Foreign travel advice
To enter Russia you’ll need a visa before travel - make sure you apply for the correct type and duration of visa. During periods of high demand, you should apply for your visa well in advance. From 10 December 2014 Russian diplomatic missions and the visa application centres in London and Edinburgh will collect biometric data (scanned fingerprints) from visa applicants above the age of 12. This applies to each Russian entry or transit visa application. For further information see the Russian Embassy website and the website of VFS Global who manage Russian visa applications on behalf of the Embassy. Tourist visa applications can take 10 working days to be processed, and longer during busy periods.
On receiving your visa you should check the details of the visa including the validity dates and passport number carefully to ensure they are correct. Before you travel to Russia make sure you are aware of the terms and conditions attached to your visa, for both entry and exit. Please note that you should carefully adhere to the validity and conditions of your visa. Overstaying your visa without authorisation from the Russian migration authorities can result in a delay to your departure from Russia, fines, court hearings and possible deportation and a ban from re-entry. You should arrange an extension of your visa before it expires.
According to Russian law, cruise or ferry passengers can stay in Russia for 72 hours without visas only if they have booked tours through the companies officially licensed by the Russian government. These companies will supply you with a tour ticket, which is called a blanket visa or booking confirmation, and let you pass the customs/immigration offices without any other documents except your valid passport and the migration card that you will be given onboard.
This visa-free exception applies only to those who travel within an organised group and who don’t intend to explore the cities on their own. Cruise passengers are free to use any authorised local travel agencies (not only cruise ship tour companies) for visa-free shore tours.
Russia’s port cities where travellers won’t need a visa for up to 3 days are:
- St Petersburg
- Korsakov (Sakhalin Island)
If your passport has been lost/stolen while ashore and a replacement ETD is issued, or you would like to continue your journey by air or land, you must get a visa to leave Russia
If you’re staying for more than 7 working days you must register with the local branch of the Main Department for Migration Issues of the Ministry of Interior. Most major hotels will do this automatically. If you’re staying in private accommodation the owner of the property must do this for you.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months after the expiry date of your visa.
Travelling between Russia and Belarus
The Russian government has informed the UK government that there are no legal grounds to allow third country nationals, including British nationals, to cross between Russia and Belarus by road. If you’re planning on entering Russia by road, you’ll need to take an alternative route through a different country. The UK government isn’t aware of any difficulties encountered by British nationals when travelling between Russia and Belarus by air or rail, but you should make sure that you have all the necessary visas required for the duration of your travel.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, landside transit and exit from Russia only if they contain a valid Russian visa. The Russian authorities will only put a visa for Russia in an ETD in some circumstances. Contact the nearest Russian Embassy outside Russia or local migration office in Russia to find out if a visa can be issued. You also need to check with the Russian Embassy or migration office on the required length of Emergency Travel Document validity. UK Emergency Travel Documents without a visa are accepted for airside transit only. You should check with your travel company or airline that transit zones will be available at the airports of your planned route.
All foreign nationals entering Russia must sign a migration card, which is produced electronically at passport control in the major airports. Some airports may still require you to complete the migration card manually. The card is in two identical parts. One part will be retained by the Immigration Officer on arrival. You should keep the other part with your passport; you will need it when you leave Russia and if you are stopped by the police for an ID check during your stay. There are many hotels and hostels that will not check in guests if they don’t have the stamped white immigration card with them. You must complete a new migration card each time you enter Russia, even if you have a multiple entry visa. If you lose the second part of the card you will be fined, and your departure from the country could be delayed.
Travelling with children
Children born overseas and added to their parents’ Russian passports may now have to get their own passport to exit Russia. Check with the Russian Embassy or Consulate before travel to ensure you have the necessary paperwork.
Transit through Belarus
If you intend to travel by train on popular routes such as Warsaw-Moscow or St Petersburg-Kiev you will need to get a transit visa for Belarus before travelling.
Under international law, the British Embassy can’t formally intervene with the Russian authorities on behalf of dual Russian/British nationals.
Legislation came into force on 4 August 2014 regarding Russian nationals who are also citizens of other countries. Russian passport holders must inform the Russian authorities of the other passports they hold. If you hold both British and Russian citizenship you should take legal advice and/ or contact the relevant Russian authority (the nearest Russian Embassy if you are not in Russia or your local Migration office if you are in Russia) to find out how the legislation might impact you. See the Main Department for Migration Issues of the Russian Ministry of Interior (in Russian only) for more details.
If you come to Russia to renew your Russian international passport, it may take up to 4 months for a new passport to be issued. You will not be able to leave Russia on your British passport if you entered Russia on your Russian passport, and will therefore have to remain in Russia until your new Russian passport is issued.
You can import up to 10,000 US dollars (or equivalent) into the country and export foreign currency up to the equivalent of 10,000 US dollars from Russia without declaring it.
If you import over 10,000 US dollars or certain categories of goods like electrical items, jewellery, antiques and valuable musical instruments, you must complete a customs declaration form.
If you wish to import certain advanced electronic items (e.g. Global Positioning System instruments), you must get an operating licence from the Russian authorities before you travel. Check with the Embassy of the Russian Federation before your departure.
If you complete a declaration make sure the form is stamped by a Customs official at your port of entry, otherwise your foreign currency and non-declared items may be confiscated when you leave Russia and you may be fined.
There are strict regulations governing the export from Russia of antiques, icons, medals, artwork and other items of historical significance. This includes modern art and even posters if they are particularly rare or valuable. You must get approval from the Ministry of Culture.
For further information visit the website of the Russian Federal Customs Service.