According to Russian law, your Russian visa must be registered within 7 working days of your arrival (excluding weekends and official holidays).
The registration rules have changed again in March 2011 so that you now only have to register if you're staying for 7 working days or more. If you do need to register, it is still your responsibility to hand in the original registration slip at the border on departure from Russia.
What is visa registration?
Registration of visas is a form of migration control within Russia managed by UFMS (Federal Migration Service Organisation). It is not aimed specifically at tourists or business people, rather its general aim is to control illegal immigration from the former Soviet Republics into the Russian Federation, though as the law is all-encompassing, foreigners including tourists are also required to register.
Basically, registration involves placing a stamp either in your passport or on your migration card and obtaining a registration slip. The stamps and registration slip show the period you are registered to stay in any one place. In addition to the dates it will also contain the name of the hotel, accommodation or apartment, where you are staying and the name of the sponsor organisation.
Please be aware that the Russian militia often stop people to check their passports and travel documents, especially around train stations, metro stations, bus stations and areas such as the Kremlin, so remember to take your passport, migration card and registration slip with you every time you leave your hotel or apartment. There is nothing unusual in this and there is nothing to be worried about if you are stopped, so long as you have registered correctly.
If you are stopped by the Militia for any reason, they will check that you are registered to be in the city / town and that the dates are valid.
New rules implemented from 25th March 2011 mean that you should register within 7 working days of arrival, rather than the previous deadline of 3 working days.
It is the responsibility of the visitor to register in each place where you spend seven working days or more. When registering in each new city (where your stay is seven working days or more), you have to hand in the registration slip from the previous city, so we recommend taking a copy of all your registration slips. You must hand in the final original registration slip at the border on departure from Russia. In St Petersburg, however, registration is usually completed by hotels and agencies through an online system so you may be advised by the hotel/agency to keep the original registration slip from your previous city of stay (where applicable) rather than handing it in to the St Petersburg authorities; in that case, you should hand in both original registration slips at the border on exiting Russia.
What will happen if I don't register?
Remember, your Russian visa is an exit as well as entry visa, and if you don't register then technically it may lead to serious problems with the authorities including fines, detention, deportation and even prevention of leaving the country.
In practice, more often than not, if you have not registered your visa within the time required by Russian law you will be exposing yourself to "fines" by the local militia or other officials who may stop and check your passport. If you have registered your visa correctly, or you had no need to register your visa, when stopped by the Militia - for example if you had only arrived the day before - and you are told you need to pay a "fine", stand your ground and say "no", you have not broken the law, they are just looking for a bribe. If they persist, insist that you call your embassy to inform them you are the subject of police harassment; this will in most cases put them off.
If you are stopped by the Militia and you have not registered your visa within the prescribed time, the maximum fine according to Russian law is now about 2,000-5,000 roubles (approx. £40-£100) and, regardless of what the Militia say, at this point it is highly unlikely that you would be deported (the Militia do not have the power to do this) as it is only a civil not a criminal offence. They can, if they choose, take you to the Militia station for up to three hours to record and check your details and after this can apply for your deportation. Because of this, we have heard in the past of people who have paid up to $500 in "fines" as it is very difficult, if not impossible, to say "no" when faced with a couple of burley, unsmiling and armed militiamen in a foreign country and threatened with a trip to the local police station and the possibility of deportation procedures!
It is now the responsibility of the visitor to register their stay and be able to hand in the original registration slip on departure. When leaving Russia through passport control at an international airport, crossing a land border or flying internally through a regional airport if you do not have correct registration then there is a chance that you can be fined (up to £1,000.00). In extreme situations you may also be deported "on the spot" and if this happens you will not be allowed to enter Russia for five years.
It is important to understand that if you are "officially fined" (that is your details have been taken and you have been given a receipt) twice for breeches of registration rules then this information will be recorded and be made available to the Russian consulates worldwide. In such a situation you may be blacklisted from obtaining a Russian visa for five years.
The best way to avoid such unpleasant situations is to register the visa as soon as you arrive.