I've just learned of a change that is reported to have taken effect exactly one month ago, on 26 January. The meaning of this isn't yet clear to me, but here's what I have:
"The itinerary must include every populated locality a foreigner plans to visit in Russia. Besides, the Federal Migration Service compels the provision of information about the migration registration address and the inviting and receiving parties."
This itinerary is part of the application, required (apparently) for all visas without exception.
At first glance, this doesn't seem very different from the existing rules. However, in the 11 years since I first went to Russia, the application required no more than a list of cities/towns. It would seem that under the new rules, an invitation and registration address is required for each city, which is a very big change.
In practice, under the pre-2015 rules there was no evidence of any mechanism to check up on the itinerary. In other words, I never heard of anybody having a problem because he went to a city not listed on his visa application. If Russia's migration authorities start checking up on the itinerary, it will mean that a formal invitation (a legal document) and registration address must be provided for each city. The time and expense to arrange these are considerable.
If the itinerary is policed, it would mean the end of flexible travel ("let's go to Novgorod for a couple of days"). Especially for the 3-year tourist/business visas available to US citizens, it would be exceptional that the traveler could arrange such minute details up to 3 years in advance!
It's especially difficult to project how this will play out, because Russia abounds in laws and regulations that are constantly broken or subverted. Part of the art of managing in Russia is knowing which are the "real rules" and which are the "pretend rules." Only time will tell.
As a practical matter, if you are making a single trip to meet a woman in a certain city, this new requirement won't much matter. You'll have to book a hotel that can make the invitation before you apply for your visa.
However, if your Russian travel is expected to be broader than that (as some men have done in Ukraine, changing cities depending on how things go), the new rules might present a challenge.
The news articles reporting the rules change have noted that this kind of itinerary information has not been required since Soviet times. It is yet another instance, of how time is marching backwards in today's Russia.
The Association of Tour Operators in Russia (a trade group) said that the rules change may harm foreign tourism ... for obvious reasons.
Something I've been following during the past year, but not reporting on this forum, is the devastation of Russia's travel industry since Russia invaded Ukraine. The main factors have been:
* Russia's decline in economic growth (which started before the war)
* the effect of economic sanctions, and especially exchange rates, decreasing travel by Russian citizens (especially travel outside Russia, which became so much more expensive)
* orders from the Kremlin prohibiting foreign travel for large categories of government workers related to military or police
In the past 12 months, Russian companies in travel and tourism have toppled like dominos.
This is an insert from an article from Yahoo.com emphasis how “Sanctions And Economic Slump [is Expediting] Expat Exodus From Russia. There is no distinguishing between tourists and expatriates but this number shows that the Party is Over!!!!.Adding "ON THE NEW VISA RULES" and Russia had shut herself in the foot. I think, this is also happening in the rest of the FSU countries. this could mean a golden opportunity for those intrepids.
According to the Federal Migration Service, the number of foreigners residing in Russia – excluding refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine — shrank by 417,000 between January 20, 2014 and January 20, 2015.
That’s a drop of almost 5 percent. And what’s more, a large chunk of the leavers hail from the West.
In particular, the numbers of nationals from some Western countries have plummeted by around a third and sometimes even by almost a half. The figures, reported by the RBK media holding company, do not distinguish between tourists and expatriates. But they are nevertheless striking.
From January 2014 to January 2015, the number of German citizens decreased by nearly a third, from 348,539 to 240,113.
Over the same period, the number of U.S. citizens in Russia fell by 36 percent, down to 79,337; the number of British nationals is down by 38 percent, to 68,627; the number of Finnish citizens has fallen 39 percent to 46,157; and the number of Norwegians has dropped by 48 percent.
I would never agree to travel under such absurd restrictions. It's about control and fear on their part. Soon Russia will become like North Korea where you cannot leave your hotel unaccompanied by an official 'tourist guide' - and even then to permitted places only.
If the Russian authorities choose to deliberately make life difficult for independent travellers, then don't reward them by going. And if it's to meet a girl, there are 205 other countries available.
If, however, this change to their visa rules is in response to some Western countries imposing similar restrictions, it is understandable. If not, then Europe and USA should reciprocate accordingly.
I'm confident that this change by the Russian government is not in reaction to a similar policy on the part of another government.
Russia has a long-standing policy of "reciprocity" in visa rules, which basically means "if your country hassles visitors from Russia, we will hassle your citizens when they come here." In 2013, this resulted in several improvements for US citizens travelling to Russia: visas got cheaper, with faster processing, available with 3 years duration, etc. These improvements reflected fees and durations available for US visitor visas.
However, the press announcement about Russia's new itinerary rules make it clear that they apply to all foreign citizens ... so I think this is an internal Russian matter, not a response to what some other country did.
Apart from Russia and North Korea, it's hard for me to imagine modern countries applying so many restrictions.
Go to Tallinn?? LOL The women in Tallinn or Riga are no different than the women in Copenhagen, Milan, or Munich, and they are no different than the women in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, or Denver. My point is that if you want a traditional woman you need to go Russia or Ukraine, for you will find those women only in places that haven't been Westernized. A man who doesn't like the country that a woman comes from shouldn't be dating her anyway because in the end it will never work out.
I applied for Russian Tourist Visa on March 16th and received my visa was issued on March 30th. I did not provide any itinerary or even travel dates. I sent this to my travel agency and they handled everything for me. I was issued a 3 year multi entry visa beginning in July. Very excited to go back to Crimea to see friends and my wife's family.
Could you give me specifics on how you applied for the visa. I have ties in Crimea as well and it is in such a state of flux, the consulate in San Francisco was not able to answer my questions and the Migration Office in Simferopol also did not know what the procedure was. That was last September.
"I applied for Russian Tourist Visa on March 16th and received my visa was issued on March 30th. I did not provide any itinerary or even travel dates. I sent this to my travel agency and they handled everything for me. I was issued a 3 year multi entry visa beginning in July. Very excited to go back to Crimea to see friends and my wife's family."
Thanks for story, a couple friends have done same....their visa took 18 days( yours was faster). For some reason, many here like to write what they read without any idea what is really happening. I may be doing the same next year.....we'll see what things look like down the road.
I applied for RUS visa - I forget exactly when - but in less than two weeks I had a three year visa in hand (private stay). It arrived last week. All by mail/UPS return. Cost was only 30 over 160 embassy charges for visa plus shipping. Did not have to drive to NYC for paperwork or interview.
I had an 'invitation' from wife's family. No itinerary or other. Just first travel arrival and depart dates.
That's it. used ILS USA - new york office.
The catch was getting the invitation properly filled out and notarized in the mother land - an emailed/faxed color copy was good enough. The guidelines for invitation are very strict. But if all the paperwork is filled out properly, pack your bags. Although it could be one of those like at the border deals where we have to check every 100th car. Don't know. I already had a previous RUS visa and not a lot of stamps - so that may also be a factor.
The trip to NYC would have cost more than total processing fee and shipping.