Do I need a passport or visa to enter?
You need a passport and a visa to enter Belarus. You must obtain a visa in advance to visit or transit through Belarus. All U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Belarus are required to register with the local office of the Citizenship and Migration Department of the Ministry of Interior (formerly OVIR) within 5 business days of arrival; if you plan to spend only 7 days (5 working days weekend) in Belarus, you are not required to register. The registration fee for a short stay (under 30 days) is currently approximately $6 (the exact amount can be calculated by taking half of one National Minimum Tariff Unit). Registration for a temporary stay (over 30 days) is $35 (three National Minimum Tariff Units). Failure to register can result in fines and difficulties when departing. If you plan to stay at a hotel, you will be automatically registered at check-in. Registration performed by a hotel is free of charge.
Visas: Visa validity dates are strictly enforced; you should request a visa of sufficient length to allow for changes in arrival and departure plans, and should carefully review the beginning and ending dates of your visa before traveling.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to Belarus on a 30-day visit. Long-term residents (more than 90 days a year) or students must obtain an HIV/AIDS test in Belarus and submit the results to the Department of Citizenship and Migration when applying for an extension of stay or residency in Belarus.
Exit Visa: A valid exit visa is necessary to depart Belarus. Generally, the visa issued by a Belarusian embassy or consulate is valid for both entry and exit. Photocopies of visas may be helpful in the event of loss, but note that a copy of a visa will not be sufficient for entry or departure, as Belarusian border officials always require original travel documents. If you overstay your visa’s validity -- even by one day -- you will be prevented from leaving until you have been granted an extension by the Department of Citizenship and Migration. If you are not in a possession of a valid visa, you will face delays in leaving Belarus and may have trouble finding adequate accommodation. By Belarusian law, foreign travelers with an expired visa may not check-in at any hotel or other lodging establishment.
If you plan to travel through Belarus to other countries, you are advised that there is a transit-visa requirement for entering and leaving Belarus. Transit visas are required even if you are transiting on a direct overnight train with no stops or transfers on Belarusian territory. Transit visas should be obtained prior to any journey that requires travel through Belarus. Transit visas are good only for transiting Belarus from one country to another. If you attempt to reenter the country from which you originally entered on your transit visa, you will not be let out of Belarus without paying a fine and obtaining an exit visa. Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Russian visas are not a substitute for the transit visa. Many travel agencies, including those in Russia and CIS countries, as well as train ticket sales personnel, are often not aware of this visa requirement and may not seek a transit visa for a traveler unless instructed by the traveler to do so.
U.S. citizens attempting to transit Belarus without a valid Belarusian transit visa have been denied entry into the country and forcibly removed from trains. In some instances, local border and railway authorities have threatened passengers who did not possess a valid transit visa with jail or extorted “fines.” It is our recommendation that you should not pay any border or railway officials for transit visas or “transit-visa fines,” as these officials are not authorized to issue such visas. If you find yourself in Belarus without transit visas, if confronted by border or train personnel, you should request to be put in contact with consular officials at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk.
If your travel route to Belarus goes through Russia, you must possess a Russian transit visa in addition to your Belarusian visa. Russian embassies outside of the United States, including the Russian Embassy in Belarus, generally do not issue transit or tourist visas to U.S. citizens. Russian transit visas are not normally obtainable at Russian airports.
Limitations on Length of Stay: The Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens and Stateless Persons in the Republic of Belarus states that all foreign citizens may be granted permission for a temporary stay (up to 90 days within a 365-day period), temporary residence (up to one year), or permanent residence. Belarusian embassies and consulates will issue visas for temporary stays. A temporary stay visa will allow you to be present physically in Belarus for a maximum of 90 days within the 365-day period for which the visa is issued. Once you have spent 90 days in Belarus, at one time or through a combination of visits, you will not be eligible to receive another visa until the original 365-day period has passed.
If you receive a visa for a temporary stay but wish to remain in Belarus for longer than 90 days, you must apply for temporary or permanent residence with the Ministry of Interior. You must make the application in Belarus within the 90 days allotted for a temporary stay. Permission for temporary residence can be granted to students, spouses, or close relatives of Belarusian citizens, or for “work, business, or other activities.” You may contact the Consular Section at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk for more information about application procedures for temporary or permanent residence. Every foreigner entering Belarus is required to fill out a migration card. You should retain this card for the whole period of stay and present it to the border authorities when exiting Belarus.
As a foreign citizen without a valid Belarusian visa, migration card, or proper registration with the Department of Citizenship and Migration as a temporary visitor or resident, you can be subject to sanctions up to and including deportation under the provisions of the Code of Administrative Offenses. Depending on the circumstances, as a deportee, you also can be banned from returning to Belarus for a period from one to ten years.
Visiting and transiting Belarus, you also should be prepared to demonstrate sufficient financial means to support your stay. For individuals staying in Belarus for less than one month, this amount is equal to two National Minimum Tariffs (approximately $25/day/person). For those staying for longer than one month, the requirements call for an amount equal to 50 National Minimum Tariffs (about $580/month/person). Belarusian officials may request this proof of funds at the time of visa application, at the border, or during registration. According to the Ministry of Interior, cash, credit cards, paid hotel reservations, or a letter from an inviting party pledging full financial support are sufficient means to demonstrate financial wherewithal.
Belarus also requires all foreign nationals (other than accredited diplomats) entering the country to purchase medical insurance at the port of entry, regardless of any other insurance they might have. For more information, see the “Medical Insurance” section below.
When entering Belarus, you may be charged 2 Euros per kilogram of luggage in excess of 50 Kg (121 lbs). That fee must be paid in dollars or Euros. In accordance with current customs regulations, you may enter Belarus and exit the country with up to $10,000 in cash without submitting a written declaration. For additional information on customs rules for Belarus, please see the Belarusian State Customs Committee's official website.
Belarus enforces a requirement for special permits to travel in “protected border zones.” The Government of Belarus has not provided information defining the parameters of those zones. You should be alert for warning signs, road barriers, and/or border guard posts, and are advised not to cross into such areas without permission.
Religious Group Travel: Foreign missionaries may not engage in religious activities outside the institutions that invited them unless they have a religious worker visa. One-year validity, multiple-entry, "spiritual-activities" visas, which are required of foreign missionaries, can be difficult to get, even for faiths that are registered with the government and have a long history in the country. Approval often involves a difficult bureaucratic process.
Belarusian law requires all religious groups and organizations to register with the government; most organizations have done so. Unregistered religious groups may not legally gather for religious purposes. Many unregistered groups continue to meet, however, leaving themselves vulnerable to selective implementation of the law by authorities. The law also stipulates that only Belarusian citizens can head religious organizations in Belarus. In recent years, authorities have harassed, warned, fined, and briefly detained members of some unregistered and so-called "non-traditional" faiths for engaging in unsanctioned worship or proselytism. U.S. Embassy Minsk strongly recommends that should you choose to attend a religious service of an unregistered religious group, you do so only after consulting with members of the group about the risk of harassment or possible arrest by local law enforcement authorities. You are also urged to contact the U.S. Embassy in Minsk in the event you encounter any problems with authorities due to your participation in such services or events.
Departure Restrictions: A list of foreigners whose travel OUT OF Belarus is restricted was introduced in 2012. A foreigner may be added to this list if he/she has unresolved tax issues in Belarus, has debts to the government, or is a defendant in a criminal or economic crime case.
Driving your car to/through Belarus: Under the current customs regulations, it is illegal to transfer a car registered in the name of a non-resident to a resident of Belarus without paying import tax on it. For example, if a resident of Belarus is pulled over by the local police while driving a car belonging to a foreigner, it is considered that a transfer of the car took place, which can lead to fines, car confiscation, or import tax payment. The foreigner is added to the list of foreigners whose departure from Belarus is restricted until he/she has paid all taxes and duties. (The Embassy is aware of several such cases involving Polish, Moldovan and German nationals who could not leave Belarus, as their cars had been driven by locals and they were not in the car at the time the road police pulled it over.
Dual Nationality: If you were a Belarusian citizen and obtained U.S. citizenship through naturalization, you may not have automatically lost your Belarusian citizenship. In the majority of cases, naturalized U.S. citizens retain their Belarusian citizenship unless they take specific steps to renounce it. The Belarusian authorities will allow naturalized U.S. citizens from Belarus to enter the country without a valid Belarusian passport on a “certificate of return” issued by Belarusian embassies and consulates. Please note that a valid Belarusian passport will be required to leave the country. It can take two to four weeks to receive a new Belarusian passport. For additional information, please consult with the Embassy of Belarus in Washington, D.C.
Belarusian citizens, including dual nationals, are subject to Belarusian laws requiring service in Belarus’s armed forces, as well as other laws pertaining to passports and nationality. If you are a U.S.-Belarusian dual national of military age who does not wish to serve in the Belarusian armed forces, you should contact the Embassy of Belarus in Washington, D.C. to learn more about an exemption or deferment from Belarusian military service before going to Belarus. Without this exemption or deferment document, you may not be able to leave Belarus without completing military service or may be subject to criminal penalties for failure to serve.
Children born to Belarusian parents or to one Belarusian parent and one foreign parent, even if born in the United States and in possession of a U.S. passport, may not be issued a Belarusian visa for travel to Belarus. The Belarusian Government considers these children to be Belarusian citizens until age 16, when they may choose to accept or reject that claim to citizenship. Instead of a visa, a "certificate of return" is issued that will allow the child to enter Belarus. It is imperative that parents of such children understand that, in order to leave the country, the child will be required to have a Belarusian passport if he/she does not already have one. It can take anywhere from two to four weeks to complete the application procedures and receive a new Belarusian passport.