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Rights of foreign citizens and persons without citizenship in the Russian Federation

The legal status of foreign citizens and persons without citizenship in the Russian Federation is determined by the Law of the USSR "Regarding the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens" (this law remains in force to this day on the territory of the Russian Federation), the Rules Governing Entry of Foreign Citizens into the Russian Federation, and the Federal Law "Regarding Procedures for Entry into the Russian Federation and Exit from the Russian Federation".

Foreign citizens entering Russia must have a valid national passport, while persons without citizenship must have valid identity documents issued by an authorized body in the country of which they are permanent residents. Additionally, visitors to Russia must have an entry or entry/exit visa issued by a diplomatic representative office of the Russian Federation. When visitors pass through the Russian border at a border-control point, their passports and visas must be stamped to certify entry into Russia. The date indicated on the stamp is considered to be the first day of the visitor's stay in the Russian Federation.

In Russia visitors' national passports or other documents (in the case of persons without citizenship) must be registered at district departments of the passport and visa service in the course of
the three days (excluding public holidays and weekends) following a visitor's arrival at his/her destination. In addition, the following rules apply:
- visitors visiting Russia on personal business must submit a personal application for registration at the district department of the passport and visa service for the district in which they are staying;
visitors who have entered Russia in order to study must submit a letter of confirmation from the institution at which they are studying, and are to undergo registration at the district department for the district in which they are staying;
- visitors who have entered Russia for purposes of work, commerce, tourism, or religion or for other purposes must submit a letter of confirmation from the organization which is receiving them, and are to undergo registration at the district department of the passport and visa service for the district where their receiving organisation is situated.

When national passports and visas have been registered, they are to be returned to their holders. Foreigners staying in Russia are obliged to carry on them passports and visas, and are to present these documents when requested to do so by members of law-enforcement bodies and other authorised bodies.

Hotels which have the right to register foreign visitors are to register the passports of all foreign citizens staying in them, regardless of the purpose or length of a visitor's stay in the country. In the event that a foreign citizen is staying in a private apartment or in a small hotel where there is no registration service, he/she must apply for registration to the nearest Department of Visas and Registration of Foreign Citizens at the local District Office of Internal Affairs. National passports are to be registered for the length of time indicated in a visitor's visa or tour document.

In the event that a foreign visitor loses his/her national passport or visa, he/she should submit written notification to the Office of Internal Affairs for the district in which he/she has been registered. Receipt of such notification is to be acknowledged by issue of a certificate to this effect. Foreign citizens must apply to their national consulates (embassies) to receive new national passports, and to the department of the Passport and Visa Service where they were registered in order to receive new exit documents.

Foreign citizens are entitled to move freely in areas of the Russian Federation which are open to foreign citizens. However, upon arrival at each new destination, they must register their stay with the authorities either at the hotel in which they are staying or at the local Office of Internal Affairs.

Procedures governing movements within the Russian Federation by foreign dozens whose national passports have been registered at the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the latter's representative offices are determined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These procedures likewise apply to employees of airlines, banks, trading companies, and other permanent representative offices of foreign organisations.

Foreigners may enter and move about within territories closed to foreign citizens only after permission has been obtained from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

In Leningrad Region territories dosed to foreign citizens are: the islands in the Finnish Gulf and a 20-km wide strip of coast between the city of Lomonosov and the mouth of the River Narva. The city of Lomonosov itself is open to foreign dozens.

In order for a foreign sitizen to enter the above territories, the organisation which receives him/her must obtain permission in the manner established by law. Sanctions that may be used against foreign dozens or persons without sitizenship for violations of rules and legislation governing stays in the Russian Federation are: fines; reduction of the time for which the violator is permitted to stay in the Russian Federation; expulsion from Russia; criminal proceedings.

All foreign citizens committing violations of the law on Russian territory are to bear administrative and criminal liability on a parity with citizens of Russia and in accordance with Russian law. The liability of persons with diplomatic immunity for violations of the law is to be settled only through diplomatic channels.

Russian law allows that persons may be arrested, searched, or have their personal belongings or vehicles searched should this be the necessary in order to prevent violations of the law.

In case of illness

In case of emergency medical care needed, call ambulance 03 (24 hours a day).

Following emergency treatment, you should arrange to be transferred to a licensed medical institution capable of giving you the best treatment for your illness.

Private persons, healers, or quacks may offer you help. Our advice is to refuse such offers. It is possible that no harm will come of their attentions, but it is more likely that you will simply lose time in finding effective treatment for your illness.

Saint-Petersburg and Moscow have many private health clinics, as well as private emergency and dental services. Since these use the most modern medical equipment and drugs and medicines, the level of service provided is as high as anywhere else in the world while prices are generally considerably lower.

For information about any services of the leading medical centres of Saint-Petersburg and Moscow and the presence of medicines in city's pharmacists please inquiry the Information Health Service: tel. 03 (24 hours a day).

The city's pharmacists stock Russian and imported medicines. Many medicines are available without prescription.

Cash payments

Since it is against the law to pay in foreign currency on the territory of the Russian Federation, you have to exchange your money for Russian roubles. We remind you that since January 1, 1999 only banknotes and coins issued in 1997 or later are valid.

It is not a problem to exchange money in Saint-Petersburg or Moscow. There are a lot of banks and exchange offices, especially in the centres of the cities, including those in large department stores and hotels. Some of them are open 24 hours a day. Exchange rates in different exchange offices are slightly different. If you want to exchange some money you need to have proper credentials (national passport or passport for travelling abroad, etc.) with you. The documents are necessary for issuing a currency convertion certificate (which you may need when leaving the country).

Remember, when changing money you should be on the alert for trickery and fraud. Do not ever exchange money with individuals. As a rule, they offer a better exchange rate, but you risk loosing all your money.

If somebody asks you to hold their money for a while do not agree to do so. Nor do we advise you to pick up a purse if you see one on the ground. Otherwise swindlers may accuse you of substitution of the money and demand compensation of the missing sum.

If you fall a victim to fraud, we recommend that you contact the police by dialling 02.

In the majority of restaurants, large shops and banks you can pay by credit card. Cards of all major international payment systems (VISA, Maestro, EuroPay, American Express etc.) are received. Still, this sort of payment has not yet become common enough. Therefore we advise that you always have some cash roubles on you.

Credit card fraud is common in restaurants and night clubs. Lost or stolen credit cards may be used to purchase some goods or to obtain cash from cash-mashines, provided the swindlers know your private identification number (code). In some cases credit cards are quietly returned to their holders after they have been used to make expensive purchases. For this reason you better not leave your credit cards (and receipt slips that may be copied by the swindlers for illegal operations) anywhere even for a short period of time.

Along with the credit cards such means of payment as traveller's cheques, Euro-cheques and other kinds of cheques may be subjects to criminal encroachment. Illegal use of such cheques is connected with thefts, robberies, fraud, or accidental loss of the traveller's cheques by the legal holders. In these cases, when there is holder's signature on the cheque, a thief forges the secondsignature himself or with the assistance of an accomplice and then obtains the sum stated in the cheque at some financial or other establishment.

When leaving Russia, you may take up to $1500 with you without any certificate. There is, on the other hand, no limit on the amount of foreign currency you may bring into the country. When leaving Russia, you should enter the sum of money you are taking with you in your customs declaration before you cross the border. You may take more than $1500 (but not more than $10000) provided that you have documents for customs clearance showing that the money had been legally transfered or brought to the Russian Federation, or taken from the current account (in foreign currency), or purchased at the authorized bank of the Russian Federation. (Statute of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation N 105-1, Statute of the State Customs Committee of the Russian Federation N 01-100/1 from January 12, 2000 Regarding the Procedure of Exporting Foreign Currency from the Russian Federation by Individuals, paragraphs 2.1 and 2.2).




Night life

If you are fond of games of hazard or wish to try your hand at a little roulette, night-time Saint-Petersburg and Moscow have a lot to offer. However, you are no doubt aware that all over the world casinos and clubs hold a risk of unwelcome adventures as well as the promise of pleasure. St. Petersburg is no exception. It is therefore best to restrict yourself to casino and night clubs with a good reputation, where the chance of something unpleasant happening is so slight as to be non-existent.

You might be reassured to know that there are guides, translators, and security escorts whom you may book for any time of day or night.

It is better perhaps not to take with you large sums of money. If your intention is to win, you won't need much anyway. And if you intend to lose, you will lose less.

Do not respond to strangers who may offer you drinks, give you advice on how to lay your bets, and go out of their way to gain your friendship. Remember that in Russia, as all over the world, this is not acceptable behaviour and is a sure sign of the existence of a hidden motive.

Consider in advance how you are going to return from your night out. You will always be able to order a taxi, while if you have won a large sum, the casino's special security' service will escort you home.

Always carry with you your passport or other personal identity' document. The police have the right to inspect your documents, but must give their names and ranks and explain why they arc conducting the check. If a member of the police force is not in uniform, he must show you identification; you should look at this carefully.

You should bear in mind that on the territory of the Russian Federation you are subject to Russian law.

And now a few words on the subject of women.

Russian women are rightly considered to be among the most beautiful in the world. You will be glad to know that this is not a country of rigid puritanism. You may get to know women almost anywhere: in museums, theatres, or on the streets. But take care not to be insistent when it is clear that your advances are not welcome. If a Russian woman says "No", that is exactly what she means - and nothing else.

Officially, there are no public houses or procurement agencies in Russia. But you will have no difficulty in finding commercial publications offering numerous sexual amusements under the guise of massage, baths, or escort services. Sometimes the purpose of such services is not only to make money through prostitution, but to generate much easier earnings through theft and robbery.

Most often, difficulties arise when foreigners make the acquaintance of women of easy virtue and start drinking strong alcohol in their company. Many such instances end with the foreigner awaking on the following morning to find both the girl and all his valuables gone.