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This summer I am planning a trip to visit Russia from the United States. I will stay in Moscow for a few days, then move to Saint Petersburg for a few more days, and finally return to Moscow and stay less than a week before leaving. I understand that I have 7 business days to register my visa upon arriving in a new city, but I will not spend 7 consecutive days in any one city. It is not my intention to try to deceive, it is just that registering a private visa is a time consuming process, so if it can be legally avoided I would like to do that.

Will I have any extra trouble with the authorities if my visa is not registered? I will be sure to carry my plane/train tickets to explain that I have only been in the city for less than 7 days.

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    Where will you be staying? – Karlson May 10 '15 at 2:24
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    We are hoping to stay in private apartments found on AirBnB, we are contacting our prospective hosts but are unsure of their availability (they may be out traveling) or willingness (it takes time) to register us. – RussiaOrBust May 10 '15 at 4:32
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    I think OP is asking whether they can avoid registration in a completely legal way, it's not about getting caught. – downhand May 10 '15 at 15:42
  • Completely legally, if you are staying in a hotel, the hotel do the registration for you. You simply leave the passport with the visa with the hotel - and they will do the registration, usually within a few hours. – Aleks G Jul 30 '15 at 18:35
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I'm answering as a frequent traveler to Russia (have been to many different cities there over the course of many years). First, in all my travels and interactions with Russian authorities, I have never once been asked by any government official for any registration papers (though I've always registered when required by law). A lot of the scary warnings about registering in Russia date back to the early 2000s, when the laws were much stricter and it was a real possibility to be stopped in the streets of Moscow by police for a random registration check (as I understand it, such checks are illegal now). Registration law has undergone a lot of changes over the years, most notably the official Federal Migration Service site mentions a significant change/relaxation of the law in 2007 (see http://www.fms.gov.ru/government_services/migrate/ in Russian )

Having said all of the above, here is my understanding of the information on the site above, as well as of the text of the law itself ( http://www.fms.gov.ru/documentation/860/details/37042/4/ ):

  • If you're staying in a hotel (even for one day), the hotel will register you

  • Otherwise, you're required to register within 7 days of arrival to your "place of stay" ("место пребывания"). It is reasonable to interpret it as "within 7 days of arriving to a particular city" (there is other mention in the law of being able to change the "place of stay" so I'm guessing "place of stay" does NOT mean the "final destination" of the trip). Sadly, however, there's no clarification of this anywhere in the law. I guess it would be up to a judge/local authorities to interpret, but again - I don't think realistically this is a problem. In your situation, I would just keep all the travel documentation and not worry about registering.

  • Confusingly, the English-language page ( http://www.fms.gov.ru/government_services/migrate/index_eng.php ) does mention registration within 7 days of arriving in Russia (with no mention of the "place of stay"), but I'm pretty sure this is just a poor translation, or instructions for the common case of someone visiting a single place in Russia. In any case, the English page is not the actual law.
  • If you want to be super-safe, spend your 1st night in a hotel/hostel (this way you technically are registered in the first 7 days since your arrival).
  • Given how confusing this area of the law is, you of course won't be immune from random annoyances given your registration-less status. I can think of one example where this happened to me: A hotel clerk (in a proper, expensive, Western-style hotel) refused to register me because I haven't registered anywhere within 7 days of arriving into Russia (because I was hopping from city to city) - basically, they took the interpretation of the law as stated on the English page above - however, this happened just once, and I don't think the hotel clerk was an expert on migration law, I think she was just trying to play it safe in the face of confusing information
  • Please keep in mind that I'm not a lawyer (especially not a Russian one)

Registration has been an unpleasant and time-consuming process every time I've done it (trying to fit into the local FMS office's schedule, lineups, complex forms that have to be refilled multiple times until you get it just right, extensive documentation requirements - proof of apartment ownership and such, etc). It's worth avoiding it if at all possible.

UPDATE (2019) In my recent Russia travels, I have encountered officials who hold to a stricter interpretation of the law. Apparently, you need to register within 7 days of entering the country, and then again within 7 days of the expiry of the last registration, etc. - basically you should never be more than 7 days past the expiry date of your last registration OR your entry date into Russia, whichever is later. I still don't think that this is what the law says, but ultimately it's up to the local officials' interpretation... Ironically, I've still never seen registration actually checked anywhere, other than when actually attempting to register, in which case they want to see either a border immigration card with a stamp not more than 7 days in the past, or a previous registration expiring not more than 7 days in the past.

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    When registering at a hotel, how long does it usually take? Just minutes or days? If i'm only staying one night I want to be sure I'll get my registration and passport back. Thanks for the fantastic answer – RussiaOrBust May 11 '15 at 17:23
  • Sorry for taking so long to reply. I didn't remember the exact answer, didn't have the time to look through my records, and didn't want to mislead you. However, I just came back from another trip to Russia and can give you the freshest information: stayed 1 night in a hotel, got registration paperwork when I checked out in the morning. The paperwork only has the hotel's stamps/signatures on it, nothing from the Federal Migration Service, so I'm guessing they can process a registration on any day of the week / anytime. Btw, they never take away their passport in my experience, just a photocopy. – Eugene O Jul 31 '15 at 15:40
  • @RussiaOrBust Probaby too late, but in my experience (I only stayed in a hotel in Moscow once), I left the passport with the hotel right after I checked in. I went up to my room, left my stuff there and went out for a meal. When I returned to the hotel about 3 hours later, I got my passport back with the registration stamp in it. – Aleks G Dec 21 '15 at 21:57
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First, please let's not waste anyone's energy by arguing over the semantics that you do not "register your visa" and instead this is a migration registration as some of you may be tempted to do. I'll continue to call it visa registration since we all know what it means.

Second, my understanding is you should register within 7 days upon arriving in Russia. You don't get another 7 days every time you move to another city! On the other hand as others have pointed out, the law is not clear here. You should keep in mind that the law in Russia is whoever the official confronting you says unless of course it is escalated to the court of law where you have legal representation to argue the text of the law in front of a judge! Please let's try not to go that far... I once visited a remote Russian town on the Far East with 300 fellow travelers. The Russian immigration descended at our hotel one day to round us up accusing us for entering a "special" region of Russia without a "special" permit, ie. our Russian visa was NOT good enough! They eventually let us go after scaring some of us to sign an apology letter. It was completely baseless and meant to show us they didn't welcome so many foreigners visiting their small world all at once.

When I traveled to Russia (physically been to all 11 time zones of Russia over the years), I have often stayed at my friend's apartments. Unfortunately, my friend's household registration (propiska) is at another region of the country. This means I can't register at a local post office or immigration authority with my friend as my host. In theory the landlord should register me. However, asking a landlord who has never done this before is more troubles than you might think. In a country where the government is not seen as public servants, people often rather avoid going to the government unless they have to.

I twice tried to register my visa by staying at a hotel for one night. However, they both declined my request citing they wouldn't register a guest staying for less than 3 days! These were actually well known western hotels like Radisson and Ramada in Moscow! When I challenged them with a situation of what if I travel from city to city and never stay at a place for more than 3 days, would I not get into trouble by their refusal to register me. The staff simply brushed me off by saying they wouldn't know what to do with a special situation like this and advised me to keep my hotel receipt as proof if I am ever confronted by an official. I reported the behaviors of Radisson and Ramada to the U.S. embassy, who confirmed both hotels violating the law and would further report it to the Russian authority. I don't know if anything tangible actually came out of it though.

My standard approach these days is calling around for cheap youth hostels who would be willing to register me for a fee, ie. cost of one night stay, without staying there in reality. I pay them only AFTER they register me first. Shop around because some hostels would ask this fee to be 3 night stay whereas others would be happy with just one. Thus, my advice is if you are staying at a hotel/hostel anyway but for less than 3 days, make ABSOLUTELY sure it is agreed upon (GET THE PERSON'S NAME) when you make the reservation that they would register you with a very short stay. If you don't have to stay at a hotel/hostel at all, and this is all about visa registration, find a cheap youth hostel to deal with it.

By the way, whenever I exited Russia, after handing the immigration officer my passport, migration card and visa registration, they always tossed the registration back at me right away without even reading it while they continued to process the other 2 documents. Thus, I am not sure if visa registration is a formality that the Russian officials still care nowadays. However, since I can 'buy' it from a youth hostel for a few hundred rubles, ie. price of a meal at McDonald's, I don't see a good reason to push my luck by skipping this presumed formality.

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If you are staying at a hotel then ask them to do it. If they do it, great! if not probably no big deal. I've been stopped by the police in spb and just told them I was a tourist, they didn't bother me after that. I witnessed local youth being stopped frequently on the streets in Moscow and spg. But they really don't mess with tourists. I did try to register through a"friend" of my Russian language teacher while I was in spb. HUGE hassle! They finger printed us and made us come back to the police station several times. Took up two days of our trip. Never did get the papers so we said f it. Cost me 2500 rubbles!!!

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