Russia has one of the most bureaucratic and convoluted visa and foreigner registration systems on the planet. There are ways to get around the process, generally involving paying specialists to sort the paperwork out for you back home.
But even after getting your visa, there's still bureaucracy.
As specialist Russian travel agency Intourist UK explains, "every business, private or tourist traveller that is staying in private accommodation, for example within their own apartment, with friends or being hosted by business partners, must register in Russia."
Large business hotels are used to sorting this process out for their guests. That's why they take your passport on the first night and send it away for processing.
However, Russian hotels are among the most expensive in the world, especially in Moscow -- and you don't always get what you pay for in terms of quality, facilities and service. So business travellers looking to save money or just to have somewhere to call their own for their visit will often pick short-term apartment rentals as an option.
But if you're not staying in a hotel, the law means filling out forms -- not always available in English, so brush up on your Russian before you leave -- down at the local police station.
Just what every business traveller wants to do on their first night staying somewhere new.
And yes, that means you'll need to re-register it every time you change location, not just on your first night in Russia.
If you get it wrong, forget or think you can skip the process, you won't be able to rent a car or purchase a SIM card. If you have any reason to get involved with the police or other officials, they'll often ask to see your registration certificate.
If your certificate isn't in order, you're likely to be fined, and you might even be deported and added to a visa blacklist. Papers, please.
But Intourist UK has a way around the process. The company is well known for its efficient visa service, but its Russian Registration Service is even more helpful for business travellers staying in company accommodation or renting a weekly or monthly apartment.
It's also useful even if you are staying in a hotel (which would otherwise take your passport and sort it out for you), and either don't want to let your passport out of your sight or need it to prove your identity when you arrive.
Here's how it works:
- If you haven't booked your Russian visa through Intourist, you'll need to email them a copy of your passport's photo page and the visa before you leave.
- On the plane, you'll fill out the immigration card. On arrival, take a snap of it with your mobile phone and email the picture to Intourist UK.
- Intourist UK will fill out the relevant registration forms and email you a copy of the registration certificate, which you should print out and keep with your passport.
If you have any questions about the process, or want to confirm that you're eligible, ring Intourist UK on +44 844 875 4026 or email them at [email protected].