Excluded from Russia? Banned from entry?

25 years ago, in spring 1990, British couple was preparing themselves for travel across the USSR. They were a part of agricultural research&consulting team invited by Russian parliament. They were pioneers - no one among their friends and colleagues could tell them anything about Russia. They called British Embassy in Moscow for advice. The person on the other end of the line seemed to be in a whirl and was very little help. He didn’t know much. In the end of the conversation he hastily said: «you do it at your own risk!» and hanged up. Russia was still all behind iron curtain that was only beginning to open.

1,5 years later, before Christmas 1991 USSR was dismissed. Russia opened borders and for the next 15 years westerners were somewhat like privileged safari tourists in the country. I remember two Swiss guys dismantled «Manezhnaya Ploschad» street name plaque (one of the buildings next to Kremlin) and brought it back to Bern as a trophy.

Even today in 2015, every now and then I will be surprised to know that some of my friends and clients are still on their business visas in Russia, many of them just used to it since early 90-s, many of them have families, apartments, houses and other property in Moscow and Oblast (I mention not businesses and jobs). They seem to be unaware of work permits and other legal requirements. They still live with the spirit of 90-s Russian safari freedom. I confess, I miss that spirit too.

At Vnukovo airport border check point
At Vnukovo airport border check point

Russian State started to seriously regulate immigration 10 years ago in 2005, when Konstantin Romodanovsky was appointed Head of Federal Migration Service by president Putin. Sustained effort is being made since then.

Currently in 2015 we see immigration policy tightened on all fronts. The system tries to respond to ever-changing internal and external challenges.

Nowadays, a number of state bodies are authorised to ban foreign citizens from entering Russian Federation. The list of those who can ban you from Russia is quite extensive. Authorised organisations range from FMS (immigration incompliance) and FSB (threat to national security) to Customs (smuggling), Tax Authority, Traffic Police and Federal Service for Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare (e.g., if you, God forbid, were diagnosed with TBC in active form).

As a result over 1,5 mln of foreigners are currently excluded from the country. Westerners are affected among others. Legal 101 for these bans are spelled out in Articles 26 and 27 of the Federal Law 114-FZ (Exit and Entry to Russian Federation). The law is among the most frequently amended ones.

Article 27 lists 13 valid grounds. You will be banned with 100% probability:

(1) for national security reasons. Editor's note: applies to some US sponsored NGO activists.

(2) Editor's note: items 2, 2.1, 2.1 deal with readmission agreements and are relatively seldom used. So far, Russia signed readmission agreement only with EU (2006) (Denmark didn’t sign), but vast majority of deportations from Russia head outside EU.

(3) have unexpunged or outstanding criminal conviction. Editor's note: words "unexpunged" and "outstanding" differ in their legal meaning, but the point is that foreigner has to obtain court ruling that his/her record is clean before progressing with his/her Russian legalisation process.

(4) incomplete visa application package.

(5) no medical insurance Editor's note: medical insurance isn't routinely required for some visa categories for the US and EU. Domestic insurance normally suffice.

(6) no sufficient funds. Editor's note: seldom apply to the US and EU citizens in visa process or border control.

(7) Political sanctions: applies to EU and US officials black-listed on the basis of reciprocity.

(8) item repealed.

(9) incriminated use of forged documents.

(10) tax or penalty debt.

(11) 5-year ban for two or more administrative records during one year.

(12) 3-year ban for violated 90/180 day rule (overstay of 90 days during each 180 days period).

(13) 5-year ban for violated 90/180 day rule (overstay) for more than 180 days but less than 270 days.

(14) 10-year ban for violated 90/180 day rule (overstay) for more than 270 days.

Editor's note: items 12,13,14 are still "Russian roulette" - many people who do overstay few days exit and re-enter without problems. But is it worth taking chances?

Article 26 lists 5 valid grounds. A foreigner may be not allowed to enter:

(1) failed to comply with rules for crossing the State Border, custom regulations, health and safety regulations until such failure is remedied

(2) knowingly fraudulent statement about him/herself or about purpose of his/her visit to Russian Federation.

(3) repealed.

(4) 3-year ban for two or more administrative records during three year.

(5-7) repealed.

(8) didn't exit Russian Federation upon expiry of 30 days after the end of the period of his/her temporary stay in Russia (exemptions are made for health emergencies, immediate treatment, death of a close relative who resided in Russia, and other force majeure circumstances. Editor's note: this item refers to visa-exempt CIS citizens.

(9) work for foreign or international NGO that is ruled non grata in Russian Federation

How do I lift the ban?

Russian segment of the internet is abound with offers and promises to lift a ban on entry to Russia. However, success stories are very few. The process is complicated and not all cases are resolved favourably. We have produced some positives in our practice and I will anonymously describe them in the following articles.

So far, advice from GreenLane Team is:

(1) check for compliance.

(2) use functional registration address (make sure post is timely delivered to you).

(3) do not register vehicles in your name.

(4) count days on your visa (calendar in your smartphone makes it easy.

(5) keep your name away from courts and protocols of administrative proceedings.

(6) timely progress your status to residence permit and citizenship.


GreenLane Team