Travel Documents You Need
The entry requirements for Russia, Ukraine an all other countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union vary depending on the country you are a citizen of. This is because most countries take a reciprocal approach for entrance requirements to their countries that they have diplomatic relationships with. Most western countries place some form of control on the entrance of Russian and Eastern European citizens so Russia and other Eastern European countries responds in kind through their entrance Visa requirements. The only way to know for sure what the current entrance requirements are for you is to contact the nearest Consulate office or Embassy of the country you want to visit or use an experienced Visa service such as VisaToRussia or Passports&Visas.com.
In order to enter Russia and most other countries you will need a national Passport and an entrance Visa. Both of these documents take several weeks to obtain unless you wish to pay a much higher fee for express service so it is prudent to plan ahead.
A Passport is an official government document that certifies a personís identity and citizenship. The passport serves two purposes: to regain entry to the country of citizenship (i.e. the United States) and is also required by many countries to gain entry into the country you wish to visit (i.e. Russia, Ukraine, etc.). If you are contemplating a foreign trip to any destination and donít already have a passport, get one as soon as possible. If you already have a passport make sure it will still be valid at least 1-6 months after your anticipated return. If either of these cases is not true for you then you will need to apply for a new passport or renew your existing one. Passports&Visas.com can help you will this need.
A Visa is an official government document, issued by the country you want to visit, that temporarily authorizes you to enter and stay in their country for a designated amount of time. The visa is in the form of a stamp affixed to blank Passport pages. You will need to submit your valid Passport with your Visa application so make sure you have your passport in hand so you can apply for a visa when necessary. There are several different types of Visas a country will issue. The type of Visa will depend on the reason (tourist or business), duration (up to 30 days or longer) or number of entries (single entry or multiple entries) of your visit. Contact the closest Consulate or Embassy of your destination country or Passports&Visas.com for details of the types of Visas that are offered. Here is a sample of a Russian and Ukrainian Visa with an explanation on how to read them.
If you are traveling to Russia, whether for business or tourism, you must obtain your Visa from your local Russian Consulate in advance of your trip. In order to obtain a Visa from the Consulate you must provide them with your Passport, application forms, payment and an Invitation from an authorized Russian travel agency or hotel registered with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This Invitation is also referred to as Visa Support or Support. Although a Russian citizen can obtain an Invitation for you this can be a tedious and lengthy process. It is much more efficient to obtain an Invitation from an authorized Visa service such as VisaToRussia for a small fee (starting at $30). You can use the Invitation they provide you to submit with your application to the Consulate or you can have Passports&Visas.com provide the Invitation ($30) and submit the whole package to the Consulate on your behalf. Passports&Visas.com charges a service fee of $65 for their processing of your Visa Application. This is in addition to the Consulate Fee for the Visa which start at $70 if you have at least two weeks for processing time and go as high as $300 if you need same day processing. This is one example of how costly it can be if you procrastinate, so plan ahead to avoid an unnecessary expense.
Once you have received your Visa from the consulate you will be able to travel to Russia. The airline will not allow you to board the plane without proper documents and the Russian authorities will not let you out of the arrival airport if you donít have a valid Passport and Visa so protect these valuable documents and donít forget to bring them with you on your day of departure.
After you have successfully entered Russia, kissed your lady and adjusted to the change in time zones you have one more task to fulfill regarding your Visa. Russian law requires you to register your Visa within 3 working days of your arrival in Russia (72 hours, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and public Holidays). The registration is a small stamp in your Passport. If you donít register your Visa, you may be fined by police (if they stop you) and by Passport Control officials when you leave Russia. The registration fee varies from $0.5 to $20 US and is less than possible fines ($3 to police and $100 to Passport Control). If you are staying at a hotel, the hotel will register your visa. You will be asked for your visa and passport. A small registration fee may be charged for their service. If you are not staying in a hotel then you will need to register you Visa with the local UVIR office. You may face a long wait of several hours dealing with this bureaucracy and difficulties if you donít speak Russian. Instead you can use the local offices of VisaToRussia or Ost-West in Moscow or St. Petersburg to register your Visa for you.
When your visit to Russia is over you will present your Passport with a Registered Visa to Passport Control at the airport before you are able to gain access to airlines boarding gates.