There are about 60 nationalities that don’t need a visa to travel to Russia. Among these nationalities is South Africa. In this article I’ll outline the requirements that South African citizens must meet to enter Russia without a visa, as well as what documents they need to take with them.
I'm going to talk about ...
1. South Africans do not need a visa to travel to Russia (for up to 90 days)
As of March 30, 2017, South Africans do not need a visa to travel to Russia, under the visa exemption agreement or treaty signed in Moscow between South Africa and Russia
Under this agreement, South African citizens may enter, transit and remain in Russian territory without a visa for a period of up to 90 days, during each 180-day period, starting from the date of their first entry (visa waiver).
- Example 1: if you enter Russia on your South African passport on January 1 and leave on March 31 (90 days), then you will not be able to re-enter Russia until July 1, that is, once 180 days have elapsed since the date of first entry. From July 1 you can enjoy a new 90-day stay under the same conditions.
- Example 2: If you enter Russia on your South African passport on January 1 and leave on January 30 (30 days), then you will be able to re-enter Russia to enjoy another stay of up to 60 days, until you’ve exhausted the 90 days, if this occurs before July 1.
The vast majority of South Africans who travel to Russia as tourists or on business use this visa exemption. It doesn’t matter if you are traveling to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Sochi or Siberia, the visa exemption applies to the entire Russian territory.
Keep in mind that during this stay in Russia you cannot carry out any paid work, either on your own or on behalf of others.
2. What documents does a South African need to enter Russia without a visa?
First let me say that you do not need to travel to the Russian Consulate in Pretoria or Cape Town to do any paperwork, nor do you need to apply for an electronic Russian visa (e-visa).
As a South African tourist, all you have to do is present your valid South African passport at border control.
The visa exemption agreement does not say anything about the period of validity that your passport must have, but the consulates recommend that the passport be valid for more than 6 months from the scheduled date of departure from Russia.
That is, if you buy a plane ticket to enter Russia on June 15, 2020 and leave on June 30, 2020, check that your passport has an expiry date after December 30, 2020.
It is important to check the validity of your passport before your trip and ensure that it does not show any damage or defect. Otherwise, you must renew your passport before traveling to Russia to avoid problems at the Russian border.
What if I have dual citizenship? If you have a passport from another country (for example, a US, British or Australian passport), keep in mind that in order to benefit from the visa exemption you must present only your South African passport at the Russian border.
In addition to a valid passport, it’s a good idea to provide your round trip airline tickets. The exemption agreement also does not stipulate that transport tickets have to be presented, but it is customary for border officials to ask for them upon your arrival in Russia.
3. What documents does a South African not need in order to enter Russia without a visa?
Sometimes doubts arise about whether other documents should be presented, such as an invitation (tourist voucher) or hotel reservations or travel medical insurance.
A) Do South Africans need an invitation letter to travel to Russia?
No, South Africans do not need an invitation or hotel reservations, as long as they are making use of the visa exemption period.
B) Is it mandatory for South Africans to show travel medical travel insurance?
It is not mandatory to take out travel medical insurance but it is highly recommended. In fact Russian consulates recommend having travel medical insurance for any eventuality that may arise, because if you need medical attention in Russia it can be very expensive.
If you do not have travel medical insurance, you can purchase it easily in 5 minutes online from the Russian company Cherehapa. In the insurance period you must indicate from the date of arrival in Russia until the expected date of departure.
Finally, it should be noted that European citizens are required to have travel medical insurance.
4. In what cases do South Africans need a visa to travel to Russia?
If you are South African you must apply for a visa to travel to Russia in the following cases:
- If you wish to remain or reside in the territory of the Russian Federation for more than 90 days.
- If you want to engage in any work or commercial activity.
- If you want to study at a Russian university.
In addition, if you are a foreigner and you live in South Africa, you can apply for a Russian visa at one of the Russian Consulates in South Africa (Pretoria or Cape Town), as long as you provide proof of your legal residence in South Africa.
In all the above instances you have to apply for a Russian visa, in which case you have to travel to a Russian Consulate in South Africa.
You can apply for different types of visas
- Tourist visa, for tourist activities.
- Business visa, to engage in business activities or conduct negotiations in the territory of the Russian Federation.
- Private travel visa, to visit family or friends in Russia.
- Student visa, to study in Russia.
- Work visa, to be able to work in Russia.
- Humanitarian visa, for stays involving cultural exchange, sports, scientific-technical, socio-political and religious activities or for humanitarian missions
- Transit visa, for transit to a destination country through the territory of the Russian Federation
To obtain any of these visas you need to fill out an electronic form, print, sign and attach a 3.5* 4.5 size photo, as well as provide other documents: invitation (or visa support / voucher), original passport, round trip plane ticket, etc.
You will find information about the documents needed when applying for each type of visa, as well as the deadlines, prices, costs and consular fees at this link: https://russianembassyza.mid.ru/visas
Payment of consular fees for these visas is made in cash in South African rands.
5. What processes does a South African have to go through upon arrival in Russia?
To conclude this article, I should explain the processes that a South African needs to go through on arriving in Russia. If you arrive in Russia on an international flight, you must go through a series of processes and steps at the airport:
- The first control to clear is passport control, where you have to complete the immigration card.
- Once you have cleared passport control, you will be able to pick up your luggage (in case you have checked in luggage).
- Then you go through customs control: green channel if you have nothing to declare and red channel if you have something to declare.
- Once you clear customs control, you will exit to the airport arrivals hall, at which time you will be able to use the services offered by the airport: currency exchange, ATMs, tourist information offices, shops, restaurants or the transport service to the city center.
All these steps are explained in detail in this article: The Immigration Card and Customs Procedures in Russia.
Finally, once you arrive at your accommodation, the hotel management or the host of your accommodation must register your arrival, a process by which you inform Russian authorities of the location where they can find you if necessary.
This procedure is explained in detail in the article: Registration in Russia: What it is and how it is done.
I hope this article has been useful to all South Africans traveling to Russia. Bon voyage!