PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE “MINSK” SUBGROUP IS MUCH MORE ACTIVE THAN “BELARUS” ON THE WHOLE. IF SILENCE IS THE ANSWER, KNOCK AT THIS DOOR
The Belarusian legislation on dealing with foreigners was slightly changed in 2010. That’s why don’t expect everything you can find on the Internet to be true (especially that on the official sites, especially those which are in English). So check the date and feel free to ask if you get confused.
1. A Belarusian visa application form has confusing columns #20, #21 and #22 which ask you to tell where you are going to stay at (the hotel, the person, etc.). Yeah, you are not allowed to go into nowhere in Belarus. You have to make all the arrangements before applying for a visa and indicate this information right now regardless of any simplifications of other rules. Many Belarusian couchsurfers may give their names and addresses as well as host you. Ask for their help if you need.
2. Tourist companies are to provide their customers with visa assistance. If you aren’t going to use any tourist company’s services (but you are a tourist), you are likely to be required a so-called invitation to prove the purpose of you visit. It means that your host, who should be a Belarusian citizen, should get the invitation at the local Passport and Visa Office of the Ministry of Interior (‘подразделение по гражданству и миграции Министерства внутренних дел’) and send the original paper to you. BUT you needn’t an invitation if you are a citizen of any of these states: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, the USA. It is true if you apply for a visa valid through up to 30 days. Citizens of these countries may also get a tourist visa if they have a document confirming they have booked an apartment (at a hotel, a rented flat or so). Though, it doesn’t mean that all Belarusian hotels will send you such an invitation.
3. As another formality, foreigners must get registered in Belarus. It’s quite a tiring procedure which may take half a day and require some command of Russian. So, many foreigners avoid it by staying at a hotel - they get registered automatically there. You also needn’t get registered if you are not going to stay for more than one week (one weekend plus five business days before, after or surrounding them). The same is true if you are going to visit different towns. So, the legal scheme looks like that: You come into the country and travel freely for 5 days + weekend. Within these 7 days you register somewhere (town A). Then travel freely as much as you wish. After one week is over, register somewhere (town B) and so on. However, you are highly unlikely to be asked about your registration before you cross the border. So, you may avoid registration in towns B (C, …), and the idea that you have come for a day to city B (C,D) but you are going to return to city A quite soon is perfectly legal.
4. Commonly, health insurance policies for foreigners are issued by the state Belgosstrakh (‘Белгосстрах’) company. (a CS post)
September 10th, 2010
!!! Make sure you have consulted your embassy before rushing at conclusions !!!
1. Закон Республики Беларусь № 105-З «О правовом положении иностранных граждан и лиц без гражданства в Республике Беларусь» (January 4th, 2010) (link)
2. Постановление Совета Министров Республики Беларусь № 1065 «Об утверждении Визовых правил Республики Беларусь» (July 15th, 2010) (link)
3. Постановление Совета Министров Республики Беларусь № 73 «Об утверждении Правил пребывания иностранных граждан и лиц без гражданства в Республике Беларусь», с изменениями и дополнениями (January 20th, 2006) (link)
PART 1. How to Get Belarusian Visa
Do I need a visa?
Most foreigners need a visa (‘виза’) to enter and/or exit Belarus (‘Беларусь’) [1, article 27]. The exception is the citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, China (for tourists in groups arranged by some travel agencies), Cuba (up to 30 days), Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia (a few categories), Lithuania (a few categories), Moldova, Montenegro (up to 30 days), Poland (a few categories), Russia, Serbia (up to 30 days), Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela (up to 90 days).
The duration of stay
Foreigners are allowed to stay temporarily (‘временное пребывание’) in Belarus for up to 90 days during a calendar year (from January 1st to December 31st) unless the visa cuts down the term [1, article 39]. For longer visits, you have to transfer to the other regimes of stay (i.e. temporary residing (‘временное проживание’) or permanent residing (‘постоянное проживание’)), which is accompanied by a great deal of paperwork at the local Passport and Visa Office of the Ministry of Interior (‘подразделение по гражданству и миграции Министерства внутренних дел’) [1, article 40].
The following states host Belarusian embassies - Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Switzerland, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates, the UK, Ukraine, the USA, Uzbekistan. (click for more)
A matter of time
The processing time is normally up to five business days, or it can be cut down to two days if urgent processing was ordered by paying extra fee. [2, article 42]
Documents to submit to the Consular Section of the Embassy [2, article 26]:
- Application form (‘визовая анкета’) (samples). The form must be filled out completely, no blank spaces must be left. The form must me filled in the official language of the state of the embassy’s location or in Russian, Belarusian or English in block letters, or you can use the computer. The form should bear the original signature of applicant. [2, article 27] Don’t forget to show the real purpose of your trip - I suppose, either ‘tourism’ (‘туризм’) or ‘private’ (‘частная’). The most confusing columns ask you to put down the name and address of the organization or person you are going to stay at - it means that you have to make all the arrangements before setting about filling in this form. Regardless of any simplifications concerning other documents, this information is demanded right now. Besides, if your state is NOT regarded as reliable in terms of migration (‘государство, благополучное в миграционном отношении’) (see below), you’ll have to prove your financial security (see below) and submit an attachment to the visa application form (‘приложение к визовой анкете’) (sample). [2, article 40]
- Photo (‘фотография’). One passport size color made not longer than six months before. [2, article 28]
- Passport (‘паспорт’). A valid original passport or the substitute document to put the visa into. The document should have at least two blank visa pages, a photo and should be valid for at least 90 days upon your trip is over. [2, article 29] The Belarusian state doesn’t recognize double citizenship, so you’ll be considered a citizen of the state whose passport you use to get the visa. [1, article 2]
- Visa Support Documents (‘документы визовой поддержки’). The most confusing documents. For sure, you must have a health insurance policy valid in Belarus (contact your embassy to learn where you can get such). [2, article 30.2, article 52] Besides, you’ll have to prove the purpose of your visit with a separate document - see below.
- Other documents at consular official’s request [2, article 31]
- Payment [2, article 5]
They may insist on having an interview with you in person. [2, article 44]
Visa types: on transit or for long?
- B - transit (‘транзитная’). It can be valid for up to one year and allows to stay in Belarus for two days unless something unexpected like a car accident takes place (if so, you need an exit permission (‘выездная виза’) issued by the local Passport and Visa Office of the Ministry of Interior). [1, article 37; 2, article 18]
- C - short-term (‘краткосрочная’). It can be valid for up to 90 days. [2, article 19]
- D - long-term (‘долгосрочная’). It can be valid for up to 1 year, though it allows to stay in Belarus for 90 days either. [2, article 20]
If there are five or more of you and you promise to be together within the territory of Belarus and at the border, a transit or short-term group visa (‘групповая виза’) can be issued (for one or two entries). [2, article 25]
I’m demanded to prove the purpose of my visit. What should I do?
The required visa support documents for a transit visa are a visa for the country you are traveling from/to via Belarus. If this state has no entry visa requirements for you - copy of the tickets, itinerary from your travel agency or any other document confirming your trip to the appropriate country, car registration data may also be accepted. They issue transit visas for one (‘однократная’), two (‘двукратная’) or more (‘многократная’) entries. [2, article 18].
Type C visa can be issued for the following purposes [2, article 19]:
- for a business trip, equally for participating in sporting or cultural events;
- for studies;
- for supporting religious relations;
- for visiting burial places;
- for providing humanitarian help;
- for mass medias’ purposes;
- for job;
- for tourism;
- for private purposes.
It is most likely that a couchsurfer will need either of the latter two.
To get a tourist visa (‘виза в целях туризма’) a foreigner needs an original official letter of invitation (‘ходатайство’) (sample) for up to 30 days from a hosting organization registered as a tourist company by the Belarusian authorities. It may be a travel agency, a sanatorium, a health center, a so-called ‘agroecotourism farmstead’ or so. Some other documents are also possible - at the consular official’s discretion. A tourist visa can be for one or two entries only [2, article 19.5].
For a private purpose visa (‘виза по частным делам’) you'll need an original (not a copy) invitation (‘приглашение’) (sample) from a Belarusian citizen. S/he should get it at the local Passport and Visa Office of the Ministry of Interior (‘подразделение по гражданству и миграции Министерства внутренних дел’) and send it to you. Some other documents are also possible - at the consular official’s discretion. [2, article 19.6].
Long-term visas are issued for the same purposes except for tourism, studies, job and mass medias’ purposes [2, article 20].
Long-term private purpose visa’s support documents are the same original invitation (‘приглашение’) (sample) from your host or some other documents at the consular official’s discretion. [2, article 20.2]
Well, sad enough, you can’t go to nowhere concerning Belarus.
For the EU, the USA, Canada and some other countries’ citizens
You are on the bright side if your state is considered reliable in terms of migration (‘государство, благополучное в миграционном отношении’). They include Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Uruguay, the USA. The list may change - check at the embassy.
Concerning short-term tourist visas, citizens of these countries may do with a copied (for example, e-mailed) letter of invitation. What is more, if you are not going to stay for more than 10 days, you just need a document confirming you have booked an apartment (at a hotel, a rented flat or so). [2, article 59] Though, it doesn’t mean that all Belarusian hotels will send you such an invitation.
Concerning short-term private purpose visas, at your embassy’s consular official’s discretion you may (and it is very likely to be so) need no invitation at all (for a private purpose or business visa valid through 30 days or less) [2, article 55] or may be demanded to submit an original application (‘заявление’) (sample) from a Belarusian citizen verified by a notary in Belarus or right at the embassy (for any short-term private purpose visa) [2, article 57].
Concerning long-term private purpose visas, there is also another option - an original application (‘заявление’) (sample) from a Belarusian citizen who is your close relative (a spouse, a brother/sister, a child, a grandchild, a parent, a grandparent) at the same moment whose signature is to be verified by a notary right at the embassy. [2, article 58]
Getting Visa at the Airport on Arrival
There are consular offices at the National airport Minsk-2 and Minsk-1. [2, article 34] If everything is OK, visas are issued immediately.
Normally, the Consular offices issue visas to foreign visitors from the countries where there are no Belarusian consular offices. However, they also issue visas to the citizens of the other states. There is no restriction since 2010.
You had better apply for short term visas because long-term ones are issued exclusively after a previous correspondence with the Main Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (‘ГКУ МИД’), at least five days beforehand. [2, article 36]
No visa support documents’ copies are accepted there - original papers only. [2, article 35] Though, they may not be required at all - on the same basis as if at the embassy.
Concerning tourist visas, you are to submit the original contract (‘ваучер’) with the travel agency BESIDES the original letter of invitation. [2, article 38]
National airport “Minsk” Visa fees are higher than the embassies’. (link). Payment can be made in cash only; EUR and USD are the only currencies to be accepted.
PART 2. At the Border
Migration card: nothing special
There is no possibility to get a Belarusian entry visa at the border!
You’ll be given a migration card (‘миграционная карта’) (sample) to fill in. The frontier guard is to stamp both parts to confirm the fact of your arrival and withdraw Part A. Be careful with Part B as it must be submitted at the registration procedure (see below) and returned at the border when you leave Belarus [1, article 29].
How much money am I required to have?
A foreigner is required to have at least 50 so-called ‘basic amounts’ (‘базовая величина’) for each month or two ‘basic amounts’ a day if you stay for less than one month. [2, article 32] A ‘basic amount’ equals BYR 35000 at the moment (exchange rates).
Now and later, you may be asked to prove your financial security. You may do it by showing cash acceptable in Belarus (for sure, BYR, EUR, USD and RUR) or anything that proves you can withdraw the money from a bank. However, you may equally show documents proving you have rented an apartment, booked tickets, a letter of invitation (verified at the Passport and Visa Office), a guarantee letter from a Belarusian citizen or even a vehicle - these all must content the curiosity. [3, article 8]
PART 3. Get Registered!
Compulsory registration: what? where?
Since you crossed the border, you are promised the complete set of all natural human rights you could ever imagine [1, article 7] and are obliged to obey the Belarusian law and respect local traditions [1, article 22]. So, as another tradition, you must get registered (‘зарегистрироваться’) at the local Passport and Visa Office of the Ministry of Interior (their addresses are here) [1, article 23] or at your hotel, sanatorium or health centre if you stay there [1, article 43]. Get somebody to help you with the procedure which may take half a day.
Documents to submit at the registration
- Migration card (part B)
- Two passport size photos
- Copy of the most important passport pages and the visa
- Invitation (not for private purpose stay)
- 2 application forms (in Russian only) (You can find sample here.)
May I not get registered?
Though, you shouldn’t get registered if you are in Belarus for weekends or national holidays and/or the duration of your stay isn’t more than five business days (Monday to Friday) [1, article 45]. Taking into account one weekend before, inside or after the business days of your stay, you’ll get the total of the whole week of a legal stay in Belarus without registration.
You needn’t get registered if you are a contracted ‘agroecotourist’ either [1, article 45].
Citizens of Russia, Lithuania and Latvia may not get registered within the first 30 days of their stay.
Moving throughout Belarus
If this is of no use for you, there is one more restriction. You are obliged to dwell at the address which you have mentioned while the registration unless your visa was issued for tourist purposes (the owners of such ought to register the address of the first apartment of their official tour schedule). If you change your dwelling, get registered anew within the same five business days (see above) [1, article 41].
Keep in mind that the data about foreigners having entered Belarus is transmitted to the central database (‘центральный банк данных учета иностранных граждан и лиц без гражданства, прибывающих в страну’), including their passport data and addresses [1, article 61].
If Belarusian authorities decide that you shouldn’t stay in Belarus for any more, you’ll be informed in person or by post. The fact of sending such a mail automatically means you have been informed three days later [1, article 59].
A 24-hour information service of the Main Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (‘ГКУ МИД’): +375 17 222 26 75; + 375 17 222 31 52; +375 17 222 31 59.
Get through all these formalities as smoothly as possibly! Welcome!
1. de: http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/diplo/de/Laenderinformationen/Belarus/Sicherheitshinweise.html#t4
Created: Sep 11, 2010
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