Shooting film, TV or commercial video in Russia and getting all the permits could be tricky. It's mostly due to the fact that Russia doesn't have special laws regulating foreign film and television production.
Simply put, there is no special visa for filmmakers or media professionals willing to shoot in Russia. You could go ahead with production using other kinds of visa.
Russian Tourist Visa Works for Most Film and TV Shoots
A Russian tourist visa is easy to get. Any good hotel will send you a voucher if you book a room. But please don't file a fictional booking — state the exact hotel you're going to stay in. The embassy and even border control sometimes check if the booking is valid.
However, tourist visa doesn't work for all kinds of shoots.
Russian Business Visa for Film and Television Production
If you plan to shoot at restricted access facilities (such as railroad terminals or the Kremlin), a business visa is a must-have.
You can receive a Russian business visa for up to three years with multiple entries. To compare, a tourist visa ususally allows you one or two entries and is vaild only for a period covered by your hotel booking.
Acquiring business visa is a slightly lengthierprocess. The production company or fixer you cooperate with needs to send you an invitation via the Russian Migration Service or the Foreign Ministry.
This invitation takes from five business days to two weeks to proceed. Apart from this, obtaining it is no different from getting a tourist visa.
There is one loophole called media accreditation in the Foreign Ministry. Obtaining this paper is a bit tricky, and you need it only if you directly represent a broadcaster or going to shoot an event featuring Russian officials.
Dealing With Russian Customs
There is a common misconception that filmmakers can't prepare the customs papers right unless they have a business visa.
Well, it's just not true. The type of visa and customs formalities regarding a temporarily entry of equipment to Russia are not connected at all. The customs and the Migration Services are two separate organizations. Any tourist can bring any filming equipment to Russia. All he or she has to do is to take this equipment away within the designated period.
Let's wrap it up: you don't need a filming visa to Russia. Moreover, a visa for film and TV doesn't exist. We've been succesfully assisting productions in obtaining tourist and business visas to Russia for years. Contact us to get a swift response about visas, customs and anything else you want to know about production in Russia.