Registering your visa in Russia is not that difficult. It is however a tedious process and if you don’t have an understanding of the Russian alphabet or a person to help you then it is a nightmare!
Please note this review deals with a person who is not staying at a hotel or hostel but with family or friends. The hotel will handle this registration process for you if they have they have issued you with the Letter of Invitation.
The Russian law states that a foreigner should register his visa no later than 72 hours after entering the country. The visa must be registered on weekdays Mondays to Fridays. Public holidays and weekends do not count. (This is important and I will tell you later why).
You can go to any local police station or Post Office. (We went straight to the Post Office in Kaliningrad).
The person registering the visa will need the following documents:
1) A copy of the traveller’s first passport page, Russian visa, and migration card. There are facilities available in and around the Post Office to make photocopies.
2) At the post office ask for the foreigner registration form (“migratsionnaya forma”). You need to fill out 2 copies ALL in Russian. (This could be a major problem and you need somebody to assist if you cannot write in Russian. Luckily I had my husband to help).
4) Get a special paper, which lists all the documents you’ll be sending off ( “Opis”).
5) Find the address of the Local Migration Office, which is responsible for the area where the landlord is registered. (The address where you are staying).There’s a list of them at the central post office UFMS (Federal Migration Service).
6) When you have completed all the forms, hand it back to the post office clerk. They will check that everything is completed. Very important, they need to give you back a part of the migration document. It must be stamped. This document is very important. It’s a proof that it’s been sent and can be shown to police when they check for the registration.
It is not expensive to post the documents. If I can remember correctly we paid something like 100R. It also helps if you can find a post office which is not that busy.
Some hostels try to con you into registering the visa over weekends. Please watch out for this. It happened to us in Moscow and also in St. Petersburg. You can for example enter Moscow on the Friday, (you have 72 hours to register your visa) stay for the weekend and only register your visa on the Tuesday or leave Moscow. This is legal. But some hostels are trying to make money out of the people because they know the police check the documents.
Another interesting thing about hostels, they’ll most likely register your visa only if it was issued with them. It means that if you want to be more flexible in choosing where you live, it’s better not to get your visa through hostels, because then you’ll be obliged to stay there at least for one night, otherwise they won’t register your visa.
The reason is that hostels in Russia don’t issue the invitations themselves, but do it through affiliate travel agencies, that are why the travel agency rules apply to them as well.