Russia without visa
Author: Dmitry Shakhmatov, Senior Lawyer at Accountor Russia
Unlike most countries, Russia is reluctant to simplify the conditions for regular passport holders, whether tourists or businessmen, to cross its borders. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, nationals from only 50 countries and territories are entitled to visa-free entry to Russia. These are, in particular, passport holders from the CIS countries, most Latin American countries, as well as Israel, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macao, and others. There are, however, exceptions to the general visa rules also for other countries (for example, travel to Russia without visa or a free e-visa). We review the options available to date in more detail below.
FIFA World Cup 2018
The easiest way to travel to Russia without visa in 2018 is to purchase a FIFA World Cup ticket and get a FAN ID at www.fan-id.ru
FAN ID allows multi-entry to Russia without a visa as follows:
- Entry from June 04, 2018 to July 15, 2018;
- Departure from June 04, 2018 to July 25, 2018.
- New rule works since August 3rd, 2018: foreign nationals who attended matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup as spectators may enter and exit the Russian Federation without visas, having only their passports and FAN IDs obtained before or during the sports competition. This rule will be effective to December 31, 2018 (Updated on August 4, 2018)
In addition to visa-free entry, FAN ID also confers the right to free train travels between cities hosting football matches and to free public transport in those cities on match days.
There is a fly in the ointment, though. Foreigners arriving in the cities where World Cup matches will be played will be required, from May 25, 2018 to July 25, 2018, to register with the migration service within 24 hours of arrival. And if foreign nationals do not stay in a hotel, they will have to register with the migration service on their own.
Participation in public events
Russian legislation has made it easier since 2008 for participants in international sports, cultural, scientific and business events to visit Russia. The list of such events is constantly growing and now includes Tchaikovsky International Competition, St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum, Moscow International Education Fair, and some others. When foreign nationals wish to attend such events, they do not need to apply for a regular visa as an accredited certificate replacing visas is issued by the event organizers to foreign nationals traveling to Russia to be at their events.
8 days in the Russian Far East
A simplified procedure for obtaining business, tourist or humanitarian visas was put in place in 2018 for nationals from eighteen countries(including Japan, Turkey, China, North Korea, Singapore, India, Iran, Mexico, Brunei, as well as Gulf countries, and certain North African countries) arriving in Russia via the free port of Vladivostok. It is sufficient for nationals from these 18 countries to fill out a questionnaire at evisa.kdmid.ru. No visa fee is charged. Valid for 30 days, these e-visas grant a stay of up to 8 days, but they cannot be extended. They allow crossing the Russian border at Vladivostok airport (Knevichi), Vladivostok ports, Zarubino, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Korsakov and Posyet, as well as in several railway and road checkpoints on the border with China and North Korea. The main limitation for e-visa holders is that these visas allows staying only in the constituent of the Russian Federation via which the visa holders enter Russia. In other words, e-visa holders will not be able to visit both Kamchatka and Sakhalin in one trip.
From July 01, 2019 it will be possible to obtain e-visas to visit a western enclave of Russia, i.e. the Kaliningrad region, but there is yet no list of countries whose citizens will be able to enjoy such right.
72 hours for sea and river tourists
Cruise or ferry passengers are entitled to stay in Russia without visa for 72 days. The list of ports open to such passengers includes, in particular, St. Petersburg, Vyborg, Kaliningrad, Novorossiysk, Sevastopol, Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, and Vladivostok.
Cruise or ferry passengers must stay either aboard their ship or, if they arrive by ferry, in the place selected by their tour operator. They can stay only in the specified and pre-agreed area.
24 hours in airport
Passengers of international flights with transfers are entitled to stay 24 hours in Russia without visa. Such stay can hardly be considered a country visit, though, as no exit from the airport transit zone is provided.
Citizens of borderline states
International agreements allow citizens of neighboring countries to visit some regions of Russia without visa. For example, Japanese nationals are entitled to visa-free visits to southern Kuril Islands, while Norwegian citizens may visit certain Russian municipalities on the basis of permits issued by the Russian Consulate. In the latter case, borders may be crossed only by road. An agreement with Latvia allows people residing in border areas to visit without visa certain localities in the Pskov region situated no more than 30 km from the border. Permits for visa-free visit are issued by Russian consular offices. Their validity period, terms of issue and cost are determined in agreements between relevant countries.
What documents are required to visit Russia without visa?
Foreign nationals visiting Russia should have:
- A valid identification document (passport) recognized in the Russian Federation;
- A health insurance policy;
- An immigration card.
Upon arrival in Russia, they should register with the migration service in a timely manner. Any host, whether hotel, hostel or apartment owner, must ensure that such registration is done. Usually, such registration is completed in hotels upon check-in, but if foreign nationals stay in an apartment, they will need to go to the migration service together with the apartment owner to submit their documents.