Which island?

I’m planning a trip back to Sakhalin in August, mainly to take one last look at the place given the chances of my ever going back are slim, and to see a few friends.  For the first time in years I have had to organise my own visa to Russia, but I remembered the website I used in the past to get a quick letter of invitation, the document which must accompany your visa application.  Sure enough the Moscow-based agency is still going strong, and I filled out the application form listing Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk as a place I will be visiting.

A couple of hours later I got this reply:

Please be advised that Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is a city of a strict passport control. To visit this city, you are supposed to have an invitation issued by local migration authorities.

Drawing on my experience of having lived there for three and a half years, I can quite confidently tell you that the strict passport controls in place in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk consist of ordinary passport control at the airport and, erm, that’s it.  As for the invitation issued by the local migration authorities, I saw people come and go on many weird and wonderful business and tourist visas, not one of which had to be issued by local authorities.  I expect they have picked up the story that in late 2006 the FSB announced that Sakhalin would become a special border zone, but missed the one about them changing their minds five months later.

Still, it’s good to know that the tradition of Moscow not knowing what the hell is going on in the provinces is still alive and well!


5 thoughts on “Which island?

  1. I used a local company here, called Expat Services, Inc. to get my families’ LOIs and visas. It was relatively easy….if you want the info, email me and I’ll send it on 🙂 good luck!

  2. Tanya,

    I wrote him a short email telling him that there are no such restrictions in Y-S, but he still would not put Y-S on the LOI. I told him to put Khabarovsk on instead, it not making a blind bit of difference to anything.


    Thanks for the offer, but I managed to get an LOI which should do the job. Once we’d agreed on the named city it was emailed to me within the hour and ought to be waiting for me at the Russian embassy in KL. Let’s see…

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