How to register yourself in Russia

As I mentioned in my previous post, during this trip to Russia I am staying in the apartment of a friend.  Unlike all previous occasions where I have either spent the first night in a hotel or have been here working, this time around I have to register myself.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the idiocy with which Russia is run, there is a requirement that all visitors register themselves with the local authorities within 4 working days of arrival.  As a public service to all those who might find themselves in a similar situation in Russia in the future, here’s how the registration is done.

1.  Host (the person in whose apartment you are registering) makes a call to his mate in the local passport office to find out what the latest rules are and what the best way of registering is.  Rules in Russia change often, with nobody really having a clue what they are at any given time.
2.  Receive advice from mate in passport office to register at the post office and avoid the local OVIR office like the plague.
3.  Go to post office, join lengthy queue at special counter for registrations, Western Union, and other foreigner-related services.
4.  Wait 15 minutes.
5.  Approach counter, request forms for registration and enquire about other requirements.
6.  Receive information that this post office is too small to deal with non-CIS registrations and you must go to the central post office on Lenin Square.
7.  Receive helpful advice that you will need to go to a bank and pay 200 Roubles ($6) in taxes before you can register at the central post office.
8.  Go to bank, notice they are on a break until 12pm.
9.  Hang about on the street with host looking gormless until 12pm.  Don’t worry, you’ll fit right in.
10.  Go into bank, join queue.
11.  Wait 20 minutes.
12.  Pay 200 Roubles, obtain receipt.
13.  Go to central post office, notice they are on a break until 1pm.
14.  Go to local cafe, order overpriced food and beverage, kill time until central post office opens.
15.  Enter central post office, join lengthy queue at special counter for registrations, Western Union, and other foreigner-related services.
16.  Wait 10 minutes.
17.  Approach counter, request forms for registration and enquire about other requirements.
18.  Receive double-sided A4 form which requires no end of pointless duplicate information and instructions to fill out two such forms.
19.  Hang about waiting for host to fill out form, sitting beside herd of Azeris wearing tracksuits and drinking beer.
20.  Notice that the central post office sells canned food, noodles, hair dye, and bathroom cleaning products.
21.  Wait 20 minutes for forms to be completed by host.
22.  Join queue at special counter for registrations, Western Union, and other foreigner-related services.
23.  Wait 10 minutes.
24.  Hand in forms, be informed that copies of passports (host and visitor), forms, and immigration card are required.  Copying services are not available in the post office. Cans of pilchards and hair-curlers are.
25.  Leave central post office, walk short distance to shop providing photocopying services.
26.  Join lengthy queue at kiosk providing photocopying services.  Note the three or four kiosks not providing photocopying services manned by staff sitting idle.
27.  Wait 15 minutes.
28.  Hand over documents to be photocopied.
29.  Wait 5 minutes.
30.  Receive photocopies, pay 30 roubles.
31.  Return to central post office, join queue at special counter for registrations, Western Union, and other foreigner-related services.
32.  Wait for herd of Azeri men in tracksuits to finish registration and their beers.
33.  Hand over documents and photocopies for clerk to process.
34.  Wait 10 minutes, and slowly understand why long-life foods are available for purchase in a Russian post office.
35.  Receive blank envelope and two somewhat strange and identical blank itemised bills from clerk.
36.  Wait while host writes address on envelope and completes itemised bills, applying signatures where required.
37.  Hand envelope and itemised bills back to clerk.
38.  Wait while clerk applies stamp to twenty three separate pieces of paper, stapling bundles of them together and adding them to a huge pile sitting beside her left elbow.
39.  Receive stack of papers all stamped and stapled indicating registration is complete, and bask in the knowledge that the Russian Federation is that little bit more secure.

Total time = 4 hours.  Still, at least it required fewer steps than buying lightbulbs.

I mentioned this to a local friend of mine, who laughed and guessed that in the UK this probably takes no more than 15 minutes.  He seemed surprised when I told him that there is no such requirement in the UK and that of the 36 countries I have visited in the last 10 years, the only one which requires visitors to register with the local authorities is Russia.

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7 Responses to How to register yourself in Russia

  1. dearieme says:

    A Palestinian aquaintance once told me that as a visitor to the UK (for, I think, 6 months) he had to go along to the police station and register his presence. He was remarking rather than complaining so I take it that it must have been pretty quick.

  2. Howard Roark says:

    Boy, that brings back memories. Just this past April, I went to Russia after a year away. The previous time, I was able to get registered at a “well-connected” private hotel for a fee and not have to stay there or pay for a high-priced room. (Got the invitation for cheap on the internet, stayed with a friend)

    This year, I went back to the same hotel and they told me that they can’t do that anymore and that I’d have to pay the full price of the room for every night I was in Russia. Crushed by this, I went to various other hotels who said the same thing. Of course, no matter how lousy the hotel, you couldn’t get a room for less than $100 a night.

    Fortunately, my local friend knew of a government hotel who could register me and that the room prices were ridiculously low. I took a similar step as you to the bank… to pay a 12 ruble fee (about 35 cents) and took back the receipt to further the rigorous registration process that required numerous pages and stamps. All in all, I think I got lucky… in a Russian measuring stick sort of way.

    As you describe, the private registration process is a nightmare and I really didn’t want my host friend to go through all of that, so I went the hotel route. (especially if you have a Tourist Visa, there’s no other way that I’m aware of). I won’t bank on the hotel being my option next time, though, so I either hope I’ll be there on business or I prepare my host for the hours off of work he’ll have to take to register me.

    Last thing, I’ve had those same conversations with Russians about their dubious distinction of being the only country that requires registration. They always seem dumbfounded.

  3. Tatyana says:

    Apparently, Russia is not the only country with registration requirement.
    Polish( by birth) woman who is a Lithuanian citizen but lives (and studies) in Moscow needed to obtain Polish visa to visit friends. She told the whole sad saga, similar to yours; reading it I couldn’t understand why is it that she couldn’t visit the friends who are in Warsaw if the invitation came from a friend who is in Krakow. “Because I will be registered in Krakow! In a hotel – because my friends are not allowed to invite tourists: tourists go in on a tourist visa, and are required to stay in a hotel!” I was the dumbest of her readers -it took me the most time to understand this convoluted feudal system.

  4. Jackart says:

    This is an example of my political philosophy: Bureaucracy Ruins Everything

  5. Alex says:

    I went through the same lengthy process with my Russian girlfriend (now wife). Having knowledge of the delays I thought I’d go to the other counters in order to get the forms required instead of the jostling and queueing at the special counter for registrations, Western Union, and other foreigner-related services. Not a good idea as no-one dared pick up the forms from some-one elses’ counter. With time moving on the woman at the special counter for registrations, Western Union, and other foreigner-related services stood up to go for her lunch and although I was next in line to get the forms, up went the placard “return at 1:00pm”.Eventually a few hours later I heard the much used mechanical stamp crashing down on the paperwork (with duplicates)allowing me to continue my Russian adventure. You can also buy pens there for 10 rubles, they don’t tend to be readily available for public use, you know with the string attached, you have to buy from the conveniently placed stationery counter beside the long life foodstuffs!!

  6. Georgiy says:

    Tatyana
    why Lithuniam citizen needs a visa for Poland? They are both EU. Or was it long time ago?

  7. Rodger Olsen says:

    I love the story, but must point out that it doessnt have to be that way. A little internet exploration would have told you what documents you need to have copies of, the fees, and even let you download a PDF of the registartion form.

    Yesterday I went to the OVIR office with my copies in hand, the form filled out, and an expensive candy bar. I was registered in about 10 minutes. The chocolate cut the wait time for stamps from 30-60 minutes down to 5 minutes.

    We still go to the OVIR because Medebev’s ideal of letting you just mail in the documents hasn’t really worked out. It just put different set of uncaring, lazy, and sometimes nasty beurocrats in place of the old set.

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