Entrance and customs rules
Border Crossing Guidance
Make sure you have all the necessary documents, including your passport (which should be valid for at least 6 months after the end of your stay); tickets and documents for return or onward travel; a valid Russian visa; HIV Certificate (if required); medical insurance (if required); and any other required documents.
Before leaving for Russia, make several copies of your passport and visa. Leave one at home with an emergency contact and keep an additional set with you separately from your actual passport. Having these copies makes replacing your passport and visa easier in the event of loss or theft.
When you arrive, you will first pass through passport control, then customs. Forms need to be filled out for each of these processes. Migration cards will be handed out during your flight to Russia (if you are arriving by land or sea you will usually need to ask for a card at the immigration post). These cards consist of two identical parts printed either side-to-side or top-to-bottom. Both parts need to be filled out, in either English or Russian.
The card is straightforward to complete, but here are some hints:
- Under ‘Given name(s)’, print both your first and middle names.
- Leave ‘Patronymic’ blank.
- Remember to list dates by day/month/year.
- For ‘Passport or other ID’, write ‘passport’ and fill out the number.
- For ‘Purpose of travel’, underline ‘Tourism’ or ‘Business’.
- Under ‘Name of host person or company’, write the name of company which issued your invitation.
- Make sure the dates indicated under ‘Duration of stay’ are from the current date to the departure date indicated in your visa.
Having filled out the card, you will need to queue to go through passport control. Make sure you choose the line for foreign nationals. An immigration official will take your passport and migration card from you and stamp your passport and the card, removing one half of the card and placing the other half in your passport. It is very important that you do not lose your migration card. If you do, you will need to pay a heavy fine.
After going through immigration, you will need to retrieve your luggage and fill out a customs declaration form. Tourists normally have nothing to declare and customs officials do not collect forms from people passing through the green channel (for people with nothing to declare). If you do have something to declare, you should pass through the red channel, present what you are declaring and have your customs declaration stamped so that you can then take the item/s out of the country when you leave.
Items that need to be declared include:
- Amounts of cash exceeding USD 10,000 (if you plan to leave the country with this money).
- Items of particular value, includingjewellery, artwork, or antiques.
- Musical instruments.
- Goods with a value exceeding EUR 2,000 and weighing over 35 kg.
- Weapons and drugs.
- Alcohol over 2 litres.
- Tobacco (more than 50 cigars, 100 cigarillos, 200 cigarettes, or 250 g of pipe tobacco).
If you do not declare these items on entering the country, you may not be allowed to take them out with you. Money needs to be declared only if you are planning to leave the country with a large sum, as you cannot leave the country with more money than you brought in without paying taxes. Personal computers (if you bring only one) and other electronic devices do not need to be declared. Bringing in items such as drugs and weapons without permission, whether they are declared or not, may lead to your arrest.
The customs declaration form is straightforward to complete and is usually available in several languages.
Departure from Russia
Leaving is very similar to entering the country, except that you first go through customs and then passport control. When going through customs you will need to declare any artwork or antiques (including old books) you have purchased. In general terms, anything made before 1941 is considered to be an antique, and you will need special permission to take it out of the country.
Anyone who filled out a customs declaration on arrival will need to pass through the red channel, presenting their declaration from when they arrived and the items declared. If you have lost your declaration, you may not be able to take those items out of the country. If you declared nothing on arrival and have bought nothing that you need to declare upon departure, you can pass through the green channel and proceed to check-in.
Having checked in, you will need to go through passport control, where you will get an exit stamp put into your passport and your migration card will betaken from you. When departing, make sure you have a copy of your Russian visa registration, otherwise you may be fined. The fine is about USD 200, or RUB 5,000. Once you have passed through passport control, you will be in the international area.
- Before booking your tickets, please check the start date of your visa. You cannot enter the country before this date. Before booking your return tickets, please check the expiry date of your visa. Travellers overstaying the validity of their visa, even by one day, will be prevented from leaving until their sponsor intervenes and requests a visa extension on their behalf. Make sure you pay attention to the visa regulations and your travel dates, and you should have no problems entering and exiting the country.
- Items of considerable value, such as diamond jewellery, should be noted on the customs declaration on entry. All such valuables must be re-exported, or an import duty will be charged.
- On arrival and departure all items go through an X-ray machine.
- Migration cards are available at all ports of entry from Russian passport control officials (border guards). The cards are normally distributed to passengers on incoming flights and are also available from racks at arrival points. Lost/stolen migration cards cannot be replaced.