This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Russia set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
Entry to Russia
On 18 March 2020 the Russian government introduced restrictions on entry into the whole country for almost all foreign citizens. On 30 March 2020, temporary restrictions on entry and exit via Russia’s land borders were enforced. The duration of these remains unspecified.
These restrictions were eased on 16 April 2021 for nationals and permanent residents of certain countries including the UK. They may now travel to Russia by air via authorised 3rd countries. The full list is subject to change and currently includes Albania; Andorra; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Belgium; Bulgaria; China; Columbia; Croatia; Cuba; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Djibouti; Dominican Republic; Egypt; Ethiopia; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Iceland; India; Iraq; Italy; Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lebanon; Lichtenstein; Luxemburg; Maldives; Malta; Mauritius; Mexico; Moldova; Morocco; New Zealand; North Macedonia; Peru; Portugal; Qatar; Republic of Ireland; Republic of Korea; Republic of Seychelles; Saudi Arabia; Serbia; Singapore; Slovakia; South Africa; Spain, Sri-Lanka; Switzerland; Syria; Tajikistan; Tanzania (suspended until 1 November 2021); Turkey; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom.
All foreign passengers should complete a travel form prior to arriving in Russia. The forms are usually handed out to passengers by cabin crew on arriving flights. The template is available at the Rospotrebnadzor website (only in Russian).
Exemptions to entry restrictions
Certain groups may be exempt from these restrictions, including, but not limited to:
- residents of Russia
- family members of foreign nationals, who have residence in Russia
- those having Russian citizens as their immediate family
- members of diplomatic missions accredited in Russia,
- official delegations
- highly qualified specialists
- those coming for medical treatment and studies
- those coming to provide care for gravely ill family members
- those attending the funerals of family members
- cabin and locomotive crews
You should check the Russian Government Order N635 (Only in Russian language) to see if you qualify and consult your airline before travel. The Order N635 explains the approvals and documentation you will need to have before you commence your journey.
Demonstrating your COVID-19 status
Foreign passengers arriving in Russia should have a negative PCR test certificate in Russian or English. The test should be taken within 72 hours of the time of arrival in Russia. This includes children of all ages.
If a passenger arrives in Russia without a negative PCR test, they should have the test done within 72 hours from their arrival and self-isolate until they receive a negative PRC test.
The above requirements apply regardless of vaccination status.
Additional requirements apply to foreigners who enter Russia from the Eurasian Economic Union countries (Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan) and some CIS countries (Azerbaijan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) by air. Passengers arriving from these countries are required to receive a negative PCR COVID-19 test via the “Travelling without COVID-19” app and present the test result on the smartphone upon arrival. This does not apply to transit passengers travelling to Russia through the above countries. They are required to present a certificate for a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before their arrival in Russia and a proof of travel (tickets and/or boarding passes) for the entire route.
You should check the specific COVID-19 test requirements airlines have in place in advance of your flight. Airlines may refuse boarding if their requirements are not met.
Testing/screening on arrival
Passengers arriving by air may be temperature-checked and/or randomly selected for additional PCR testing on arrival.
In St Petersburg, express COVID tests can be carried out at Pulkovo airport.
A list of certified Russian laboratories is available at the official website of the Russian state regulator Rospotrebnadzor (only in Russian).
Anyone arriving into airports will be temperature-checked.
The Russian government requires all arriving passengers to obtain and present a negative COVID-19 test certificate dated less than 72 hours before travel. Airlines may require you to show this on check-in and some airlines require the certificate to be no more than 72 hours before arrival in your destination (please check with your airline). You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
From 4 September 2021 the Russian authorities no longer require travellers arriving from the UK to observe a 14 day quarantine period.
Passengers arriving for permanent work purposes including Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) visa holders are still required to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Russia.
Regular entry requirements
You’ll need to get a visa from the Russian Embassy before you travel. Processing times are up to 20 business days for standard service or up to 3 business days for urgent service depending upon the visa category applied for and the application itself.
As part of the visa application process, all applicants based in the UK aged 12 or over will need to visit a visa application centre to submit biometric data (scanned fingerprints). These are located in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. The Russian government requires biometric fingerprinting from all foreign nationals, including British nationals, when entering Russia.
From 25 August 2021, Russian Government introduced a simplified application procedure for tourist visas. Visitors can now use a booking with a registered Russian hotel, or confirmation from the registered Russian tourist agency to apply for a single, double or multi-entry tourist visa up to six months. The federal registry is available here (Russian only). Single entry visas are for the entire period of the hotel booking. Multi-entry tourist visa holders may remain in Russia for up to 90 cumulative days out of each 180 days of visa validity period.
From 1 September 2021, British nationals, who have Russian nationals as their immediate family members, can apply for multi-entry private visas to Russia for up to one year. The visa holders can remain in Russia without restriction for the entire visa validity period. Immediate family members include: spouse, parents (adoptive parents), children (adopted children), spouses of children, siblings and step-siblings, grandparents and grandchildren. Applicants will need a notarised hard copy of a letter of invitation from the Russian family member. Family members other than spouses, children and parents applying for a private multi-entry visa over three months will also need to have an HIV test certificate. The visa processing time is ten working days.
A British parent whose partner is Russian and has a child with their partner can also apply for a private visa. The applicant should present a hard copy of the letter of invitation from the Russian parent and the birth certificate of the child.
On receiving your visa you should check the details carefully including the validity dates and passport number to make sure they are correct. Make sure you’re aware of the terms and conditions attached to your visa before you travel. You should adhere to the validity and conditions of your visa while you’re in Russia, as the authorities strictly enforce all visa and immigration laws.
Overstaying your visa may result in fines, court hearings, deportation and a possible ban from re-entry.
Cruise or ferry passengers can stay in Russia for 72 hours without a visa if they have booked tours through officially licensed companies. You are free to use any authorised travel agency, not just cruise ship tour companies.
Cities where this applies are:
- St Petersburg
- Korsakov (Sakhalin Island)
If your passport is lost/stolen while ashore, you need to obtain a police report, travel to the British Embassy in Moscow for a replacement Emergency Travel Document, get an exit visa and pay a fine to leave Russia.
If it is not done within the 72-hour visa free regime, you will be facing a court hearing, fine, deportation and a possible ban from re-entry.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months after the expiry date of your visa.
It’s not possible to enter Russia using a visa in an expired passport, even if carried with a new, valid passport. You will need to either apply for a visa transfer or for a new visa. Further details are available from the Russian Embassy.
If you’re travelling on a British passport issued since January 2017, you should make sure you’ve signed your passport before you travel. Some British nationals who haven’t signed their new passports have been denied entry into Russia.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
If your passport is lost or stolen while you are in Russia, then you will need to obtain a police report from the nearest police station and get a UK Emergency Travel Document (ETD). Once you obtain these, then you will need to apply for an exit visa to leave Russia. 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 limited circumstances. Contact the nearest Russian embassy or consulate 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, consulate or migration office on the required length of ETD validity. UK ETDs 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.
You must sign an immigration card every time you arrive in Russia. This will be given to you at passport control. The card is in 2 identical parts. One part will be retained by the Immigration Officer. You should keep the other part safe as your departure from Russia could be delayed. Hotels, hostels or another receiving entity will not accept guests without an immigration card.
Travelling between Russia and Belarus
By air: British nationals flying to Russia from Belarus or to Belarus from Russia are subject to immigration control. If you’re transiting Russia when flying to/from Belarus, please contact the nearest Russian embassy or consulate to check if a transit visa is needed.
By road: There are no legal grounds for foreigners (including British nationals) to cross the land border between Russia and Belarus. If you’re planning on driving to Russia, you’ll need to take an alternative route through a different country.
By rail: If you’re planning on travelling by rail between the two countries, you should contact your train or tour operator when you make your booking to seek their advice. You should also consider contacting your nearest Russian embassy or consulate for advice on the latest situation for rail travellers.
Temporary travel restrictions across Russian land borders, including with Belarus, will be in place from 30 March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Duration of these remains unspecified.
You should make sure you have all the necessary visas for the duration of your travel.
You can import and export foreign currency up to USD 10,000 (or equivalent) without declaring it. And you can export foreign currency up to USD 3,000 (or equivalent) without declaring it.
If you import over USD 10,000 (or equivalent) or certain categories of goods (eg electrical items, jewellery, antiques, valuable musical instruments), you must complete a customs declaration form.
If you wish to import certain advanced electronic items (eg GPS instruments), you must get an operating licence from the Russian authorities before you travel. Check with your nearest Russian embassy or consulate for advice 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.
Keep receipts of any purchases in case you need to present them when you leave Russia.
There are strict regulations covering the export of antiques, artworks (including modern art and posters if they’re particularly rare or valuable) and items of historical significance bought in Russia or imported to Russia from abroad. You’ll need an export permit from the Ministry of Culture to export this type of material and each item must be declared at the point of departure. Don’t attempt to import or export items that require permits without the relevant paperwork as this is a serious offence.
For further information visit the website of the Russian Federal Customs Service.