Customs Crash Course for Film and TV : Russia and the Eurasian Customs Union

In this post, we’ll discuss Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Kyrgyzstan. Why these five countries? Because
they form the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU). That means the following:

- The five countries don’t have customs between them. At all

- Each country respects decisions by customs of the other four.

And that’s despite having completely different regulations for non-ECU nations.

This enables a TV or film producer to choose a country to clear the equipment. Want to film in Kazakhstan?

Pass the customs in Russia or Kyrgystan. Then, continue to Kazakhstan without seeing a customs station again (seriously, there won’t be any).

Moving equipment out of the ECU zone is equally simple. You could declare a temporary import of TV equipment in Yerevan and its export in Minsk. Just show the customs officers that you didn’t leave the gear in the ECU.

Now for the best part: we’ve ranked the ECU countries by simplicity of customs procedures

#1 Russia
Russia is the only Carnet ATA country of the five ECU members. Clearing your gear will take 20-30 minutes.

Also, the Russian customs is corruption-free (at least at this level). So, if your documents are alright, you won’t need a customs broker.

Russia is a great starting point for any journey across the former USSR. Hundreds flights a day connect Russia with the other ECU members and the rest of the world. Moscow and St. Petersburg are the main hubs in the region.

#2 Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan has always been loyal to film and TV crews. All you need is a list of equipment. Your local partner must file it to the customs a couple of days in advance.

Please note that the list should be in Russian or Kyrgyz language.

Kyrgyzstan is not too well connected with foreign nations, if we had to name a drawback.

#3 Armenia
Armenia is similar to Kyrgyzstan in many ways. It’s TV-friendly. The customs procedure is the same: a local partner files the list of gear.

It’s best to translate the documents to Armenian. Preparing all the papers will cost you $100-200.

Armenia doesn’t have the best flight connection with the world. Also, an Azerbaijani stamp in your passport isn’t gonna make Armenian border guards too happy.

This is hardly a reason not to shoot in the beautiful Armenia. Just don’t use the country as a terminal for customs clearance.

#4 Belarus
Belarus isn’t a great place to enter the ECU, if you have equipment to declare. The procedure is complicated and the authorities are suspicious to people with cameras.

#5 Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan customs doesn’t have the best reputation.

We wouldn’t comment on alleged corruption of the customs. Soar Productions didn’t have any such experience.

But the stack of papers you need to bring in some gear for a few days could make even a seasoned LA lawyer tremble. Any mistake in the paperwork can result in extra expenses and jeopardize your project.

Institutions in the post-Soviet space may not always show world-class work (except for Georgia). But a smooth film, TV or commercial shoot in Russia or nearby is possible with an experienced partner.

Every shoot needs a unique approach. Drop us a letter if you want to know details about customs clearance in the region.