17.098.242 km² (CIA World Factbook)
The Russian Federation is both a major destination and sending country of migrants. Overall, the net migration remains positive but no longer compensates for the natural population decline, amounting to nearly 1 million people between October 2020 and September 2021 and thereby marking the largest drop since 1999. Combined with the declining number of women in reproductive age and the rapidly ageing population, migration will play a major role in the enduring demographic shifts. According to Rosstat, Russia’s population will decline by another 3.6 million until 2036 under the condition of an annual migration surplus of 250.000 persons. Under the negative scenario, the loss will exceed 12 million.
As of 2014, the annual inflow of international migrants accounted for 600.000 persons on average. Nationals of Ukraine, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Armenia held the most permanent residence permits at the end of 2019, 2020, as well as in the first nine months of 2021. Moreover, over 400.000 Ukrainians and 63.000 Tajiks received Russian citizenship in 2020 (293.000 and 70.000 respectively in Jan-Sep 2021). This may relate to the recently amended citizenship law (2020) that simplified the pathway to naturalisation for nationals of Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, as well as all other nationals who live and work in the country for one year.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the volume of temporary migration amounted to 9-11.5 million people per year. This number dropped to 7.1 million by the end of 2020 but the flow is again recovering in 2021. Most temporary and especially labour migrants originate from Central Asia, notably from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Both countries have also concluded bilateral agreements with Russia on the organised recruitment of labour migrants, although the overall share of workers mobilised through such schemes remains low. The number of Uzbek and Tajik nationals who indicated ‘work’ while crossing the border with Russia in the first nine months of 2021 amounted to three and 1.6 million respectively. Over the same period, over 1.7 million migrants were holders of valid work permits.
With the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) in 2015, labour migrants from the EAEU member states – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan – are entitled to work in Russia without a work permit and enjoy other benefits, including the retention of pension rights as per the agreement that came into force on 1 January 2021. In the first half of 2021, Russia hosted 738.000 labour migrants from the EAEU. Meanwhile, the share of labour migrants from Ukraine and Moldova has been declining in favour of the EU. Some experts voice concerns that the potential for migration to Russia from many post-Soviet states is close to exhaustion and the country may soon need to explore other potential source countries.
Outmigration from Russia is equally substantial. It saw a 14.5 times increase over the past ten years and has particularly accelerated since 2012. In 2018-2019, according to Rosstat, the international outflow exceeded 400.000 persons of whom 73.000 were Russian citizens. In 2020, the outflow approached 500.000 including 65.000 Russian nationals. Combing the Rosstat data with those of destination countries, experts estimate that some 4 to 5 million Russian citizens left the country since 2000. According to UN DESA, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Germany, Uzbekistan, Belarus and the US are home to the largest Russian emigrant communities. In 2019 and 2020, the number of Russians holding a valid residence permit in the EU at the year-end exceeded 700,000. Germany, Estonia, Latvia and France issued the vast majority of permits valid for 1 year or more. The volume of residence permits for work or education reasons is marginal, with most permits issued for family reasons or other uncategorized ones.
In 2018, Russia adopted the new Concept of the State Migration Policy for 2019-2025 replacing the previous one from 2012. The accompanying Action Plan for 2019-2021 was released on 22 February 2019. The Concept acknowledged the existing demographic and related socioeconomic problems, and the need to improve the attractiveness of the state for (skilled and high-skilled) migrants and compatriots living abroad. In addition, in 2020, Russia introduced amendments to the Action Plan placing a stronger emphasis on labour migration. The revised plan envisages the improvement of conditions for permanent residence and citizenship, the modernization of mechanisms for regulating labour migration, ensuring security and law and order in the migration sphere, as well as a comprehensive digitalisation of the migration administration.
In 2020, apart from amending its citizenship law, Russia introduced a 16-day e-visa as of 2021 that shall benefit nationals of 53 countries, including the EU Member States and Turkey. In 2021, President Putin signed the law on the creation of a unified federal sanitary and epidemiological database, which will contain information on the results of medical examinations of foreigners and stateless persons. The same year, Russia became a full member of the IOM. Finally, the country is working on a new migration law that shall come into force in 2024.