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I am planning to visit a friend in Saint Petersburg soon. I'm from Germany and already obtained my tourist visa through a visa service. Last time I was in Russia (Moscow), I had to get an invitation from a service online (from Saint Petersburg) in order to get the visa, but this time the visa service made the invitation for me (although I did not receive an invitation document from them). On my visa it says it's from Moscow.

I remember that in Moscow nobody at immigration asked me about my trip or where I'm going to stay (probably because I'm a university age guy from Germany and not exactly at risk for immigrating illegally) but I'm wondering if I could run into problems if I can't produce a hotel reservation, so my question is: Am I allowed to stay at a private home with a tourist visa or could this be a problem at immigration?

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In my experience, most Russian border officials don't even speak English, and will rarely ask EU citizens a single question about their trip.

That said, to get a tourist visa you have to get a letter of invitation (LOI) either through a hotel or an agency selling LOI:s. Many LOI agencies don't require you to book a hotel with them, but do not tell them you're staying at a friend's.

You won't get your LOI back after sending it to the embassy, and at the border you're only expected to present your visa and (if entering by land) filled-out migration card.

That said, technically what you seek to do is illegal, and if somehow caught (for example if hanging with your friend and stopped by the police, they'll see your friend is Russian and could investigate whether you're staying with them), your friend may actually be in bigger trouble than you, as it is a criminal offence for a Russian (or resident foreigner) to host a foreigner without permission to do so (in the shape of a private LOI, to be obtained through the Russian Federal Migration Service).

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    "It is a criminal offence for a Russian (or resident foreigner) to host a foreigner without permission to do so" -- I doubt this. It probably may be used as a pretext for "criminal prosecution" with twisted interpretation of laws and regulations, as is the habit in Russia, but I am pretty sure there is actually no such law.
    – ach
    Dec 17, 2017 at 9:06
  • ^ you may doubt it, but it is true. By Russian law, a host is required to register any foreign guests within 7 days of arrival. Failure to do so can bring investigation, fines and/or even jail time depending on the circumstances. My mother in law always takes me down to the post office to register me every time I visit them in Russia. They take it seriously. These days they are cracking down on migration very strictly due to terrorism.
    – AussieJoe
    Apr 28 at 6:22
  • @AussieJoe Damn, do the FMS outsource it to post offices? Or can one choose between going to an FMS office or a post office?
    – Crazydre
    Apr 28 at 7:29

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