Russia Entry Requirements
Required Russia entry requirements include a current, valid U.S. Passport and a Russian travel visa
There are a variety of visas available, each one determined by the
purpose of your trip. The most common are for tourism or doing
business. Validity ranges from 1 month to 12 months and can be
requested for either single entry or multiple entries. Processing times
vary also although you can get expedited courier service for visas to Russia
if you are in a rush.
The government of Russia
maintains a restrictive and complicated visa regime for foreigners who
visit, transit, or reside in the Russian Federation. Non-compliance
with Russian visa laws can result in your arrest, an application of
fines, and/or deportation. If your visa expires
while you are in Russia, you will not be allowed to depart until a new
one is approved. This process can take as long as 20 days.
Government of Russia does not recognize the standing of the U.S.
diplomatic mission to intervene in visa matters, including situations
in which an American is stranded because of an expired visa. U.S.
citizens should also be aware that Russian immigration and visa laws
change regularly, and the implementation of new regulations has not
always been transparent or predictable.
The Russian visa system includes the following options:
Russia has seven types of temporary visas - private, tourist, business,
humanitarian, work, student, and transit - each with different
application requirements. Only tourist, private, business and
humanitarian visas are covered by the new visa agreement. Entry Visas:
To enter Russia for any purpose, a U.S. citizen must possess a valid U.S. passport and a bona fide visa issued by a Russian
embassy or consulate. It is impossible to obtain an entry visa upon arrival, so travelers must apply for their visas well
U.S. citizens who apply for Russian visas in third countries where they
do not have permission to stay more than 90 days may face considerable
delays in visa processing. Travelers who arrive in Russia without an
entry visa will not be permitted to enter the country, and face
immediate return to the point of embarkation at their own expense.
A Russian entry/exit visa has two dates written in the European
style (day/month/year) as opposed to the American style
(month/day/year). The first date indicates the earliest day a traveler
may enter Russia; the second date indicates the date by which a
traveler must leave Russia. A Russian visa is only valid for those
exact dates and cannot be extended after the traveler has arrived in
the country, except in the case of a medical emergency.
Russian tourist visas
are often granted only for the specific dates mentioned in the
invitation letter provided by the sponsor. U.S. citizens sometimes
receive visas valid for periods as short as four days. Even if the visa
is misdated through error of a Russian embassy or consulate, the
traveler will still not be allowed into Russia before the visa start
date or be allowed to leave after the visa expiration date. Any
mistakes in visa dates must be corrected before the traveler enters
Russia. It is helpful to have someone who reads Russian check the visa
before departing the United States. Travelers should ensure that their
visas reflect intended activities in Russia
(e.g., tourism, study, business, etc.).
U.S. citizens who are denied visas may seek a clarification from
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 32/34 Smolenskaya-Sennaya Pl., Moscow,
Russia, 119200. The U.S. Embassy and the Consulates General, however,
cannot advocate on behalf of private U.S. citizens who have been
refused visas or denied entry into Russia.
Limitations on Length of Stay:
Under changes to the Russian visa regime in late 2007, most foreigners
may remain in the Russian Federation for only 90 days in a 180-day
period. These provisions apply to business, tourist, humanitarian, and
cultural visas, among other categories. U.S. citizens and other
foreigners whose visas permit employment or study are not normally
subject to this rule. Any person contemplating a stay in Russia of more than 90 days should consult with his or her visa sponsor to ensure that
remaining in the country will not result in a violation of visa regulations.
A valid visa is necessary to depart Russia. Travelers who overstay
their visa’s validity, even for one day, will be prevented from leaving
until their sponsor intervenes and requests a visa extension on their
behalf. Russian authorities may take up to 20 calendar days to
authorize an exit visa, during which time the traveler will be stranded
in Russia at his or her own expense. The ability of the U.S. Embassy or
Consulates General to intervene in these situations is extremely
Travelers with expired visas should also be aware they may have difficulty checking into a hotel, hostel, or other accommodation
establishment. There are no adequate public shelters or safe havens in
Russia and neither the U.S. Embassy nor the Consulates General have
means to accommodate such stranded travelers.
Visitors who lose their U.S. passports and Russian visas by
accident or theft must immediately replace their passports at the U.S.
Embassy or one of the Consulates General. The traveler must then enlist
the visa sponsor to obtain a new visa in order to depart the country.
As noted above, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates General are not able to
intercede in cases in which visas must be replaced. It is helpful to
make a photocopy of your visa in the event of loss, but a copy is not
sufficient to permit departure.
Travelers departing Russia by train should be aware that if
they board a train on the last day of a visa’s validity, Russian
immigration officials may consider the visa to have expired if the
train crosses the international border after midnight on the day of
expiration. The Embassy and Consulates General are aware of cases in
which travelers have been detained at border crossings, unable to leave
Russia, because their visas were expired by a matter of hours or
Visas for students and English teachers sometimes allow only
one entry. In these cases, the sponsoring school is responsible for
registering the visa and migration card and obtaining an exit visa.
Obtaining an exit visa can take up to 20 calendar days, so students and
teachers need to plan accordingly. Please see the section below
regarding Teaching in Russia.
All foreigners entering Russia must fill out a two-part migration card
upon arrival. The traveler deposits one part of the card with
immigration authorities at the port of entry, and keeps the other part
for the duration of his or her stay. Upon departure, the traveler must
submit his or her card to immigration authorities. Foreign visitors to
Russia are normally required to present their migration cards in order
to register at hotels.
Migration cards, in theory, are available
at all ports of entry from Russian immigration officials (Border
Guards). The cards are generally distributed to passengers on incoming
flights and left in literature racks at arrival points. Officials at
borders and airports usually do not point out these cards to travelers;
it is up to the individual travelers to find them and fill them out.
Replacing a lost or stolen migration card is extremely
difficult. While authorities will not prevent foreigners from leaving
the country if they cannot present their migration cards, travelers
could experience problems when trying to re-enter Russia at a future
Although Russia and Belarus
use the same migration card, travelers should be aware that each
country maintains its own visa regime. U.S. citizens wishing to travel
to both nations must apply for two separate visas. A traveler entering
Russia directly from Belarus is not required to obtain a new migration
card, but at his or her option may do so if blank ones are available at
the time of entry.
Travelers who spend more than three days in Russia must register their
visa and migration card through their sponsor. Travelers staying in a
hotel must register their visa and migration card with their hotel
within one day. Even travelers who spend less than three days in one
place are encouraged to register their visas. If a traveler chooses not
to register a stay of less than three days, he or she is advised to
keep copies of tickets, hotel bills, or itineraries in order to prove
compliance with the law.
U.S. citizens should be aware that Russian police officers have
the authority to stop people and request their identity and travel
documents at any time, and without cause. Due to the possibility of
random document checks by police, travelers should carry their original
passports, migration cards, and visas with them at all times.
Travelers intending to transit through Russia en route to a third
country must have a Russian transit visa. Even travelers simply
changing planes in Russia for an onward destination will be asked to
present a transit visa issued by a Russian Embassy or Consulate.
Russian authorities may refuse to allow a U.S. citizen who does not
have a transit visa to continue with his or her travel, obliging the
person to immediately return to the point of embarkation at the
traveler’s own expense.
U.S. citizens should be aware that there are several closed cities and
regions in Russia. Travelers who attempt to enter these areas without
prior authorization are subject to arrest, fines, and/or deportation. A
traveler must list on the visa application all areas to be visited and
subsequently register with authorities upon arrival at each
destination. There is no centralized list or database of the restricted
areas, so travelers should check with their sponsor, hotel, or the
nearest office of the Russian Federal Migration Service before
traveling to unfamiliar cities and towns. Minors:
In an effort to
prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated
special procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring
documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child’s
travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such
documentation on hand, even if not legally required, may facilitate
entry/departure. For further information, please see the Department of
State’s web page regarding the prevention of international child abduction
International Cruise Ship Passengers:
International cruise ship passengers are permitted to visit Russian
ports without a visa for a period of up to 72 hours. Passengers who
wish to go ashore during port calls may do so without visas, provided
that they are with an organized tour at all times and accompanied by a
tour operator who has been duly licensed by Russian authorities. These
special entry/exit requirements do not apply to river boat cruise
passengers and travelers coming to Russia on package tours. These
travelers will need to apply for visas prior to entry, and should
follow the general guidelines for entry/exit requirements.
HIV/AIDS Entry Restrictions:
HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to, and foreign
residents of, Russia. Short-term visitors (under three months) are not
required to undergo an HIV/AIDS test, but applicants for longer term
visas or residence permits may be asked to undergo tests not only for
HIV/AIDS, but also for tuberculosis and leprosy. Travelers who believe
they may be subject to the requirement should verify this information
with the Embassy of the Russian Federation
Embassy of the Russian Federation:
For additional information concerning travel to Russia, American citizens may contact the Embassy of the Russian Federation
, Consular Section, 2641 Tunlaw Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20007, tel. 202-939-8907.
In addition, there are Russian Consulates in:
Houston: 1333 West Loop South, Ste.1300, Houston, TX 77027, tel. 713-337-3300
New York: 9 East 91 St., New York, NY 10128, tel. 212-348-0926
San Francisco: 2790 Green St., San Francisco, CA 94123, tel. 415-928-6878 or 415-202-9800
Seattle: 2323 Westin Building, 2001 6th Ave., Seattle, WA 98121, tel. 206-728-1910.
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