Entry & Exit Formalities
- Searches beyond the perfunctory are quite rare, but clearing customs when you leave Russia by a land border can be lengthy.
- Visitors are allowed to bring in and take out up to US$10,000 (or its equivalent) in currency, and goods up to the value of €10,000, weighing less than 50kg, without making a customs declaration.
- Fill in a customs declaration form if you’re bringing into Russia major equipment, antiques, artworks or musical instruments (including a guitar) that you plan to take out with you – get it stamped in the red channel of customs to avoid any problems leaving with the same goods.
- If you plan to export anything vaguely ‘arty’ – instruments, coins, jewellery, antiques, antiquarian manuscripts and books (older than 50 years) or art (also older than 50 years) – it should first be assessed by the Ministry of Culture; it is very difficult to export anything over 100 years old. Bring your item (or a photograph, if the item is large) and your receipt. If export is allowed, you'll be issued a receipt for tax paid, which you show to customs officers on your way out of the country.
Required by most developed nations; apply at least a month in advance of your trip.
Getting Your Visa
Nationals of all Western countries require a visa, but most Latin American, as well as some East Asian countries, Israel and South Africa have visa-free arrangements with Russia. Arranging a visa is generally straightforward but is likely to be time-consuming, bureaucratic and – depending on how quickly you need the visa – costly. Start the application process at least a month before your trip. Following the World Cup success in 2018, the government pondered relaxing visa requirements – look out for media announcements.
- Visa Agencies
Comet Consular Services www.cometconsular.com
Express to Russia www.expresstorussia.com
Real Russia http://realrussia.co.uk
Way to Russia www.waytorussia.net
- Main Visa Types
Tourist Valid for a maximum of 30 days, single- or double-entry, nonextendable.
Business Valid for three months, six months or one year (three years for US citizens); may or may not limit the number of entries.
Private On invitation from a Russian citizen, who provides your accommodation. Up to 90 days, single- or double-entry.
Transit By air for 72 hours, by train 10 days.
Russian Far East Free E-visa Citizens of 18 (mostly Asian) countries can arrive without a visa for stays of up to 30 days, if entering via Vladivostok, Kamchatka or Sakhalin and staying only in the Russian Far East. It was expected at the time of writing that a similar arrangement would be introduced in Kaliningrad as of 1 July 2019.
Starting the Process
For most travellers, a tourist visa (single- or double-entry), which is valid for a maximum of 30 days from the date of entry and is nonextendable, will be sufficient. If you plan on staying longer than a month, it’s advisable to apply for a business visa – these are available as single-, double- or multiple-entry.
Whatever visa you go for, the process has three main stages: invitation, application and registration.
You may need separate permission for trips to sensitive border regions such as the Altai, Volga Delta, Caucasus and Tuva, which means the processing of your visa can take longer.
If your trip into or out of Russia involves transit through, or a stay in, another country, such as Belarus, China, Mongolia or Kazakhstan, our advice is to arrange any necessary visa or visas in your home country before you enter Russia.
Types of Visa
In addition to the tourist visa, there are other types of useful visas.
Visa Extensions & Changes
Any extensions or changes to your visa will be handled by Russia’s Federal Migration Service (Federalnoy Migratsionnoy Slyzhby), which is often shortened to FMS. It’s possible you’ll hear the old acronyms PVU and OVIR used for this office as well.
Extensions are time-consuming and difficult; tourist visas cannot be extended at all. Avoid the need for an extension by arranging a longer visa than you might need. Note that many trains out of St Petersburg and Moscow to Eastern Europe cross the border after midnight, so make sure your visa is valid up to and including this day.
Immigration forms are produced electronically by passport control at airports. Take good care of your half of the completed form as you’ll need it for registration and could face problems while travelling in Russia – and certainly will on leaving – if you can’t produce it.
The following are fees for single-entry visas including any service charges; expect to pay anything up to double/triple these fees for double- or multiple-entry visas.
- Australia Tourist and work visas issued in 10/two working days are A$135/270.
- Most EU countries Tourist/work visas issued in four to 10 working days cost €61/141; visas issued in one to three days cost €96/185.
- UK Tourist and work visas issued in five working days/next working day cost £90/180.
- USA Tourist or work visas issued in six/four working days cost US$131/250.