Entering and staying in the Russian Federation
The Russian government maintains a restrictive visa regime for foreign nationals who visit, pass through, or reside in the Russian Federation. Please be aware that Russian immigration and visa laws change regularly, and the implementation of new regulations has not always been predictable.
To enter Russia for any purpose, a foreign national (excluding most nationals of CIS countries) must possess a bona fide visa issued by a Russian Embassy or Consulate and a valid passport. It is impossible to obtain an entry visa upon arrival, so travellers must apply for their visas well in advance. Foreign nationals who arrive in Russia without an entry visa will not be permitted to enter the country, and face immediate return to the point of embarcation at their own expense.
A visa is a document issued on the basis of an invitation for entry into the Russian Federation. The visa determines the length of time a foreign national may stay in Russia (please see further details if you wish to enter with a business visa). The first date indicates the earliest day a foreign national may enter Russia, whilst the second date indicates the date by which a foreign national is obliged to leave Russia. A Russian visa is only valid for those exact dates and cannot be extended after entering the country, excluding emergencies. A Russian visa is not a stamp in your passport but a printed page (with a holograph to avoid counterfeit) that is glued into the passport.
Foreign nationals 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 or may even be denied a visa from that country.
Documents required for foreign nationals staying in Russia:
- valid passport
- valid visa (if a visa regime is stipulated by Law)
- immigration card
- immigration registration
- work permit (if the purpose of the visit is employment)
Upon entry, visitors are required to fill in immigration cards (see illustration), which are usually distributed to passengers on incoming flights and available at arrival points in Russia.
Foreign visitors should be aware that there are several closed cities and regions in Russia. Travelers who attempt to enter these areas without prior authorisation are subject to penalties. While applying for a visa all areas to be visited should be carefully listed.