My girlfriend is Russian. Last night we tried to fly her to the US on a valid tourist visa. She was stopped at DME and told she would be required to have $2700 USD to get back home immediately even though she had a return ticket. She said this was an "unwritten" rule because of the nonsense i keep seeing on CNN , Anybody else know anything? She is literally trapped and scared to death.
I'm very sad to say that this has all the signs of a classic romance scam. How do you know this person? Have you ever met? We've seen several questions with the similar pattern. Here are some resources:
- The US Embassy in Russia on Internet Dating Scams. One of their scenarios ("The individual I’m writing to says that s/he needs $1,000.00 to show for "pocket" money" or the airline won’t let him/her board the plane. Is this true?") matches your situation quite well.
- Here's a story from someone who was in the same situation.
- New York Times: Russian Gal Seeking Comrade? No, It's an Internet Scam
- Scamwatch (Australian Government) on Dating and Romance scams
- Krebs on Security: Fraudsters Automate Russian Dating Scams:
“When you get down to the final stage, there has to be a crisis, some compelling reason why the target should you send the money,” said Holden, founder of Hold Security [full disclosure: Yours Truly is an uncompensated adviser to Holden’s company]. “Usually this is something like the girl is stranded at the airport or needs money to get a travel visa. There has to be some kind of distress situation for this person to be duped into wiring money, which can be anywhere between $200 and $2,000 on average.”
I highly recommend you not send any money or personal information to this person and that you report this to the proper authorities.
As a Russian citizen who's been to DME quite a few times and flew to and from the US I can say I've never seen, heard of or suspected any "illegal" briberies taking place at the airport.
There is a certain law that may prevent citizens from leaving the country if they have monetary debts to the state that exceed 10000 RUB, e.g. if they haven't paid taxes or fines in time. See the original text or a google translation of the law. In such case the citizen is indeed required to pay the necessary amount to become legally "clean". However, the payment is made to the bank account of an official entity (whose bank account number is well known and can be verified via the Internet) and cannot be considered bribery. Moreover, you can check your girlfriend's legal status online yourself at any time here and here.
The Russian customs have also been known to do some borderline ridiculous things like singling out travelers and arbitrarily applying some obscure legal clauses that not many people are aware of, such as calling your laptop or handheld console a cryptographic device without a permit, but all those checks were formally "legal" and the detainees were not extorted money from.
Good luck and please take it easy no matter how things go.