13.9%), hotels and food service (11.2%). Most immigrants are involved in physical labour (61.2%), with unskilled workers accounting for almost one third ( 32.2%).
The problem of illegal immigration
Illegal immigration is a burning issue for modern Russia. Specialists from the Russian Immigration Service, police and even Federal Security Service (FSB) have tried to fix this problem for years. When one channel for illegal immigration closes, another opens. According to the UN, in 2017 there are 11.7 million immigrants in Russia. Moreover, more than a half of them live in the country illegally. Illegals enter the labour force, accept low wages, and then send all their earnings back to their home country. Illegals often live in unsanitary conditions, in storage areas, or at their workplaces. This leads to the spread of infectious diseases. Illegal immigrants themselves have no rights, and as some employers often delay or even abstain from paying wages the result is modern day slavery. Another significant downside to illegal immigration is crime, including human and arms trafficking, and drug trafficking. Illegal settlers in Russia originate from Central Asian republics and countries of the Caucasus. The fight against illegals became a priority for Russian law enforcement officials a long time ago. Illegals identified by authorities face a ban from the country, possible deportation, and big fines. The amount depends on the rules broken. Furthermore, illegals caught by police are screened through the database of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for possible involvement in other crimes on Russian territory. According to the Russian Criminal Code, organizing illegal immigration can result in up to 5 years in prison. Employers who use illegal immigrants are liable to heavy fines. Enterprises where illegals are found working can be closed down for three months.
From which countries do foreigners come to Russia?
For the past few years the main flow of immigrants has come from Ukraine. If immigration from Ukraine is related to the political situation, immigrants from Central Asia - including Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan - are attracted by good salaries and the prospect of a better life. A significant number of people come from the countries of the Caucasus region: Georgia, Abkhazia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The Republic of Belarus and Moldova are also traditional sources of migrants to Russia. Each year the numbers from different countries change, influenced by the economic situation, armed conflict and political instability.
Emigration from Russia
The authorities are concerned about emigration from Russia affecting the future of the country both for demographic pressures and the loss of talent. Russian history shows there have been 5 main emigration periods:
The first period, about 1.4 million emigrants, was a consequence of the Civil War. Many famous people left, including Ivan Bunin, Feodor Chaliapin, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Many of the people who left were philosophers, musicians, and artists.
The second wave, from 700 thousand to 1 million emigrants, took place from 1941 to 1960, when people were displaced during the Second World War; many of them never came back.
The third wave, about 500 thousand emigrants, lasted till 1986. Most of these people were of Jewish and German descent who wanted to reunite with their families. The main difference with the previous periods was that these people were leaving the country legally.
The fourth wave,1 million emigrants, started in the 1990s as the economy deteriorated. Communism was over and Russian society was in search of new ways of development.
The fifth wave happened in more recent years as talented and educated people started to leave, a phenomenon known as a brain drain.
Currently emigration from Russia has several causes:
Economic Situation— in many Russian regions the economic situation is unfavourable. This affects life expectancy, at present 72,4 years, while in other countries like the USA (78,9 years) or Germany (80,9 years), it is much higher.
Professional ambitions— only relatively few people manage to have a great career in Russia, and most of them live in Moscow or Saint Petersburg. In smaller cities, there are few opportunities to build a good career, while salaries are higher abroad.
Living standards— Like people everywhere, Russians seek opportunites to improve their lives. They want good roads, well-developed infrastructure, social guarantees, high-quality education and medical care.
Brain drain— it is no big secret that Russian scientists and other qualified specialists are highly appreciated abroad. They are in demand; their work is well-paid and other benefits are made available.
The most popular countries for emigration from Russia are Germany and the USA. Nowadays more and more wealthy people move to Switzerland, Austria, and Britain for permanent residence. People with less money move to Spain, Czech Republic, Poland, and Finland.
According to statistics for 2017, the top destinations for emigrants from Russia were the USA, Germany, Canada, Israel, Great Britain, Finland, and Australia. The choice of country mostly depends on the process of legalisation. Thailand and Vietnam are also attractive; entry is without a visa and the living costs are lower than in Russia. The problem is finding work; salaries are much lower. There is no precise number of Russian emigrants because the migration service only counts people who come to their offices and sign out with the purpose of moving abroad. Events in Ukraine have resulted in a variety of economic sanctions from the West, which combined with a lack of access to foreign investment has contributed to the numbers leaving.