Foreign travel advice

Russia

Important COVID-19 travel guidance

From 5 November to 2 December 2020, travelling away from home, including internationally, is restricted from England except in limited circumstances such as for work or for education. Different rules apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You must follow all the rules that apply to you.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides guidance on COVID and non-COVID risks overseas. The FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel to many countries and territories on the basis of COVID risks. You should check the travel advice for your destination.

Travel disruption is possible worldwide. Other countries may bring in new measures with little notice such as border closures, movement restrictions or quarantine rules. Travellers should be prepared to stay overseas longer than planned.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory that you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to 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, temporary restrictions on entry and exit via Russia’s land borders were enforced. The duration of these remains unspecified. The restrictions do not apply to certain groups, including members of diplomatic missions and highly qualified specialists. If you think you qualify under this group, you should speak to your employer.

On 1 August 2020, the Russian authorities lifted restrictions on international flights from a number of countries, including the UK. Individual airlines will have up-to-date flight information.

Foreign passengers arriving from the UK who hold British citizenship (or other foreign nationals with permanent residence in the UK) are permitted to enter Russia, providing they have a valid visa, can demonstrate their citizenship or residence, and comply with other entry requirements (see below).

UK nationals are currently unable to enter from a country other than the UK, unless they have documented proof of their citizenship of the country of their departure or permanent residence in the country of their departure. Holders of diplomatic and other special visas are exempt from this requirement.

You should check the specific COVID-19 test requirements airlines have in place in advance of your flight. Different airlines have different requirements and may refuse boarding if they are not met.

In Moscow, express PCR COVID-19 tests are available in Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo airports as well as in a number of state and private clinics.

On 24 September the Russian President extended the temporary measures to regulate the legal status of foreign citizens and stateless persons in Russia in connection with the threat of the spread of a new coronavirus infection.

The period of temporary stay or permanent residence in Russia for foreigners and stateless persons, earlier extended until September 15, will be in place until December 15. During these three months, foreigners will not have to renew documents on temporary stay in Russia, including visa extensions, registration deadlines at the place of stay, temporary and permanent residence, including the extension of a residence permit. Besides, during the period of March 15 — December 15, 2020, no decisions will be made regarding deportation, repatriation or handover to another country of foreigners and stateless persons.

Also, relevant governmental agencies will make no decisions on reducing the period of temporary stay in Russia and stripping a person of the refugee status, as well as on revoking previously issued visas, work permissions, patents and residence permits. The only exception will be made for foreigners and stateless persons who are being released from prisons, violate border regulations or pose a threat to Russia’s national security.

Testing / screening on arrival

Anyone arriving into airports will be temperature-checked.

Quarantine requirements

The Russian government requires all arrivals 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 (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.

Passengers arriving for permanent work purposes including Highly Qualified Specialist (HQS) visa holders also have to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival in Russia. All other arrivals are not required to self-isolate if arriving on a regularly scheduled flight, provided they can show a negative test certificate.

However, you will be required to self-isolate if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 and/or if you test positive for COVID-19. You will be required to self-isolate until you have recovered and tested negative for COVID-19 on a PCR test. You should comply with any additional screening measures put in place by the authorities.

Regular entry requirements

Visas

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.

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 ships

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
  • Kaliningrad
  • Vladivostok
  • Sochi
  • Vyborg
  • Korsakov (Sakhalin Island)
  • Novorossiysk

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.

Passport validity

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.

ETDs

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.

Immigration cards

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.

Customs

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.