Passports and Visas
You must have a valid passport and visa to enter Russia. Within Russia you should carry your passport, visa, migration card, and registration card at all times. Make two photocopies of the data page of your passport (one for someone at home and another for you, carried separately from your passport). If you lose your passport, promptly call the nearest embassy or consulate and the local police.
U.S. citizens, even infants, need a valid passport to enter Russia for stays of any length, plus a visa. The passport should be valid for at least six months after the date you apply for the visa and must have at least two clear pages. U.S. passports are valid for 10 years. You must apply in person if you're getting a passport for the first time; if your previous passport was lost, stolen, or damaged; or if your previous passport has expired and was issued more than 15 years ago or when you were under 16. All children under 18 must appear in person to apply for or renew a passport. Both parents must accompany any child under 14 (or send a notarized statement with their permission) and provide proof of their relationship to the child.
There are 13 regional passport offices, as well as 7,000 passport acceptance facilities in post offices, public libraries, and other governmental offices. If you're renewing a passport, you can do so by mail. Forms are available at passport acceptance facilities and online.
The cost to apply for a new passport is $110 for adults, $80 for children under 16, plus a $25 execution fee; renewals for adults are $110. Allow six weeks for processing, both for first-time passports and renewals. For an expediting fee of $60 you can reduce this time to about two weeks. If your trip is less than two weeks away, you can get a passport even more rapidly by going to a passport office with the necessary documentation. Private expediters can get things done in as little as 48 hours, but charge hefty fees for their services.
You must have a valid visa to enter Russia for any length of time. Visa application procedures change frequently, so check the Russian Consulate's website for the latest information. At this writing, visa applicants must submit the following items to the Russian Consulate at least 21 days before departure: a printout of the visa application, 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 (between $140 and $450 for U.S. citizens, depending on what kind of visa—tourist, business, or multi-entry). The fee is higher if you need a faster turnaround time. Requirements vary slightly if you'll be staying as a guest in a private home or if you're traveling on business. Travel agencies have ways of getting around the advance hotel reservations requirement, but usually you must pay for at least one night's accommodation. Go To Russia (www.gotorussia.net) is a useful resource for obtaining a visa.
Once in Russia, you’ll need to register your visa within 72 hours (three days) of your arrival (excluding weekends and official holidays). If you’re 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’re 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 (commonly known as OVIR) 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 for American citizens.
U.S. Passport Information
U.S. Department of State. 877/487–2778; travel.state.gov/passport.
U.S. Passport and Visa Expediters
American Passport Express. 800/455–5166; 800/841–6778; www.americanpassport.com.
Passport Express. 800/362–8196; www.passportexpress.com.
Travel Document Systems. 800/874–5100; 202/638–3800; www.traveldocs.com.
Travel the World Visas. 866/886–8472; 301/495–7700; www.world-visa.com.
Russian Consulates General
Australia. Australia 7–9 Fullerton St., Woollahra, Sydney, New South Wales, 2025. 2/9326-1702; 2/9326–1866; www.sydneyrussianconsulate.com.
Canada. 175 Bloor St. E., South Tower, Suite 801, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3R8. 416/962–9911; www.toronto.mid.ru.
New Zealand. New Zealand 57 Messines Rd., Karori, Wellington, Wellington, 6012. 4/476–9548; 4/476–6742; www.newzealand.mid.ru.
U.K. 5 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, Greater London, W8. 0203/668–7474; www.rusemb.org.uk.
U.S.. 9 E. 91st St., New York, New York, 10128. 212/348–0926; www.ruscon.org.