Russia - Consular Information Sheet
October 4, 2000
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Russia is a nation undergoing profound
political and economic change. Recent economic difficulties include
many bank closures. Travelers cannot access money easily, if at
all, via credit card advances or wire transfers even at major
hotels. While good tourist facilities exist in Moscow, St. Petersburg
and some other large cities, they are not developed in most of
Russia, and many goods and services taken for granted in other
countries are not yet available. Travel to the Caucasus region
of Russia is dangerous. The Department of State recommends Americans
not travel to Chechyna and adjoining areas and if they are there,
to depart immediately. Travelers may need to cross great distances,
especially in Siberia and the Far East, to obtain services from
Russian government organizations, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow,
or one of the three consulates in Russia: St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg,
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: All Americans traveling to or
transiting through Russia must have a passport and visa. The Russian
visa, unlike that of most other countries, is considered an entry
and exit visa. Travelers who arrive without a passport or entry
visa may be subject to large fines, days of processing requirements
imposed by Russian officials, and/or immediate departure by route
of entry (at the traveler's expense).
Visas, other than for transit purposes, are issued based on support
from a Russian individual or organization - a sponsor. It is very
important to know who the sponsor is (usually a tour agency or
hotel) and how to contact the sponsor, as Russian law allows only
the sponsor to apply for replacement, extension, or changes to
your visa. The U.S. Embassy cannot act as a sponsor. Travelers
should verify their sponsor before departure from the United States.
All foreigners must have an exit visa to depart Russia. For short
stays, the exit visa is issued along with the entry visa and is
only valid until the date listed on the visa. All travelers who
spend more than three days in Russia must register their visa
through their hotel or sponsor. Visitors who overstay their visa's
validity, even for one day, or who neglect to register their visa,
may be prevented from leaving. Errors in dates or other information
on the visa can occur, and it is helpful to have someone who reads
Russian check the visa before departing the U.S.
Any person applying for a visa for a stay of more than three
months must present a certificate showing that the individual
is HIV-negative. The certificate must contain the applicant's
passport data, proposed length of stay in Russia, blood test results
for HIV infection, including date of the test, signature of the
doctor conducting the test, medical examination results, diagnostic
series, and seal of the hospital/medical organization. The certificate
must be in both Russian and English and valid for three months
from the date of medical examination and blood test.
It is not necessary for travelers to have either entry or itinerary
points in the Russian Federation printed on their visas. All travelers
must continue to list on the visa application all areas to be
visited and subsequently register with authorities at each destination.
If travelers in Russia experience entry and exit visa problems
they and/or their sponsor must contact the nearest Russian visa
and passport office (OVIR) for assistance. Due to the possibility
of random document checks by police, U.S. citizens should carry
their passports and registered visas or photocopies thereof. Failure
to provide proper documentation can result in detention and/or
There are a number of closed cities throughout Russia. Travelers
who attempt to enter these cities without prior authorization
are subject to fines, court hearings and/or deportation. Travelers
should check with their sponsor, hotel or the nearest Russian
visa and passport office (OVIR) before travelling to unfamiliar
cities and towns.
For information concerning entry and exit requirements, travelers
may contact the
Russian Embassy, Consular Section, 2641 Tunlaw Rd., NW, Washington,
DC 20007 (tel (202) 939-8907; website), or the Consulates in New
York, San Francisco, or Seattle.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Due to continued civil and political
unrest throughout most of the Caucasus region of Russia, the Department
of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to the areas of Chechnya,
all areas bordering Chechnya, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Dagestan,
Stavropol, Karachayevo-Cherkessiya and Kabardino-Balkariya. United
States Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to these
areas and American citizens residing in these areas should depart
immediately as the safety of Americans and other foreigners cannot
be effectively guaranteed. Throughout the region, local criminal
gangs routinely kidnap foreigners, including Americans, for ransom.
U.S. citizens have disappeared in Chechnya and remain unaccounted
for. In December 1998, four foreign hostages were decapitated
by their captors. Close contacts with the local population do
not guarantee safety. The U.S. Government's ability to assist
Americans who travel to the Northern Caucasus is extremely limited.
Acts of terrorism, including bombings, continue in large Russian
cities. These bombings have occurred at Russian government buildings,
hotels, tourist sites, residential complexes and on public transportation.
While Americans have not been singled out in these attacks, travelers
should be alert for unusual behavior, unattended luggage in public
areas, and other common indicators that something out of the ordinary
is in progress.
Travelers should be aware that in Russia certain activities,
which would be normal business activities in the United States
and other countries, are still either illegal under the Russian
legal code or are considered suspect by the FSB (Federal Security
Service). Americans should be particularly aware of potential
risks involved in any commercial activity with the Russian military-industrial
complex, including research institutes, design bureaus, and production
facilities or other high technology, government-related institutions.
Any misunderstanding or dispute in such transactions can attract
the involvement of the security services and lead to investigation
or prosecution for espionage. Rules governing the treatment of
information remain poorly defined. During the last several years,
there have been a number of such incidents involving the arrest
and/or detention of U.S. citizens. While the U.S. Embassy has
had consular access to these individuals, arrested Americans faced
lengthy sentences -- sometimes in deplorable conditions -- if
convicted. In the most recent case, the arrested American's health
suffered and he was not allowed to receive independent medical
evaluations or treatment despite the Embassy's efforts.
CRIME INFORMATION: Crime against foreigners is a problem,
especially in major cities. Pickpocketings, assaults, and robberies
occur frequently and at any time or place. The most vulnerable
areas include underground walkways and the subway, overnight trains,
train stations, airports, markets, tourist attractions, restaurants,
hotel rooms, and residences, even when locked or occupied. Groups
of children are known to assault and rob foreigners on city streets
or underground walkways. Foreigners who have been drinking alcohol
are especially vulnerable to assault and robbery in or around
nightclubs or bars, or on their way home. Robberies may occur
in taxis shared with strangers. Travelers have found it safer
to travel in groups.
There has been an increase in the harassment of and attacks on
foreigners particularly those of Asian and African descent by
"skinhead" groups, individuals, and, in a few cases,
by local militia in some urban centers. Travelers, particularly
those of Asian and African descent, are urged to exercise caution
in crowded and places frequented by "skinhead" groups,
including the various "rynoks" or open markets in all
Demonstrations are frequently held in front of the U.S. Embassy
and Consulates. While these demonstrations have been peaceful
and controlled, it is best to avoid such gatherings.
Extortion and corruption are common in the business environment.
Organized criminal groups target foreign businesses in many cities
and have been known to demand protection money under threat of
serious violence. Many Western firms hire security services, which
have improved their overall security, although this is no guarantee.
Small businesses are particularly vulnerable. Since the mid 1990's,
several American business people have been attacked, kidnapped,
and even killed. U.S. citizens are encouraged to report all extortion
attempts to the Russian authorities and to inform consular officials
at the U.S. Embassy or nearest consulate.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported
immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or
Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's
pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad
for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet
is available by mail from the
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,
or via the
Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care is usually far below
Western standards, with severe shortages of basic medical supplies.
Access to the few quality facilities that exist in major cities
usually requires cash payment at Western rates upon admission.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulates maintain lists of such facilities
and English-speaking doctors. Many resident Americans travel to
the West for virtually all of their medical needs; such travel
can be very expensive if undertaken under emergency conditions.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always
valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs
do not provide payment for medical services outside the United
States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment
for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care
overseas may face extreme difficulties.
Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your
policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation,
and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring
hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States
can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment
will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you
will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance
policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for
disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas
insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau
of Consular Affairs brochure Medical
Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via
the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Tick-borne encephalitis has
been reported in the vicinity of Novosibirsk, Vladivostok and
in the Sverdlovsk Oblast. Pre-exposure vaccination is recommended
for anyone who will be spending prolonged periods outdoors in
the infested areas of Russia.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may
be obtained from the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international
travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX
(1-888-232-3299), or via their Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign
country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ
significantly from those in the United States. The information
below concerning Russia is provided for general reference only,
and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
Inclement weather and lack of routine maintenance of roads and
vehicles make road conditions throughout Russia highly variable.
Drivers and pedestrians should exercise extreme caution to avoid
accidents, which are commonplace. Travelers may which to take
extra precautions when hiring local drivers. Heavy alcohol consumption
is frequently a contributing factor in accidents. Traffic police
sometimes stop motorists to extract cash "fines," and
bandits occasionally prey on travelers.
For additional information about road safety, see the Department
of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road
safety overseas feature.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: After extensive joint reviews
with the Federal Aviation Authority of Russia (FAAR), the U.S.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has concluded under its
International Aviation (IASA) Program that the FAAR oversees and
licenses Russia's air carriers in accordance with international
safety oversight provisions.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department
of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit
Internet website. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately
assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official
providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy
on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
Air travel within Russia can at times be unreliable. Flight schedules
are sometimes subject to last minute changes. Russian-based airlines
are striving to improve the quality of service although they generally
fall short of western standards.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Russian customs laws and regulations
are in a state of flux and are not consistently enforced. When
arriving in Russia travelers must declare all items of value on
a customs form; the same form used during arrival in Russia must
be presented to customs officials at the time of departure. As
of August 1999, travelers must declare all foreign currency they
are bringing into Russia. Non-residents of Russia are prohibited
from taking any cash money in currency other than the Russian
ruble out of the country unless it has been declared upon arrival.
Those with stamped declaration forms may exit Russia with a sum
of foreign currency no greater than the sum declared upon entry.
Lost or stolen customs forms should be reported to the Russian
police, and a police report (spravka) should be obtained to present
to customs officials upon departure. Often, however, the traveler
will find that the lost customs declaration cannot easily be replaced.
Travelers should obtain receipts for all high-value items (including
caviar) purchased in Russia. Any article that could appear old
to the customs service, including icons, samovars, rugs, and other
antiques, must have a certificate indicating that it has no historical
value. It is illegal to remove such items from Russia without
this certificate. These certificates may be obtained either from
the vendor of the item or from the Russian ministry of culture.
For further information, Russian speakers may call the customs
service of the Russian Federation in Moscow at (7) (095) 265-6629
The importation and use of global positioning system (GPS) devices
are subject to special rules and regulations. In recent incidents
foreigners, including U.S. citizens, using such devices were detained
by Russian authorities and faced various charges, including espionage.
No traveler should seek to import or use GPS equipment in any
manner unless it has been properly and fully documented before
arrival and is declared in full on a customs declaration at the
point of entry to the Russian Federation.
Permission for radio electronic devices, including cellular phones,
may be required from the state customs committee of the Russian
Federation. The committee has stated that there are no restrictions
on bringing laptop computers into the country for personal use.
The software, however, may be inspected upon departure. Some equipment
and software have been confiscated because of the data contained
or due to software encryption, which is standard in many programs.
Russia also has very strict rules on the importation of large
quantities of medication. It is advisable to contact the Russian
Embassy or one of Russia's Consulates for specific information
regarding this or other customs regulations.
general information sheet on the importation and use of GPS devices,
radio-electronic equipment, and computers in Russia is available
on the Internet , from the Department of State automated telefax
at (202) 647-3000, or from the American Citizens Services unit
of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow or U.S. Consulates in elsewhere
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S.
citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which
sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States
and may not afford the protections available to the individual
under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe
than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating
Russian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs
in Russia are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences
and heavy fines.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The ruble is the only legal tender.
It is illegal to pay for goods and services in U.S. dollars except
at authorized retail establishments. Old or very worn dollar bills
are often not accepted at banks and exchange offices, even though
this constitutes a violation of currency laws. Travelers checks
and credit cards are not widely accepted outside of Moscow and
St. Petersburg. Even in these cities, the acceptance of credit
cards is subject to change. The dollar-ruble exchange rate has
fluctuated widely at times. Travelers should expect some difficulty
in obtaining dollars in Russia, although dollars can be easily
exchanged into rubles. Travelers should not rely on automated
teller machines (ATM) for cash. There have been several reports
of credit card and ATM fraud in Russia. When using a credit card,
attempt to keep your card in view at all times. Watch the merchant
scan your card and ask that he or she return it immediately. Americans
who choose to obtain cash from ATM's should not use stand alone
machines, such as those found in metro stations or on street corners.
If you must obtain cash, use a machine bearing the name of a well-known
bank or credit card institution. Theft involving the capture of
electronic ATM and credit card data has also been reported. Major
hotels or the American Express offices in Moscow or St. Petersburg
may be able to suggest locations for cashing travelers checks
or obtaining cash advances on credit cards. Western Union agents
in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and some other large cities disburse
money wired from the U.S.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: Russia's adoption law allows U.S. citizens
and foreigners to adopt Russian orphans if no Russian family applies
to adopt them. For information
on international adoption of children and international child
support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site
or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: Americans
living in or visiting Russia are encouraged to register at the
Consular Section of the
U.S. Embassy in Russia and obtain updated information on travel
and security within Russia. The U.S. Embassy is located in Moscow
at Novinskiy Bulvar 19/23; Tel. (7) (095) 728-5000, Fax (7) (095)
728-5084. After hours emergencies: (7) (095) 728-5109. Also monitor
the Embassy's website or e-mail at Consulmo@state.gov
U.S. Consulates are located at:
St. Petersburg: Ulitsa Furshtadskaya 15; tel (7-812) 275-1701;
fax (7-812) 110-7022; after hours (7-812) 274-8692. The e-mail
address is Acs_stpete@state.gov.
Ulitsa Pushkinskaya 32, Tel. (7) (4232) 30-00-70. FAX (7)(4232)
30-00-91. After hours emergencies: (7) (4232) 26-84-58 and (7)
(4232) 21-52-90. Monitor the Consulate's Internet home page.
Ulitsa Gogolya 15a, 4th Floor tel (7-3432) 62-98-88; and (7-3432)
564-744; fax (7-3432) 564-515. After hours emergencies within
Yekaterinburg: (8)(29) 05-15-06. After hours emergencies elsewhere
in Russia for Yekaterinburg: (8)(3439) 05-15-06. Monitor the Consulate's
Internet home page or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.