Ban to enter Russia: why and how to lift it
A Turkish citizen with valid visa arrived to Russia on March 2015 (that was before the story with the Russian plane being allegedly shot by Turkish authorities and subsequent sanctions against Turkish nationals). He is a successful businessman and owns a big company in a provincial Russian city. At the passport control he was informed by a polite officer that he was prohibited to enter Russia. No reasons, no explanation, not even a duration of such prohibition were provided to him. He flew back to Turkey and we had to start investigation on reasons of such ban. As there is not much information available in English on such a delicate topic, I decided to dedicate this article to it. As usually, this article is not legal consultation advice – just general information on the procedure and specific advice should be sought if you are in doubt.
1. Grounds for banning the entrance
A person with valid visa, permit to work, or permit to reside can be banned from entering Russia on the grounds listed in articles 26-27 of the Federal Law dated 15 August, 1996 No 114-FZ. This ban is not specifically related to violation of migration rules. There is a relatively long list of grounds; therefore, I identify the most commonly used:
False information was provided about him/herself or a purpose of stay in Russia
A person was hold responsible two times and more for administrative violations (punishable by a ban is for up to three years). This ground is the most dangerous one – two tickets for speeding and the access could be denied.
A person did not leave the country within thirty days after expiration of visa during a previous stay in Russia (punishable by a ban for up to three years). Exceptions: emergency situation, death of a close relative, or due to medical emergency which required treatment.
Please note that the law says a person MAY be banned. So, a ban is not an imminent outcome for any infringement.
The good news is that everybody can check on the website of Federal Migration Service whether s/he has a ban. The bad news is that unfortunately not all information is listed on the website. So, there is still a chance (although a slim one) that with no website results, at the passport control a person is informed about the ban. Please, be also aware that the website does not provide information why a person was disallowed.
2. Which Russian state agency can apply for a ban?
A number of Russian agencies can ask for a ban, like Migration Service, Federal Security Service, Federal Anti-Drug Service, Ministry of Internal Affairs, etc. Therefore, if you want to figure out the reasons of the ban, you need to inquire each agency. If you are banned, most probably you will not be able to do this on your own. Therefore, you can ask your wife, husband, a friend, or an attorney to hand over your requests to the state authorities. Don’t forget to issue a power of attorney for this person (even if this person is your relative).
In the letter to the authority you need to state what happened to you and your passport details. At the end you kindly ask to provide reasons for your ban. You also ask to call you when the reply is ready to pick it although no real hope for this to really happen.
Going back to my client, numerous letters were sent to different state authorities mentioned above. According to law, Russian state authorities have to answer any letter or request within 30 days.
Almost all authorities replied to us that they had no information regarding our client’s ban, except the Federal Security Service (the one that foreigners sometimes refer with its Soviet acronym - KGB). Unfortunately, we were almost 100% sure that this authority had the information we needed. Thus, we had to get results from them. It turned out to be a demanding task.
We called them on numerous occasions and they stated that they had sent the reply; therefore, they insisted that it got lost in the midst of our post office. At the same time the post officers sworn that they received nothing from the Federal Security Service (FSB). There was only once way to understand the truth – to visit the Service. The logic was that if they sent the reply as they claimed, they should be able to provide a tracking number of the letter or a copy of the reply.
After arguing with the officers in FSB for about half an hour, I finally found an officer who asked me to come back in two weeks. Two weeks afterwards, I receive an email from him with the scanned copy of the reply. He stated that my client was denied the entrance as he had overstayed in Russia. The access was denied for six months. The client decided not to pursue the case in courts. The lesson for future – FSB is the best source of information although somewhat reluctant to reveal it.
3. Contesting the ban before Russian authorities
If you think that there are no grounds for your ban or you believe that the punishment is extremely harsh for your minor violations, read on.
There are two main avenues to pursue – an appeal to the higher authority or to a court. I must admit that if you did not have good reasons to violate the law (like illness or a plane delay), it is not probable that they court will change the conditions of the ban. However, if you have a family in Russia, the chances to get a less harsh punishment are much bigger.
As you remember, in the beginning of this article I mentioned that the access MAY be denied. Thus, the circumstances of your case are the determining factor. You will need to explain to the Russian authorities that you are not a villain and disobeyed the rules because of the objective reasons.
In the light of Russian harsh migration policy, the chances for the ban to be lifted are not particularly encouraging; however, Russian judges and officers are not totally inhuman. Maybe you will not get the ban lifted, but as a result of the review by authorities the ban time might be shortened which is already good news.