Belarus

Visa Requirements, Basic Information

Visa Requirements, Basic Information
 

Eight steps to get a visa

Find an Belarus travel agency. Plenty of them can be found within first few hits on Google. E-mail the agency info they need, typically: names, arrival and departure dates to/from Belarus, dates of birth, and the numbers of passports of visitors.

The agency books a hotel for you your group for these days or offers you a list of hotels to choose from and they send you the confirmation invitation letter with a bill for you to settle you can also pay the bill in cash on arrival. Note that the agencies book hotels that they cooperate with and it is highly unlikely that they'll book you a cheap hostel from booking.com. Be prepared you'll have to pay a normal hotel room price, not a budget dorm.

After you have settled the bill the agency sends an invitation and a copy of the tourist services contract to the Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in your country. Alternatively, if you note the agency that you plan to apply for the visa on arrival, they will send the documents to the consular office at the airport and a copy to you.

In the Embassy you fill in the form, pay the fee and obtain a visa as quickly as you want up to 48 hours.

If there’s no Belarusian embassy in your country, you can also obtain a tourist visa at the Minsk National Airport on arrival. The procedure might take from ten to more than ninety minutes. Take care to get ALL details right when trying to obtain a visa at the Minsk National Airport. For example, if an invitation is needed, then it has to be sent to the visa office at the airport at least three days before your arrival, and the invitation must fill all formal requirements, e.g. it must be stamped by Notarius Publicus. Visa applications delivered at the airport are often rejected, and in this case the visitor will be sent back with the first possible plane. While waiting for the plane the visitor will be kept in a room under strict police control, without food and with drinking water available only from a sink at the toilet.

Several tips on applying in MSQ Airport will save you precious time.

After having obtained a short-term visa valid for 30 days and cannot be extended you arrive in Belarus e.g. in Minsk and check in the hotel that has been booked for you.

You are registered in the hotel for the whole period of your stay there automatically.

If you want to rent a private apartment after this, you should register with the local Migration and Citizenship Department OGIM you can learn details in your travel agency. It would take some time and about $15.

Note, that there is NO Belarus tourist VOUCHER any more and all offers to sell one are outdated to say the least

Visa free entry

The following countries do not need a visa.Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cuba 30 days, Ecuador 30 days,Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedoniawith a private invitation or tourist voucher, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro 30 days with a private invitation or tourist voucher, Russia, Serbia 30 days, Tajikistan, Turkey 30 days, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela 90 days.An up-to-date list of visa-exempt countries can be found here: (http://mfa.gov.by/en/visa).

Visa at Minsk National Airport

Belarusian visas at Minsk National Airport MSQ are issued to nationals of countries with no consular offices of the Republic of Belarus at €90. However, the prices for nationals WITH a Belarusian consulate in their passport country are rather high - €180 when they apply at MSQ on arrival. Standard documents like a letter of invitation have to be provided, too - a hotel booking is not enough, at least for a tourist visa, but not other entry points. See the visa price-list in English

For nationals of other countries Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, China, Estonia, Egypt, France, Hungary, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Republic of South Africa, Slovak Republic, Montenegro, Switzerland, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, USA, visas may be issued upon arrival on an exceptional basis only. However, this option will be unavailable to people with Belarusian embassies in their countries starting from 1 September 2012, except if the reason for entry is urgent such as illness or death of family.

Visa Requirements, Basic Information
 

You can apply for a visa at a Belarusian Consulate or Embassy. The list can be found on the Foreign Affairs Ministry website. Quick visa processing is more expensive, but you will get it within half a day.

There are visa fees and processing changes, so make sure that you check with the local embassy or consulate before you plan your trip. A visa will take a full page of your passport so make sure you have at least 1 page free.

Note: There have been numerous reports of people following ALL application protocols as regards visa applications for Belarus, but ending up disappointed. One common example is the refusal by the Embassy to accept crossed postal orders i.e. a postal order made payable to Embassy of Belarus. If at all possible, you should use a Visa processing agency who can liaise with the consulate on your behalf. This will cost you more but its worth it OR visit the embassy in London in person to organize your Visa.

Communication with the embassies/consulates in Kensington London, England, Vilnius Lithuania, Moscow Russia can be poor especially by e-mail, post and via telephone. In addition, there have been reports of e-mail queries going unanswered and express Visa applications not being processed in the 48 hour period. They may call you with an update on an application but the communication can be poor or unclear with the caller not identifying themselves.

In addition the offices close on Wednesdays.

From experience, applying for a Visa for Belarus can be a very customer unfriendly experience. If you do not live in London or you are in a hurry, you SHOULD use the help of a Visa Processing Agencies where you can for a smoother experience.

Visa Requirements, Basic Information
 

Normal fee for Belarusian private or business single visa can vary from USD40-80.Visas for children under 16 are issued free of charge; a visa processing fee can be levied in this case by certain Belarusian embassies or consulates.

Visa fees are generally as follows:

transit B visa - USD25 for UK citizens: GBP55

short-stay C visa - USD70 for UK citizens: GBP75

Japanese and Serbian passport holders are exempted from visa fees.

There is now a trend to spare the transit tourists from a need to apply for a transit visa at MSQ Airport. There is no document with guidelines available to public, but if you come from a migration secure country and travel with Belavia via Minsk to the third destination it is highly unlikely that you will need a transit visa. ALWAYS check with the Minsk Airport Consulate.

Visa Requirements, Basic Information
 

Belarusian visas are issued in 5 working days; there is also a possibility to get it urgently in 48 hours by paying a double fee.

Visa Requirements, Basic Information
 

In order to get a visa you will also need a passport and an invitation, other papers depending on the type of visa you apply for.There is a compulsory state medical insurance for visitors to Belarus if you do have a policy valid in Belarus. The fee for this insurance is USD0.50 per day rounded up to the nearest US dollar eg 1-2 days: USD1; 3-4 days: USD2; etc.. Citizens of the UK are the only nation exempt from this procedure.Even if your medical insurance is valid in Belarus, it is common for customs control to insist you purchase insurance at the airport. This can be purchased just before you go through customs, so it is important you carry a few euros on you.

To get a Belarusian business visa a foreigner has to present an invitation of any Belarusian legal entity officially registered in the Republic of Belarus. The invitation is to be written on letterhead paper and should contain name, personal and passport details as well as purpose and duration of visit. The invitation is to be signed and bear official seal of the inviting organization. Embassies or consulates with the exception of Consular office at the National airport can often except invitations received by fax. Multiple business visa is obtainable against payment of USD300 from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Consular department upon presentation of all required documents contact phone + 375 17 222 26 61.

To get a short-term visa for private purposes visiting Belarusian relatives, friends, other private matters with a validity of 30 days, maximum for 1-, 2- or multiple entries for citizens of the EU as well as nationals of several other countries, such as Australia, Andorra, Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Chile, Iceland, Israel, Norway, Swiss Confederation, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Uruguay, Republic of South Africa and Japan, no visa support documents shall be required letter of invitation etc. documents. However, the consulate may decide you do need a letter of invitation anyway. So don't be too confident that you can get a Visa without documents. For example, Canadian citizens are not guaranteed to get a short term visa for private purposes without a letter of invitation. Short term visas are available from Minsk airport, consulates and embassies.

To get a visa for private purposes a foreigner who is planning to stay in the country for more than 30 days has to present the invitation issued for a Belarusian resident by his citizenship and migration office. The original invitation should be handed over to the embassy/consulate or Consular office at the National airport in this case, any fax or photocopy is excluded. Multiple private visa is issued upon presentation of the original invitation to foreigners, visiting their close relatives. Very often Belarusian consulates grant private visas to the nationals of migration secure countries without any invitation papers.

Visas can be valid for one, two, three or multiple entries. They are to be used within the period indicated therein.

Some agencies provide letters of invitation, apartments, airport transfers etc. Any good search engine should provide links. Avoid belarusrent.com, however. Reports have been received of them taking money through paypal, though not delivering on services and refusing refunds.

Registration and visa extension in BelarusForeigners visiting Belarus must register within a period of 5 business days with local Migration and Citizenship Department and have registration put in their migration card. If you are staying in a hotel, this will be arranged by the hotel. A police registration form can be found here.

If needed, private or business visas can be extended up to 90 days when staying in Belarus. It will be done by Minsk city citizenship and migration office contact phone + 375 17 231 38 09 or Regional citizenship and migration office in Hrodna, Brest, Minsk, Mahilyou, Homel upon presentation of all required documents.

Exit permits required for all foreigners intending to leave the country with expired visas. They are issued by Minsk city passport and visa office or Regional passport and visa offices in Hrodna, Brest, Minsk, Mogilev, Homel.

ENTRY FROM LITHUANIA

It is only in Consulate in Vilnius that you can submit your documents applying DIRECTLY for a visa to Belarus. They issue all visas on the same day - if it is urgent you pay twice as much, get the visa on the same day and it is valid from tomorrow for example, if not, you pay a normal fee, still collect it on the same day, but travel only within one week for example.

It is very unlikely for the visa regime to become any softer for EU citizens in the near future. First attempts for visa free travelling are made in the Polish and Lithuanian border areas where people who reside there permanently will be able to travel visa free in the 50 km border area.

Tips

There is no possibility to get a Belarusian entry visa on the border except for the Minsk National Airport

Latest prices and procedures are available from the Embassy Sites (http://www.belembassy.org...). Pre-issued visas save a lot of time on entry.

On foot
On foot

If you're at one of the double town crossings, e.g.

Kuźnica-Białostocka/Hrodna

Terespol/Brest

there may be some places where you can cross by foot - e.g. because you're on the last day of your Belarus visa and you want to be sure not to overstay - but more likely you'll have to befriend some people in a car who will adopt you for a few hours and will implicitly pretend that you're travelling with them. The border guards have no problem with this. Remember that the people in the car are taking a risk as well as you - as far as they know you might be a National Endowment for Democracy agent who will be discovered by the Belarus border guard and get them into a heap of trouble. So if they are Belarusians and they ask for a fee of US$5 consider it fair. See the section By car above for what happens in your adopted car.

By bus
By bus

Taking a bus from any border of the country of Belarus is easy. From all the Baltic countries there is a lot of bus traffic to Belarus here are some samples:

From Estonia, Tallin there are direct buses to Minsk (http://www.varesreisid.ee...) and (http://www.bussireisid.ee...)

From Baltic countries:Olimp (http://www.olimp.lv/lat/g...) (http://www.nordeka.lv/hom...) (http://www.eurolines.ee/i...) (http://www.ecolines.net/i...)

Taking the bus from Vilnius to Minsk is a quick 4 hours and fairly comfortable ride, as long as you stick to western international carriers such as Eurolines. From Kaunas you may travel to Minsk by Kaunas based Kautra company. It's advisable and cheaper to book tickets in advance by internet (http://www.autobusubiliet...). Journey takes about 5,5 hours. Buy your ticket in advance. Before beginning travel to Belarus remember to check that all your papers are in order meaning you have valid visa & Belarus state travel insurance for your trip. For example quick, easy and comfortable way to begin trip is to begin trip from one of the Baltic cities that have Belarusian embassy or consulate.

By plane
By plane

Persons flying to Belarus via Russian airports i.e. you change planes in Russian territory must get a Russian transit visa, which, generally, must be obtained in your country of citizenship or residence. Flights to Belarus use the domestic terminal at Russian airports and you therefore must pass through Russian customs and transfer to the domestic terminal. If you do not have a transit visa and are lucky, you can expect many hours of bureaucratic delay or else, in many cases, be forced to find another flight without leaving the international terminal. Therefore, flights to Belarus from European Union airports are highly recommended.

If you do go through Moscow via Sheremetyevo airport, there are two terminals and you will need transportation from terminal 2 the international terminal to terminal 1 the domestic terminal. There is a free shuttle that runs between the two terminals every 30 minutes. You can catch the Aeroexpress shuttle bus on the ground floor of the recently completed airport train station. Taxi fares between the two terminals can be high, but you can easily negotiate lower fares with individual drivers.

Several European airlines have flights to Minsk operating at National airport Minsk (http://www.airport.by situated approximately 40 km from capital Minsk). Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Lot Polish airlines, Air Baltic, Czech Airlines, and some other carriers offer this destination. You can find a list with all direct flights to Minsk here. (http://www.minskflights.o...) only national airlines - Belavia (http://www.belavia.by) and Gomelavia (http://www.gomelavia.com-) could be competitive due to attractive ticket prices. If you opt to land in Minsk National Airport, you should be aware of certain issues that might keep you slow when going through the airport procedures.

Flying directly to Belarus is expensive if you do not book tickets early in advance. For example, Estonian Air (http://www.estonian-air.ee/) sells tickets for €92 if you make reservations 4 months in advance. If you buy the same ticket a week before the trip, the price is much higher.

If you have time and want to save some money, fly to Vilnius or Kaunas, both in Lithuania and take a train to Minsk. The train ride from Vilnius is only four hours and generally trains leave twice per day. You will save a great deal of money compared to a short notice direct flight. Visas are, of course, still required.

By ship
By ship

Belarus shares many rivers with its neigbouring countries, so it's no big surprise that in Belarus each major city has a riverport and possibilities for river cruises. The easiest way to check departure times, routes and availability is to call Belarussian River Steamship Company (http://www.rtupbrp.com/Ko...) and/or Belarusian tourist companies (http://eng.belarustourism...). PLEASE NOTE! Cruice inquiries are recommended to do with phone. If you cannot reach one number it is good to call other numbers that same company have Phone numbers and e-mail addresses change in rapid phase in Belarus

Belarusian border crossing cruises are such as from Belarus, Polotsk into Latvia's Daugavpilis and Poland's Augustow chanel. Augustow chanal cruises departure from Belarusian city called Grodno and the route is via Neman river.

By a canoe
By ship

Kayak paddling, rowing and canoeing are popular hobbies in Belarus.

In some cases with special pre-planning and preparations with the authorities and tourist agents one can cross the border also by canoeing.

By train
By train

Some of the entry/exit points along the Poland/Belarus border include:

Kuźnica-Białostocka/Hrodna

Terespol/Brest

You can take a local train between the two corresponding border towns.

Timetable information are available on sites like: Deutsche Bahn DB (http://reiseauskunft.bahn...), Polish trains PKP english (http://www.pkp.pl/english...) polish (http://www.pkp.pl), Commonwealth of independent states CIS trains and others (http://www.poezda.net/en/), Latvia trains 1 (http://www.ldz.lv/?object...), Latvia trains 2 (http://www.pv.lv/index.ph...) train timetables (http://www.litrail.lt/wps...) and bus timetables at Baltic countries (http://www.1188.lv/Belarussian) railway timetables: (http://www.rw.by/?language=1)

Estonia train timetables 1: (http://www.edel.ee/?CatID...) train & bus timetables 2: (http://www.1188.ee/1188.p...)

N.B. There is no direct train from Estonia, but via track Tallin-Tartu- Valga/Valka (Valga/Valka is city at the Estonian/Latvian border. There are a few trains that go to Riga. The name of the train station in Valka is Lugazi. There are plans that direct trains will start in 2010, removing the need for changing in Valka/ Valga, from Estonia, Tallin to Latvia, Riga.

Passport, customs controls
By train

WARNING:

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22 May 2015

Passport controls happen in the train itself. When going into Belarus, they typically happen before the train leaves the station in Poland.

Customs controls happen in a room of the train station in the Belarus train station. As of 2005, you are most likely to have a short chat with a customs officer - the system of green nothing to declare and red something to declare streams and random checks of suspicious looking people in the green stream - everyone is presumed to be suspicious. In practice, the rules seem to be fairly standard - declare expensive goods, you can import/export a small quantity of alcohol, cigarettes, computer equipment for personal use. However, the formal content of the customs form asks whether you are carrying any publications. So if you have, e.g. a US passport and are carrying a whole bunch of do-it-yourself-colour-revolution materials and you have that subversive look about you, then you will probably be giving the customs people a legal reason to detain you and/or deport you.

Warning: the customs room in the train station where you exit Belarus may be difficult to find especially if you walk around the station rather casually and your Cyrillic is weak and it closes a long time before the train leaves; if you arrive only 10 minutes before the train leaves, you will be refused customs control and access to the train. Customs may also be carried out at the border while on the train. It adds over an hour to the trip, but other than that, the officials are efficient and friendly.

On a local train between two border towns, chances are high that you will be accompanied/befriended by women trading underpants, soap powder, strawberries, cigarettes etc across the border. They may be friendly and casual or leaving Belarus they might put pressure on you to help them in their trade by carrying cigarettes over the border for them - the idea is that you buy it cheap in Belarus and that you resell it to them once you're in Poland. Chances are also good that their friendly mafia boss is with them and you'll all travel together in the same train carriage, so chances of you getting away and reselling the cigarettes independently are probably weak. Instead, just smile, use your common sense and probably best not to provoke them. If you take their cigarettes, make sure not to take more than a legal allowance and return them to the women in Poland. Don't expect to be paid for it. Don't look to the border guards for help. They know the women traders and seem to have some informal deal with them e.g. not being strict about visas, etc - the Belarus border guards are worried only about political subversives; they have higher priorities than defending you against women trading underpants and cigarettes.

By car
By car

At the Terespol/Brest crossing, there are about six different controls. As of August 2009, the Polish side seems to work quite slowly. Being on the outer border of the European Union, they check whether one isn't exporting a stolen car, isn't wanted by European authorities etc.

After crossing the bridge over river Bug and getting on the Belarusian side, one has to show passports and gets a piece of paper with the car's registration mark on it. Then one goes to either green or red channel depending on whether a customs control is needed. In the green channel one has to complete two checks, the completion of each check is recorded on the paper received on entering the Belarusian side.

First passport/visa/migration card checks are done by an officer who comes towards your car. They also check medical insurance and it is quite likely you will be forced to purchase the state compulsory medical insurance at the border. The cost for two weeks was about 5 euros.

Second is the transport/car check, for which one needs to go to a special window towards the end of the customs area. You will be required to produce a "green card" proof of insurance valid for Belarus, or will have to purchase a compulsory car insurance at the border. In August 2009 the insurance for 14 days was 17 euros and there was no problem buying it at the Terespol/Brest crossing. You will also get another piece of paper with your car registration mark. You will need to show this one on the way back.

With the stamped paper, one can go forward towards the last barrier. The officer there just takes the paper, checks that you have completed the controls, and lets you into Belarus.

It would be nice to believe that there's a geiger counter to check for stuff which is radioactive from the Chernobyl accident, but it's unclear if this is used in practice - it's not done in any obvious way.

On leaving Belarus, one has to pay a special "environmental" tax before being allowed to enter the border control area. It costs 1 euro, and in Brest is sold in a large building just before the border on the right.