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I am flying from Munich to Moscow on Lufthansa and the scheduled arrival time for my flight is at 23:55 on August 7th. However, the entry date on my Russian visa is August 8th. So I have a 5 minute window between the scheduled arrival time and my entry date.

I am pretty sure it would take more than 5 minutes to walk to passport control, and it would be well over midnight. However, do you think Lufthansa will have an issue and not board me on the flight because of my visa being valid 5 minutes after the scheduled arrival time?

Has anyone had similar experience of arriving just minutes before their visa gets valid?

[UPDATE]

I asked Lufthansa on two occasions - on the phone and via email- regarding this issue ("By the time I get to the customs, my visa will be valid for sure"), and both times I got "Our policy is that you must have valid visa before boarding. I advise you to either change your flight or visa".

After getting these answers, I did not want to risk the possibility of not being able to board my plane, especially I was travelling for work. So I asked my associates in Russia who booked my flight to change my flight date to comply with my entry date, which they did.

Thank you everyone for your comments.

  • 21
    Based on the limited sample set at FlightAware (uk.flightaware.com/live/flight/DLH2530), it seems this flight almost never arrives before midnight. Your issue will be at check-in, technically, you will not have a valid visa at the time of your arrival, however, it is extremely unlikely that you would encounter a Russian immigration official without one. You should be prepared to argue your case at check-in, and be prepared for the airline to say no as the penalties for landing someone in a country without the proper paperwork can be extreme. – Richard Jul 5 '18 at 10:13
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    I had an identical situation with India (which may be very different than Russia). I called the airline in advance and they said boarding would be no problem. Since I misconnected and arrived much later, I didn't fully test. – Andrew Lazarus Jul 5 '18 at 18:03
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    Could you not be the last one off the flight and just walk very slowly to the immigration desks? – ggdx Jul 6 '18 at 16:03
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    Please let us know how your history has finished. Looking forward to know! – Duloren Jul 6 '18 at 21:46
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    All the answers here are very imprecise. The airlines/Timotec almost certainly have an actual policy for this. – Fattie Jul 8 '18 at 18:03
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Technically, your visa is not valid when you are scheduled to land so boarding is a problem.

Practically, it will be perfectly valid by the time you reach the immigration counter, so you are dependent on the discretion of check-in staff. Be nice, they will let you board.

If your flight lands early then keep sitting in your seat and pretend that you like to disembark the airplane late and then walk slowly and join one of the longer lines at immigration to try to make it midnight before it’s your turn.

I was at DME recently at it took me 1 hour to reach the counter after coming out of the airplane.

  • 30
    It is even likely to be valid by the moment they open plane doors. – bipll Jul 5 '18 at 8:27
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    While I agree with the "be nice, they will (probably) let you board" thing, note that when buying the ticket, you have explicitly agreed with the airline's terms of service, which 100% sure says the opposite, and which 100% sure rules out you get compensation of any kind upon non-compliance. So... if this does go wrong, you need to be prepared to face a loss. Technically, you are non-compliant, unluckily (although insisting on that would be super stupid). – Damon Jul 5 '18 at 17:16
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The solution to your conundrum is to buy a fully refundable ticket from the same Russian airport on the following day. Since Russia allows for 24 hour visa-free transit you can always show your second ticket to the airport officials. And then once you're boarded your flight cancel the second ticket and later proceed to the immigration counter without any issues.

  • 4
    @user29850 you entering the aircraft is not a benefit, it's a service you've paid for. – JonathanReez Jul 6 '18 at 1:45
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    Note that it has to be internationalal flight. Domestics such as Moscow - St. Petersburg would not suffice since you have to pass immigration in Moscow to board it anyway. Otherwise it's a worthwhile solution for cases when you're not 5 mins early but let's say 5 hours. – alamar Jul 6 '18 at 9:13
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    @JonathanReez: it could be a fraud: if the decision to board you depends on that ticket, and you already know that you will not use it, and you are not telling them that you know that you will not use that ticked, you are deceiving staff. It is fraud. Fraud depends on doing thing on "good faith", not just doing all things mechanically in a legal way. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jul 6 '18 at 10:36
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    @GiacomoCatenazzi there are far stricter standards for what fraud is when it comes to relations between businesses and customers in Western law. For example buying a throwaway return ticket is legal to save money on one way fares, even though you're both lying to the airline and benefiting financially from it. I likewise fail to see anything morally wrong with my proposal, since you are going to be admitted to Russia without any issue despite some random employee's complaints about the missing 5 minutes. In any case you're likely to be boarded without having to lie about the return ticket. – JonathanReez Jul 6 '18 at 14:59
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    @JonathanReez. You don't have to lie about anything. You can literally just say that if for any reason your visa does not become active in time, you will use that ticket to leave. It's mutually beneficial insurance, not fraud. – Mad Physicist Jul 6 '18 at 20:12
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I think it's important to understand why an airline does check for valid visas before an individual is allowed to board an airplane. They are, at least in most cases, fined and liable for all the costs associated with deportation of a person who doesn't have a document proving they can enter the country.

Therefore, I do believe that you will not encounter any issues in this case. A person is allowed to stay in the transit area of the airport for up to 24 hours without a visa so I would even risk it with a few hours.

Where a problem might arise is during boarding since the automated system or a gate attendant/check-in agent might flag you as not having a valid document to enter the country. You might need to explain the situation and they might need to make a few calls so arrive early but especially if you have a western (preferably German or other EU) passport, it all should not matter.

Lastly, you can contact the airline.

  • 2
    "A person is allowed to stay in the transit area of the airport for up to 24 hours without a visa" That surely varies between countries, and is false for the US, for example. Are you claiming that Russia has this policy? – David Richerby Jul 5 '18 at 19:55
  • Yes, Russia has a policy where a foreign national can stay for up to 24 hours in the transit area of an airport. – L5usxe Jul 6 '18 at 9:59
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    24 hour visa free transit stay should be dependent on traveller producing an onward ticket (which is what another answer suggests) – RedBaron Jul 6 '18 at 10:42
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    @L5usxe OK, so please edit that into your answer. However, is that really the policy? Allowing visa-free transit is surely intended to allow actual transit, not just "being in the transit area for up to 24 hours". The asker is not transiting so it's not clear that your suggestion is OK (by the letter of the law or, more importantly by what Russia will enforce or, even more importantly, by what the airline thinks Russia might enforce). – David Richerby Jul 6 '18 at 14:19
  • Having a Western passport doesn't help here at all since none of then grant visa free access to Russia. – JonathanReez Jul 6 '18 at 15:01
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I have been in a situation where I boarded a plane without any valid visa.

(Long story, but it was a three-leg flight A–B–C, sold as a two-leg flight. The first two legs A–B shared the same flight number, same airplane, same boarding pass, same seat, but the second "leg" B was a domestic flight, so I had to go through immigration.)

My impression is that it is partly the responsibility of the airline to check the validity of the visa before letting you board. In my situation, I had to sign a form, saying that I would buy my own ticket out of the transit country, in case I couldn't proceed through immigration to board the domestic flight.

In your case, the airline probably has the right to deny you boarding the plane, but since they can see you have a valid visa 5 minutes after you are scheduled to arrive, I would strongly suspect that they will let you board. Their worry is to take a passenger, who will be stranded in the transit zone, because they don't have a connecting flight, nor a visa to pass through immigration (in which case they might be made responsible for taking them back).

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Worst Case Scenario

You may have trouble boarding your flight in Munich because technically your visa is not valid for your arrival time, so they may not let you board the plane in Munich. They will check your visa at the gate while you try to board the plane. They may not catch it, but they could. Be prepared to take another flight, if they decide you can't board. It will be at their discretion, and if you're there at weird hours, they may not have many people on staff to make the correct decision in your favor.

Hopefully you speak some German or Russian, as English gets more and more scarce the closer you go towards Russia. They (Lufthansa) had to find a man in the terminal who could speak English, for me, to check my visa. Worst case is you take a later flight.

I highly advise you to contact your carrier to see if they'll allow you to board. It shouldn't be a problem, but it could be. Domodedovo is very slow at clearing customs, because of the volume of passengers on arrival flights.

Munich departure

In Germany, they will bus you to a tiny terminal, far away from normal passengers. I had to sleep a few hours in terminals like this, all over Europe when visiting Russia. Be prepared to wait and to be far away from any cool terminals that have nice stuff like coffee or restaurants. You will be sectioned off for security reasons (I believe). They keep you in the freezing cold (in the winter) and I had a hard time finding a place to even charge my phone (in Frankfurt). They also have to bus you to those terminals and to the plane, because you are so far removed from any real airport amenities.

Domodedovo (DME) arrival

Domodedovo takes forever to clear customs. I took a similar flight, from Frankfurt and arrived very late, just like you will.

My advice is never fly to Domodedovo, as the customs there is a free for all. If you aren't prepared for it, please do get ready for the zoo.

You must realize that there are no real lines. You will be forced into non-Russian citizen lines, only to get pushed out of those lines, whenever Russian citizens are tired of waiting in their lines. Which is often.

It's a very different process than USA customs clearing. In USA, the visitor is given preference and good treatment, whereas in Russia, you are pushed aside and they wave their Russian passports in your face. They will also use their children to cut in line in front of you.

Sheremetyevo (SVO) is the better airport

Sheremetyevo is much easier for clearing customs. If you travel to Domodedovo, it'll take you 2 hours just to get to that counter. Be warned. I have never had it take less than 1 hour at Domodedovo. I've had it take 3 hours before too. It's never consistent and it depends on what hour you arrive and who is working. I have had the same customs officer (a young man) twice in a row now, and he never smiles and never is friendly. Hopefully you get lucky and there are only a few planes unloading during your time, so it's faster. There are many factors in place, but expect 1-2 hours for customs at Domodedovo, always.

Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow has never taken me more than 30 minutes to clear customs. It is much easier, cleaner, modern and the people are much nicer there. My two cents.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Willeke Jul 13 '18 at 7:45
-4

Well, for a palne company it's not a problem at all, because DME is an international hub - and technically speaking you're arriving at international airport zone on the country soil but there's no requirement for any kind of visa to pass into that spot. You can be there even without any visa - like when you're changing transit flights

  • 1
    Your "technically speaking" claim is completely false. The airport's international zone is still Russian soil. It's Russian soil with different immigration requirements to most of Russian soil, but it's still Russian soil. Also, it's not completely clear that being allowed to transit without a visa means you're allowed to be in the international area without a visa when you're not transiting. – David Richerby Jul 6 '18 at 14:20
  • @DavidRicherby this fact is checked - I used to investigate this matter some years ago myself. if it's an international airport - then it's OK because it has this type of zone, if it's a local airport - no, it's a problem. And - yes - you can be in that zone without any visa. – Alexey Vesnin Jul 6 '18 at 16:41
  • Your claim that you don't need a visa to transit appears to be true. But your claim that the international zone of an airport is somehow not a part of the country's territory is false. That is not the reason you don't need a visa; the reason is that the country has decided you don't need a visa (which it could decide for any part of its territory). – David Richerby Jul 6 '18 at 16:48
  • @DavidRicherby it's a part of a territory - geographically - but the entry procedure is not working there, i.e. it's a transit area. – Alexey Vesnin Jul 6 '18 at 22:41
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    That's exactly what I've been trying to tell you! Your answer claims that the transit zone of an international airport is "technically... not on the country soil". This is false, as you say. So please edit to remove the false claim. And then address my question about whether you're allowed to use visa-free transit to do something that isn't transit. – David Richerby Jul 7 '18 at 17:54

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