Teaching and working in Russia

So if you made it over to Russia or are planning to, you'll probably be wondering about work. Now, if you have been invited by a company and have a work visa, this won't be an issue for you as your whole purpose of visit will be, you guessed it, working. For the vast majority of others who have a visa which is anything but of the work variety, you'll need to find work, although by Russian law, no visa accept a work visa will allow you to do this. So unless you are ready to save up enough to never need to work, you will have to break the law, and there is no way around it, sorry.

Will you need to be qualified? 
In a word, no. I would only advise paying money to qualify yourself to teach English to foreigners if you really want to pursue it as a career choice. You have to understand, in Moscow and Russia, nobody checks anything. Some companies do ask for a TOFL cert or alike, in which case you can either forge one using print screen and paint, decline the job or use your personality skills to charm them. Plenty of companies will just take you because you are a native speaker because, oh yes, they lie too and they will straight up give you some BS to tell new clients. The fact there are so many unqualified English teachers rocking around Moscow infuriates the little community of expat teachers who actually are legit. Watching their pride swell as they blast all un-qualified teachers from atop their ivory tower provides me with endless amusment and joy. 

What jobs can you do?
The most common choice would be English teaching (or whatever your native language is) as there are always plenty of people looking to sharpen their linguistic prowess. You can either teach privately and find your own clients or work for a language school. You do need to be careful choosing the language school as some don't always pay you the money they owe you so in this case, recommended language schools are your best bet. 

Teaching rich kids
To make the most money teaching English, you should focus on rich kids. They can be the most unpleasant to work with, but their parents pay stupid money for lessons and most of the time you'll be playing games or being envious of said child's immense toy collection.
Another perk may be that the parents take you on a paid holiday with them to ensure the kid gets its English fix abroad. 
Two reliable places to work with rich kids are: the baby club and Mary Poppins (the latter is an agency that will simply recommend jobs for you).

Teaching for official language schools
Ok, the official language schools are the proverbial pillars of stability for English (or other language) teaching. They pay less money than other private smaller schools but offer more stability and sometimes can offer visa support and get you an official work permit (a good choice if you like teaching in Moscow).

Teaching for smaller private schools
These schools, for the most part, send you around to business centers to teach 90-minute business English lessons and pedal bullshit like you wouldn’t believe. Most of the expat teachers (I used to do this) are borderline retarded and companies stupidly pay through the nose for these lessons. These smaller schools pay a lot more, but sometimes may not have enough work to keep you satisfied or busy, also a lot of them are just run by an American/Brit and his Russian wife who are playing at business. Sometimes they do a good job and pay, other times they might not. 
I personally stopped doing this because you waste a lot of time traveling to different business centers and the moron who ran the "school" would continuously interfere and try to tell me what to teach groups, because they apparently knew best, despite not even seeing the group I would be working with. 

Teaching private clients
This is what I do at the moment. You decide your own rates and do things on your terms. Stability can be an issue as people can piss you around, cancel last minute and pull other surprises on you. Your success here will largely depend on your clients and how committed they are. You can find clients by placing ads on expat.ru or redtape.ru or even take out a small ad in the Moscow Times.

Translating and editing work 
Ok, this can be hit or miss, but generally, to find this type of work, again, hit the forums on expat and redtape, they have yet to fail me. For translation the standard page volume is considered 1800 symbols including spaces and I personally charge 500-550 roubles. If you were to try this for a translation agency, they would offer a lot less, something like 300 (and this is in Moscow). As for editing, if it doesn’t make you go insane from boredom, you can find a lot of work with zero qualifications but don't expect to be paid a lot for it.
Sometimes big companies may invite you for an interview and offer you an official position. The money for translation will never be amazing, but sometimes they have perks like free medical insurance. The way some companies treat freelancers can be annoying an unprofessional, but I’ll go into that in another post dealing with working with Russians.

Paying tax
This is one thing you won’t be doing. Normally a Russian company will officially say that the work you do is done by one of their official employees, this way, you stay of the radar and some sort of tax is paid, but not by you. I seriously doubt anything will ever happen, there is no physical record of the work you have done.

Wages and bank account
You will be paid in cash if you are an unofficial worker. That’s it. If you decide to get yourself a Russian bank account, be careful what money goes into it. Foreign bank accounts are monitored by valyutnii kontrol (валютный контроль). So, if you have a student visa and they start seeing cash appear there, you're going to get in trouble so be smart. If you are translating and a client needs to send the money to a Russian bank account, find a trusted Russian you know who will receive the money and give it to you. 
Don’t sweat finding work, it is very easy and can actually make you some really good money. Russian companies, even large ones, will be more than happy to employ you illegally.

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Anonymous said...

Very informative article, thanks for documenting this...

Anonymous said...

Nice article, cheers. Though do you know if it's easy/cheap to obtain a student visa? I.e. can I just apply for some bullshit school, never turn up to classes and be able to stay for a year or so?

Unknown on April 24, 2014 at 5:14 PM said...

Thanks for the information. It's a bit dated now. Just wondering if you knew whether or not teaching privately is illegal? I'm talking to a school in Kazan who said they do not allow the teachers to teach privately because of the issues with the law.

Lt. Columbo on April 25, 2014 at 5:09 PM said...

Hi Leonard, yes, this piece is quite old now, it was one of the first things i ever wrote!
teaching privately is technically illegal yes, but this is Russia :)
Just find your own clients to teach. the FMS sure arent interested in hunting down rogue English teachers :)

Anonymous said...

that was awesome ... thank you so much

Lt. Columbo on August 9, 2014 at 12:44 AM said...

glad to help!

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