Passports and Visas

Russia has some of the most stringent visa rules in the world. Americans traveling to Russia should prepare well in advance and expect to pay from $140 to $540 for an entry visa, depending on your purpose of travel. To apply for a visa, Americans should have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the visa expiration date, with at least 2 blank pages, at least 21 days in advance of your trip. Print out this form from the Russian Consulate website ( You must fill it out and bring with you all the required documents: your passport; two passport photos; confirmation letters and official itineraries from a Russian travel agency, hotel, or cruise line you'll be using (to prove that you have confirmed reservations) or a properly endorsed business invitation from a host organization; a self-addressed stamped envelope; and the application fee. Guidelines are similar for citizens of Canada, U.K. and Australia. Go To Russia ( is a useful resource for obtaining a visa. Easing of the process for Olympic travelers is in the works at the moment, so keep checking the Russian Consulate website for details.

Children, even infants, need a valid passport with a visa to enter Russia. A signed letter from one parent is required either explaining that the child will be traveling with that parent or that the child will be traveling alone. A copy of the parent's passport with the bio and visa page and—in case the child and the parent have different last names—a birth certificate of the child are also required.

It's very important that you fill out a migration card and get it stamped while passing though passport control once you get to Russia. These white cards are automatically issued on some flights, but not all. It's possible to enter the country without one, but not having a card can cause trouble with things like hotel registration problems and document checks by police. If you're not given a card, ask for one (migratsionnaya karta for one, migratsionnye karty for several) or look for them on stands in the arrivals hall.

Once in Russia, you will need to register your visa within 72 hours of your arrival (excluding weekends and official holidays). If you are staying at a hotel, they can register your visa for a small fee, usually around 300R, but they may charge up to 1,000R. If you are staying in an apartment, your visa must be registered by your landlord. The landlord will need to fill out a notification form indicating your passport and migration card details and present his or her passport registered at the same apartment to the local police precinct (in Moscow) or FMS office (in other cities). If you don't register your visa, you may be detained by police, fined on departure, and possibly even prevented from boarding your plane. Citizens of Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom must also obtain a visa to enter Russia. The procedures are similar to those outlined above for American citizens.

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