40+ Expat Teachers Banned from Russia

On April 16th, An International Schools Review member posted the following Review of Atlantic International School, Moscow:

“Please read about the extreme trouble that Atlantic in Moscow has had this year. Google: Moscow Times Atlantic International School. Read the articles carefully & understand the implications that having a Visa from this school can have for you. I have been banned from Russia for 5 years thanks to Atlantic! There is no need to say any more, apart from the fact that previous posted Reviews are 100% accurate!”

ISR learned that 40+ expat teachers (mostly British) from the Atlantic School left the country to process new Visas at the behest of the Federal Migration Service. Unfortunately, after leaving the country, the teachers were informed they could not reenter Russia for the next five years for ‘national security reasons. Imagine yourself in this situation! What sort of support would you expect to receive from your school?

 There has been speculation the expulsion is part of the Russian government’s reaction to sanctions from both the British & US governments in relation to the events taking place in Ukraine. Others speculate the school was simply looking for a quick way to get rid of a group of teachers to hire replacements for less money. Still others speculate a high-ranking parent had a beef with the school & used their influence to create utter chaos.

Unfortunately, there are few known details about the incident. As reported in the Moscow Times, March 4th, “…a Federal Migration Service spokesman said he was unaware of any problem involving the school’s teachers. A British Embassy spokesman also knew nothing about the matter.” Really??

 The most recent Moscow Times article of March 11th reported “a hiring spree is under way & Atlantic school administrators spent the last weeks in London recruiting British-trained teachers for contracts starting late March.” When asked to comment, school officials reportedly refused repeated requests. A top administrator, Galina Kovalenko, said the only comment she would offer was “the school is ready to return to work without any problems.”

 The fact remains that no information or statement from the school indicating any efforts to aid the displaced teachers can be found. In a situation like this we would think the school would express its concern for these educators, their families & at the very least, lay out a plan for bringing them back to reinstate them in their jobs. Quite to the contrary, the school’s efforts appear to be focused on installing replacement teachers to satisfy the needs of their financial bottom line. Understandably, the school should not be sacrificed nor students denied an education, but our concern now is for the well-being of our colleagues, of which no mention has yet been made.

 If you have first-hand knowledge of this event &/or school or just simply want to weigh in to shed some light on this incident please scroll down to Comment

35 Responses to 40+ Expat Teachers Banned from Russia

  1. Ana says:

    The same situation happened to me! I came to Russia to teach for 9 months and I had a Visa for 2 months only, and when the extension of my Visa was requested they denied. It was tried 6 times, and all of these times it was denied. They never gave any reasonable explanation for it. Luckily I wasn’t banished of the country, but I’m being expelled anyway.


  2. Sally says:

    Any more news on the Atlantic School?


  3. Anne says:

    I am one if the teachers hired. There is definitely something wrong / suspect about the situation . It is the school bit the government I strongly suspect .
    All the teachers who were denied visas were experienced and well established.
    They have recruited now as subs with one exception inexperienced staff. One is staying on; the other applied. But an experienced person was told that their contract would not be renewed. All the parents want this teacher to stay they have been so impressed.
    The school has haemorrhaged pupils and will continue to do so as the parents are very unimpressed .
    To say the abritish embassy doesn’t know is utter rubbish .


  4. Angharad says:

    From my experience this is par for the course in post Communist countries. You can take the people out of the government, but you can’t take the government out of the people! Beware post Communist countries. I’ve taught in two and NEVER again!

    It also shows the poor attitude people in general have towards teachers; we are commodities to be traded for the lowest bid. We are still very much second class citizens. I think we should all just quit and find different jobs. I did, although I truly love teaching. I will not return to teaching until teachers get a better rap, and at my age, that means never



  5. Anonymous says:

    I wonder whether the International School Review tried to contact the school and ask for their take. Perhaps instead of making a statement, they spoke with the teachers themselves and are trying to keep them informed of what is happening with regards to the VISA problems. It certainly doesn’t seem to be the schools fault, as they went in on work VISA’s. Obviously they need to bring in teachers ASAP as without 40 teachers, they are going to be rather short staffed.

    I think you can see some of the bias rubbish in the article by suggesting that it was a way to get teachers for cheaper. If you wanted to do this, surely you would have terminated the contracts or ‘had the teachers thrown out’ over summer and then spent time recruiting instead of bringing on bad press and leaving your school very understaffed!


  6. There are many comments here from non- Atlantic staff members and most of the opinions are based on incorrect information. I am one of the 40 Atlantic staff who have been banned from the country and I am devastated, because I love working for the school. We have great staff, some lovely students, supportive parents (who have all told management how much they miss us!) and the campus we work in is fantastic. Every staff member I know that works at Atlantic came in on a working visa and the school made every effort to make sure that we obtained our work permits and had health care coverage. Everything was done legally. The banning was an unfortunate incident that was the result of paperwork problems with the renewal of visas and could have happened to anyone. The school has paid the transport and visa costs of every staff member to return to their home country has offered to ship items to their homes if they need anything and has even paid us for the time we have spent here twiddling our thumbs and waiting for the legalities of the process to be resolved. We have also been guaranteed positions at the school next year if we still wish to return and are allowed back in, however, the children still need to be taught and so they have hired new staff on short term contracts to fill in until the end of the school year in case we can’t return in time. I am sure that as the school is continuing to expand, even these teachers will probably be offered positions as well for next year. This situation is extremely undesirable and upsetting for everyone involved, but I still wish to return to my job as I think it is one of the better schools I have worked at. If you are reading this, please don’t let our experience put you off working for Atlantic, or teaching in Russia- it really is an amazing place!


  7. Catherine says:

    There is ONE message here for ALL Teachers who are looking at working in schools that ask them to enter on a Visitors Visa or Business Visa. DO NOT. There are no guarantees written into your dodgy contract that they will get you a working visa. Q &A from administration who are usually connected with the owners or want to keep their jobs offer no support whatsoever. From the very beginning the Embassy or Consulate will not help as you are actually illegal in the country. .You are not a visitor or running or setting up a business so the visa was given to the school with WASTA (another name for black money) and people in these departments go along with it as they gain and they know how slow the process of getting visas are because some departments do little basic work each day. You are just a pawn in an Illegal game and when the going gets tuff they let you go or send you out of the country knowing the problems but they then recruit a fresh bunch of Teachers who know nothing of these games and it all starts again. The message is DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU TAKE THE POSITION because their promises are worth NIL. Reading this website and being a member if you are a new Teacher and are contemplating a move to Russia, Qatar, Kuwait. Bahrain ++ (some schools) is essential.


  8. Kilo says:

    The trouble here is that these (your) opinions are coming from no experience with Atlantic International. I don’t care if you worked in other schools in Moscow. Atlantic is run by Turkish businessmen hiding behind a veneer of western expats to pull in the punters. This speaks volumes for itself. Atlantic is as dodgy as f. and a risk to yourselves and family.


    • Paul says:

      Kilo I have no idea what sort of fantasy land you live in. I think perhaps your words may explainb why you may have had a bad experience working in Russia or anywhere estern ex pats work. I wonder what you have against Turkish businessmen ? Are these Turks likely to wipe out your family if you are caught stealing toilet paper from the school ?
      You are obviously confusing comic books with school books !!!


  9. Jim Young says:

    I worked in Moscow “back in the day” (1990-97). I quite liked it. There have been contentious issues between the UK and Russia for a long time. A British passport holder (“businessman”) was bumped for spying (he was in MI-5) and so his wife, who worked at the school where I taught had to leave as well. A number of other dodgy things happened including the murder of an American business man (he wouldn’t shut up about a deal he was involved in and wanted to take his grievance to the World Court and he wouldn’t listen when some of his friends pleaded with him that what he was doing wasn’t a very good idea).
    The director of a startup school fled the country with a bunch of the school’s cash (it folded shortly before BIS opened).
    A woman who had worked at our school but established herself in the expat community and went out on her own was arrested at the behest of the American government and held in a Moscow jail until a federal agent arrived and escorted her back to the U.S. Her husband was later tracked down in Cyprus and arrested. The two were brought up on charges of embezzlement (in the U.S.).
    So, my point is that stuff happens there, but it happens in a lot of places. That said, I would go back there because it’s an amazing city despite it’s flaws.


  10. Not now please we are in Russia says:

    Well I am disappointed in International School Review fo publishing a biased report on the state of Atlantic International School.

    I am British and I have worked at Atlantic international School for several years and I feel i am as well positioned as anyone to shed light on the situation. I wasn’t asked to leave the country

    Yes 40 staff, not all British, but Canadians,Australians, Irish and New Zealanders had to leave the country.

    The question you may ask is why? There are claims and counter claims as to who is responsible for the ban. The details of the ban have gone as far as Mr. Putin and he has been involved in trying to resolve the issue. However the stumbling block appears to be that no one is prepared to sign a declaration allowing the staff back in as this would implicate them in the decision to expel the teachers and thus be liable for any future court case.

    The school has been working with the immigration authorities for the last 6 weeks to try to remedy the situation and bring its staff back to Russia.

    There has had to be new appointees to complete this academic year and if the school is allowed to it will bring its teachers back

    Atlantic offers teachers a package which means they don’t have to leave the country once the visa expires. They are now renewed annually

    I have a 3 year visa and i am under no threat.

    On a final note . Moscow is a love it or hate it city, but just like their government you can’t ignore it


    • Honkers says:

      The only person I know that has survived that long at Atlantic ‘International’ School is the director Damien Butters. Everyone else has either fled or been fired. Therefore this opinion is largely irrelevant.


      • Perhaps you should read my response then. Although there have been some negative incidents, my time at Atlantic has been largely positive and I am looking to return there if I can, because I love my job. You obviously sound a little bitter about your time at the school, but not everyone has had the same experiences, so to put down other people’s opinions as ‘irrelevant’ when they are trying to explain the problem is a little one-sided and dare I say, nasty! Perhaps also if you decide to name people on what is supposedly an anonymous page, you could have the good manners to unmask yourself as well- it’s only fair!


  11. Over_There says:

    Try teaching in Myanmar where schools bring teachers in on ’90 day business visas’ and fly them to Bangkok every 10 weeks to renew. No employment protections whatsover.


  12. Anonymous says:

    Having worked in Moscow it comes as no surprise that this has happened. I came in on a so called business visa a single entry and had to leave the country every so often and get a new one at a Russian office in London. The school was a business and a bit dodgy some ok teachers some not so but you find that scenario everywhere. Back to the dodgy part, had to think seriously where my salary was coming from, then read a really good book can’t recall name but certainly but things into perspective. As businesses these sorts of schools do have a lot of “new generation riche” parents who demand a lot and are often hindered to as they know someone who knows someone. I enjoyed my time in Moscow albeit the months of snow, the dark days the smoking community the insane alcohol consumption on the trains. You need need to watch your back though. Hope things turn out for those teachers, it could happen to any of us.


  13. Anonymous says:

    Working and living in Russia was a fantastic experience and I would advise anyone who has the opportunity to go there and teach. That being said working at any international school in a foreign country, especially a new school, has its risks. I personally was treated very well by the school I worked for (BIS Moscow) and like most schools there were happy teachers and teachers that complained and blamed all there issues on the school or Russia. I personally know one of the teachers who has been banned from Russia because of this school and it is the school that is to blame. The school had no idea how to process the visas and had the wrong visas for teachers. The moral of the story is choose your school wisely for it is you who will suffer in the end not the school. If you want to work in a beautiful country with great people and earn a good living give Moscow a try. Like most places there are some great well established schools and some fly by night shit ones! I would advise anyone to take the time and research the school that is offering you a job. Don’t blame Russia, Russians or their government for the practices of a bad private business. For those who are interested the Anglo American school and the British school are both great places to work. Be very careful of the rest!


    • Paksta says:

      I agree with Anglo American, but cannot agree with BIS. Top management is desperately poor and make appointments and decisions on seemingly random whims. The best staff from BIS usually migrate to the better international schools in Moscow. If you’re happy keeping your head down, being underpaid, and are ok with no professional development, BIS is fine. If you dislike politics and management intrigue, I can only recommend other schools.


  14. Anonymous says:

    The Teachers in question DID enter on correct visas with proper documentation. In cases like these it’s easy to try and blame the victim (s) but this entire incident was of no fault of their own. Rather a third party’s attempt to sink the school. (“if ya can’t join em, destroy them”)
    The company is doing everything they can despite public perception but as anyone knows who’s spent time there , Russian beauracracy always gets in the way. Whether they have “forgotten” their teachers remains to be seen but be sure that the displaced teachers will not stay silent. In any case, be advised anyone considering a position there should be careful as they are still undergoing daily inspections. Best of luck to all the Teachers in clearing their names and returning to their loved ones!


    • Paul says:

      I can see you are someone who understands the way things really have transpired. I can only add that unfortunately a lot of the problems have been caused by the management’s bad communication skills. They have created such an atmosphere of distrust the displaced teachers cannot believe anything they read from the directors. This was also compounded by their lawyers advice.Russian lawyers deasling with Russian dirty business tactics — a perfect recipe for a complete clusterfuck


  15. neanderpal says:

    “A British Embassy spokesman also knew nothing about the matter.” No surprises there, then! I have found the British high commission useless in helping with any issues or even questions in a commonwealth countries. Would expect nothing in Russia. But I believe they do give the best embassy/high commission parties if you are one of the favoured or a corrupt local politician or businessman.


  16. Anonymous says:

    What about the Russian authorities and their role in this affair? How can they just ban people because of their work place?


  17. Anonymous says:

    I believe you (bouboulina) are the one who is being small minded in this particular situation, as it is quite beyond doubt that it is the russian authorities that act without tolerance, appreciation of perspectives and global mindedness in so many situations including invading a sovereign country that is internationally recognized.


    • Paksta says:

      Bouboulina’s actual point was that dismissively deriding an entire country just because you disagree with certain situations or govt decisions is bigoted and small-minded. She’s right. It is.

      If invading a sovereign country was the measure of an entire people, imagine how judged US and UK nationals would be! Fortunately, most of the world is not as small-minded as that.

      In any case, the focus should be on teachers. It’s an unfortunate situation, with an obvious issue behind the scenes. Not the fault of the teachers for certain. Having worked in Russia many years, and knowing how regulations are swiftly changed to and fro, I feel I can say this with some confidence.


  18. HM says:

    I actually worked in Moscow in a British school for two years back in 2007 – 2009. Not only did I absolutely LOVE it there (I found Moscow to be a very safe, civilised, enjoyable and liveable city . . . far moreso than some others I have lived in) but I also had the problem of having to exit the country several times over the course of my contract to renew my work visa.

    I can no longer remember the exact reason as to why teachers couldn’t get the usual work visas at the start of their contracts, but I do recall that it had something to do with the school’s status as a business. I also believe it had something to do with their tax status and the fact that they were able to offer tax-free salaries to expats . . . which no one seemed to complain about!

    In any case . . . we didn’t start work without any visa whatsoever. We started work with a business visa (same as you would get if you were a foreign freelancer in the country) as opposed to an employee visa. However, those visas are only given on a temporary basis, so every so often (3 or 6 months, maybe) we had to get them renewed.

    Personally, I never had a problem with this. Also, as the school paid for me to go and renew the visa . . . as well as give me the time off work (fully paid) . . . I had little to complain about!

    I have worked in about a dozen countries now and on several continents and this is the only time I have had such a visa. However, neither I nor any of the other teachers at my school (including American and British) encountered no difficulties because of it. At the time, that is.


  19. teacher says:

    There are many countries which you must enter before you can begin processing a proper work visa.


  20. Blue says:

    Worked at Moscow Atlantic, some time before. VERY dodgy place. Be warned.


  21. Anonymous says:

    I have read the original article and it appears the teachers in question entered Russia on something other than a work visa – hence the getting barred from re-entering. If memory serves, Russia is by far the only country with this type of rule. Why anyone would report to work without the proper visa is, frankly, beyond me.


    • Anonymous says:

      For Russia, I think it is usual to enter the country on a temporary business visa. Once in the country, it is easier to get the work visa. Its very easy to have an opinion based on one newspaper article, rather than knowing any facts isn’t it?


    • bouboulina says:

      I have been in international education for over thirty years and could name a few countries which have required teachers to enter on temporary business visas or tourist visas: employment and residence permits are then applied for when the teachers are in the country. In the cases I know of this is all legal and above board. It seems Russia is not “by far the only country with this type of rule.”


    • Paul says:

      This is not correct —
      they did entrer the country on work visas — this is where the problem started. There was a technical issue which was exploited by the perpetrators of this whole situation.


  22. Richard H says:

    Why anyone would actually want to live in Russia is beyond me. After travelling around I came to the conclusion that it was a third world basket case and with that ex KGB second rate clerk in charge, getting worse.Actually sounds like China where one can’t find out why a decision is made or by who and for what reason.


  23. Albert Winchester says:

    What do you expect from the uncivilized Russian dictator Putin? If you are angry at the British or American governments throw out some diplomats not innocent teachers who are only earning a living, but Russia isn’t a civilized nation the average Russian wants stability over democracy, so don’t expect civilized behavior from a nation that supports Vlad the Putin. Russians for some reason don’t understand fair play. Putin certainly doesn’t understand fair play. No One should be surprised the school knows, if they protest they could be shut down by the savage Putin, so why chance such a reaction.


    • bouboulina says:

      Oh dear. I do hope you are able to exercise far more tolerance, appreciation of perspectives and global mindedness as an international educator than you are demonstrating here. If you are an IBO teacher it may also be wise of you to do a quick self check to see how many of the IBO LP qualities you possess. Perhaps the world of international education is not really for you. Bigoted, small minded teachers with limited knowledge of global events can do a great deal of damage in the world of education.


      • Albert Winchester says:

        Are you REALLY that naive? Tolerance is a two way street with your so called tolerance you would have been a follower of the Neville Chamberlain school of Foreign Policy. It is educators like you who create everything is a grey area education where there is NO RIGHT or WRONG!!!!!! Please, if you are teaching children please go back to your POLLYANA world and allow us to teach children and not have to reverse the damage a person like you causes with your EVERYTHING is a GREY area philosophy there is Right and Wrong and I’ll say it a again PUTIN is an UNCIVILIZED BRUTE……………


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