Russia currently has a special registration regime in place. This is in connection with Russia’s hosting the FIFA Confederation Cup soccer tournament.
The regime will be in place from June 01 to July 12, 2017 and affects ALL foreigners arriving to Kazan, Moscow, St Petersburg, and Sochi – no matter what your documentation type is or what your purpose for travel is. A similar special registration regime is expected to be implemented from May 25 to July 25, 2018 and is expected to affect ALL foreigners arriving to Volgograd, Ekaterinburg, Kazan, Kaliningrad, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, St Petersburg, Saransk, and Sochi.
This regime was mandated by a presidential decree issued May 10, which instructed Russian government officials to design and implement the new regime in three weeks’ time. Information about the regime began to come out a few days ago, but, as is usually the case with such things in Russia, nobody seemed to know the full extent of the changes until the system actually began operating.
After a couple of days of working within the new system, we can now say that anyone arriving within the six-week special regime period to the affected cities should be aware of the following points:
1. Registration must now be applied for within 24 hours of arrival.
2. Registration may be applied for at the local FMS office or the local police office.
3. Registration may NOT be processed through a tourist company or an inviting business entity, as was common before.
4. ALL registrations must be where the foreigner will actually live and must be taken care of by the owner of the property.
We should also note that this is based experience with current practice in Moscow. Different cities and even districts are likely to have some variation in enforcement, requirements, and implementation. St. Petersburg, for instance, seems not to have adopted the last two points. While this is common in Russia, we urge you to ask your visa sponsor and housing provider if they will be able to register you to make sure you have multiple options.
If you will be arriving to one of the affected Russian cities listed above and will stay at a hotel, you will likely see no change in your experience. The hotel will register you as usual. Hotels have always had to register guests within 24 hours under similar conditions.
If you will be staying at a hostel, you should check with the hostel to make sure the hostel will provide you with registration. Many hostels have now dropped registration completely and offer it either as an optional service that you must request and pay extra for or, more often, do not offer the service at all. Obviously this is either illegal or gray-area legality, but you should be aware that you will still be expected to be registered within 24 hours after arrival, no matter your hostel’s policy.
If you will be staying at a private home, home stay, or Airbnb, you should make sure well in advance that your host will provide registration. Some hosts will resist providing the service and some may charge extra fees for the service.
A couple of common loopholes have now been largely closed – it once was that you could go to any hotel, rent a room, and the hotel would automatically register your visa for the length of your visa no matter if you stayed at the hotel the whole time or not. This is no longer the case. Hotels will now register you for the length of your stay at the hotel and no longer than that. If you leave the hotel early, your registration is rescinded.
Hostels were also once an easy source of registration. However, hostels that do provide registration now provide it under the same requirements as hotels. Most will not want to even talk to you about providing registration without you physically staying there – even if you offer to pay for a full bed for the night.
In short, make sure that your place of stay while in these Russian cities will register you.
Any existing registrations acquired under the old rules before June 1 remain valid even during the special regime.
We can also report that there is a massively increased police presence, at least in Moscow and likely in other cities, and those police are very actively checking documents of people, particularly in the metro. This seems to be affecting mostly male individuals whose appearance would suggest that they may be from the Caucasus or Central Asia. We suggest everyone take special precautions, however, when visiting these Russian cities to make sure they have all their documents in legal order.