There are some important requirements to meet before entering Russia. “It’s all in the preparation” as the saying goes. We live in increasingly uncertain times – not least because of the ongoing situation in Ukraine and its knock-on effects across the world. It’s fair to assume that travel criteria will only get ‘tighter’ as the uncertainty continues. If you are planning a trip (to anywhere, frankly) it’s worth keeping abreast of the latest regulations that are likely to descend upon you arbitrarily and (possibly) with little or no warning.
Some degree of global awareness is beneficial to counter the repercussions that spill-over from other crises into your holiday. Terrorism and counter-activity has impacted upon Western air-travel generally, so new regulations may apply to your flight to Russia, as much as they do for flights to and from the Middle East. Governmental/ambassadorial sites are a good place to catch updated red-tape as it applies to travel from your home country.
As I have been reliably informed; when it comes to Russia, emerging regulations tend to ‘stick’. They tend to be implemented quickly and are very slowly revoked, if at all. This means there are more hoops to jump through but it’s not insurmountable. At the time of writing; the biggest recent change implemented on 10th December 2014 requires a visit to a Russian Embassy as part of the registration process. That’s London or Edinburgh if you live in the UK. Something of an inconvenience if you’re based in the Midlands or the South West, but it’s achievable.
This rule applies to every “Russian entry or transit visa application” for travellers above the age of 12. It’s worth noting that just appearing and answering a few questions is not enough: you will have your biometric data collected in the form of a fingerprint scan. Suddenly it’s serious.
The scheme was initially rolled out as a ‘pilot’ in the UK and other selected (diverse!) locations in anticipation of similar proposed measures for Russian travellers to Europe – due April 2015. Well, that’s the official line anyway. We might speculate that the current drift towards a new cold war has something to do with it (on both sides), but that doesn’t change the reality: you’re going to visit the Embassy. Fact.
It’s easy to lock into the stated visa turnaround of “10 days”, but ignore the qualifier “longer during busy periods” at your peril. Frankly, this is one of the first issues I’d get in motion, even with a proposed departure date over a month (or more) away. Odette at Russia Experience will guide you through. On a related issue, the visa will have entry and exit dates. The authorities that have granted them are not joking. Dates cannot be changed without prior, official permission and re-issue – a process that adds more time into the travel equation.
Being caught inside Russia with a lapsed visa is a situation that doesn’t bare thinking about. You will (most likely) find yourself delayed, detained, fined in a Russian court, deported and possibly banned from returning. Extensions from the Federal Migration Authorities can be granted – perhaps due to emergency – whilst the current visa is active. Russia Experience trips are ‘on rails’ (in more than one sense of the term), so this is an extremely unlikely scenario barring Force Majeure, though not impossible.
In addition to the visa’s dates, there are also the terms and conditions associated with the document – related to the type of visa that you have obtained. You’ll likely be shooting for “Tourist”, but there are also Private, Student, Work, Transit and Humanitarian categories – each with their own criteria. Again, it’s unlikely that specialist categories will apply here, but: “never say never”.
More preparations next time.
[Photo by limp182]