At a Glance

  • The Russian government has expanded the use of e-visas in the Special Economic Zone of Kaliningrad and the free port of Vladivostok and will expand the use of e-visas to St. Petersburg and Leningrad beginning October 1, 2019.
  • Eligible foreign nationals should benefit from a more convenient and less expensive visa application process but may be affected by implementation issues as ports and officials begin to use the e-visa system.
  • Additionally, beginning October 1, qualified foreign specialists will be able to apply for citizenship after one year of residence, as opposed to the current three-year requirement.

The situation

The Russian government is expanding the use of e-visas for business, tourist and humanitarian purposes. Additionally, foreign specialists will see a shorter residence requirement for citizenship qualification.

A closer look




Expansion of electronic visas

Current expansion. Foreign nationals from 53 countries can enter the Special Economic Zone in Kaliningrad using e-visas for business, tourist and humanitarian purposes for up to 30 days. Previously, e-visas were not available in Kaliningrad. Additionally, Taiwanese nationals can now use the e-visa system at the free port of Vladivostok.

Forthcoming expansion. Beginning October 1, 2019, certain foreign nationals will be able to enter Russia using e-visas at the ports in St. Petersburg and Leningrad for business, tourist and humanitarian purpose. Foreign nationals using these e-visas can remain in the St. Petersburg and Leningrad areas for up to eight days, and can remain in Russia for up to a total of 30 days.

The e-visa system is free of charge, so foreign nationals will be able to save costs normally associated with applying for non-electronic visas. Processing times are also typically faster, with some e-visas issued in four calendar days, compared to 12-21 days for regular visas.

However, foreign nationals may experience application delays as the electronic systems are being implemented.

Relaxed citizenship requirements

Shorter residence requirement for qualified specialists. Beginning October 1, 2019, qualified specialists will be able to apply for Russian citizenship after one year of residence, whereas currently they can apply after three years of residence. Foreign nationals are considered qualified specialists if they hold experience, skills or achievements in specific activities listed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development and earn at least million rubles per year.

Faster qualification for Russian citizenship should make Russia a more attractive destination for employment since citizens benefit from free public medical treatment and childhood education, and eligibility for a state pension, among other public services.


  • Comparison to normal citizenship requirements. The reduced one-year citizenship requirement for qualified specialists is particularly beneficial as most foreign nationals must demonstrate five years of residence to apply for citizenship.
  • Russian trends. The changes are part of a wider relaxation of visa requirements in Russia. For example, Russia has also relaxed rules for scientists, implemented electronic visa-free business or tourist travel for nationals of many countries and waived some visa requirements for specific artists, scientists and cultural events.
  • Regional trends. Russia is the latest among many countries in the region to expand e-visas for short-term travel and streamline immigration processes using technology. For example, Ukraine has introduced similar e-visa policies and Kazakhstan introduced a single-entry e-visa for business trips for 43 nationalities earlier this year. The changes come as Russia, along with other countries in the region including Kazakhstan, prepare to build the 'New Silk Road' and attract foreign investment and business with simplified travel.

Looking ahead

In recent years, while the number of short-term migrants has been relatively stable, the number long-term residents who seek citizenship has dropped. If Russia continues to rely on an increase of migrants to the country to offset declining population numbers and to attract investment to the country, Fragomen expects further digital and streamlined initiatives to be implemented and visa requirements for skilled migrants to be relaxed.

By January 1, 2021, the Russian government is expected to introduce a unified e-visa system for all foreign nationals entering Russia for up to 16 days for guest stays, touristic, business, and humanitarian purposes.

Fragomen will report on further details on the relaxed citizenship rules and e-visas as they are available.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.