Yandex, the crown jewel of Russia’s tech sector for more than two decades and branded “Russia’s Google,” is interested in moving to Israel with all of its staff.
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, international sanctions, a slew of prominent resignations, Russia’s increasingly oppressive regime requirements, and economic difficulties, Yandex’s near future is questionable.
So the company is in search of a new temporary homeland and found Tel Aviv a good fit. Arkady Volozh, CEO and co-founder of Yandex, has sent a letter to the Israeli Prime Minister, Naftaly Bennett, and three ministers. In a letter titled “Yandex – Expanding Operations in Israel”, which has been seen by Calcalist, Volozh is demanding exceptional circumstances for the company’s non-Israeli employees.
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“I have made a decision to move the global Yandex headquarters to Tel Aviv and bring many hundreds of developers, engineers, and technologists to Israel,” writes Arkady Volozh,
The letter is also addressed to Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, and Minister of Innovation, Information, and Technology Orit Farkash-Hacohen.
Volozh is essentially seeking to grant Yandex exceptional conditions that will allow it to employ non-Israeli workers in Israel. “In order for the company’s employees to be able to make a decision to move to and live in Israel, even if for a number of years, they must be granted several conditions for which we seek assistance from you: grant work visas to non-Jews or those not eligible under the Law of Return, and issue temporary travel documents to the company’s workers who are Russian citizens.”
Volozh ended his letter by inviting the ministers to visit Yandex’s offices in Israel and urging “acceptance of our initiatives as described above.”
Volozh himself has resided in Israel, having received Israeli citizenship via the 2017 Law of Return. He is currently responsible for the technology components of Yandex and its operations outside of Russia. According to the media, he intends to divide Yandex into two firms, one Russian and one worldwide with its headquarters in Israel.
Another Yandex CEO since 2017, Elena Bunina, resigned in March and relocated to Israel owing to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
Yandex has a substantial presence in Israel and employs 450 people here. Its development facility, allows them to hire foreign nationals with a high-tech visa. However, relocating personnel from Russia to Israel would necessitate a significant number of visa applications, and it is unlikely that all of the employees would fit the criteria for a tech visa. For instance, a wage that is double the average in Israel.
A tech expert visa grants a one-year work permit with an extension option of up to five years, as well as a work visa for a partner or spouse.
Currently, Yandex is not subject to Western sanctions on Russia but is facing boycott initiatives in various countries that want to halt its operations and sever business ties with it. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of this year, it is no longer allowed for the company’s employees to travel freely across the world with a Russian passport.
The EU imposed personal sanctions on Yandex deputy CEO Tigran Khudaveryan, which included a prohibition on travel and business activities with European companies.