Most expats will need a visa to enter Russia, no matter the purpose or the duration of their stay. The country’s visa protocol is complicated, expensive and, for many people, the cause of much stress. Visas aren't generally granted at Russian border points, making it necessary to apply well in advance.

Russian police officers do not need reasonable cause to stop foreigners and request proof of their identity and the documents that give them the right to be in Russia. For this reason, it’s important that visitors carry their passport and visa at all times. Those who don’t may find themselves subject to fines and even possible arrest.

Unless an expat's home country has a reciprocal agreement with Russia they will need to obtain a tourist visa before arriving in the country. Though this can be a quick process, it’s still best to allow at least a month before travel to complete the application and to receive approval. Applicants must apply for a tourist visa at the Russian embassy or consulate in their home country by submitting the required documents. 

Immigration cards

Once entering Russia, tourists will also need to fill out an immigration card. Immigration cards should be kept in a safe place as they may be requested by a visitor's accommodation and other authorities.


Once they have arrived in Russia, foreigners must register their visa within seven working days. Most of the time a visitor's accommodation will assume this responsibility. However, if staying with friends or renting a holiday apartment, then the landlord will need to register the visa at the local police station or post office.


The process of getting a work permit for Russia is awash in bureaucracy and red tape. National quotas restricting the number of foreigners able to work in Russia change yearly depending on the country’s economic climate and government policies.

Expats earning a certain amount per year, as stipulated by the relevant authorities, are usually considered exempt from quotas, as they qualify as “highly skilled specialists”. As a result, expats with specialised, high-demand skills will find the process much easier.

Expats must find an employer who is authorised to sponsor a foreign worker. Once the employment contract has been finalised, the employing company will file an application for a work permit on behalf of the expat. Many of the larger foreign companies are familiar with this process and will inform the potential employee of the necessary documents required.

Upon application and approval of a work permit, the employing company will receive a formal visa invitation letter. They will pass this letter onto their expat employee who will use this document to apply for an entry visa – otherwise known as a work visa – at their home country’s Russian consulate or embassy. This will require the submission of a number of documents, and expats will also have to undergo a health check.