UK Travel & Entry Rules for Russian Citizens

can Russians travel to UK


If you are a Russian citizen looking to travel to the UK, either now or in the future, you will need to know whether this is possible and what type of visa you will need. Below we look in detail at the rules on Russian citizens travelling to the UK, providing up-to-date and practical advice in response to the frequently asked question: “Can Russians travel to UK?”

In all cases, however, not least given the current difficulties in getting flights to the UK, you are strongly advised to seek expert advice from an immigration specialist prior to applying.


Can Russian citizens travel to UK?

Although direct flights are not currently available (at the time of writing), so you should plan any travel arrangements accordingly, it is still possible for Russian citizens to travel to UK destinations. However, as a visa national, you will first need to apply for a suitable visa, even if you are only planning a short stay in the UK. This is because under “Appendix Visitor: Visa national list” of the UK’s Immigration Rules, the list of nationalities requiring entry clearance prior to travelling to the UK includes those of Russian nationality.

Importantly, the UK does not offer visa-free travel to Russian nationals. This means that if your passport shows that you are Russian, you will need a UK visa for Russian citizens, where you must apply for entry clearance in advance. This is regardless of the purpose or length of your proposed UK visit, or if you travel to the UK via another country.


UK visitor rules for Russian citizens

The basic UK entry requirements for Russian citizens can be found in “Appendix V: Visitor” of the UK’s Immigration Rules, where any Russian national who would like to visit the UK for the purposes of tourism, or any other permissible activities, will need to apply prior to travel for a Standard Visitor visa. The relevant entry requirements include:

  • genuinely seeking entry to the UK for any one of the purposes permitted under the Rules
  • not intending to undertake any prohibited activities during your stay in the UK
  • being able to financially support yourself for the duration of your stay
  • being able to pay the reasonable costs related to your UK visit, without doing paid work or accessing public funds in the UK, including the cost of your return/onward journey
  • intending to leave the UK, without overstaying, at the end of your authorised stay
  • not be intending to live in the UK for an extended period of time, either through frequent or successive visits, nor be trying to make the UK your main home.

A Standard Visitor visa will typically be granted for up to 6 months. However, it is possible to apply for a visit visa with a validity period of 2, 5 or 10 years. This will enable you to visit the UK multiple times over the validity of your visa, although each stay in the UK must not be longer than the permitted length of stay endorsed on that visa (usually 6 months).


What activities can Russian citizens undertake as a visitor?

If you are a Russian citizen travelling to the UK on a Standard Visitor visa, you can only engage in those activities permitted under the Visitor Rules. These are set out under “Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities”. These activities include visiting the UK for purposes such as tourism, visiting friends or family, or undertaking a short course of study. You can also carry out unpaid business activities, where permissible activities can include:

  • attending meetings, conferences, seminars and interviews in the UK
  • giving a one-off or short series of talks and speeches, provided these are not commercial events or arranged to make a profit for the organiser
  • negotiating and signing commercial deals or contracts in the UK
  • attending UK trade fairs to promote an overseas business, although this can only be for promotional work, where you will be prohibited from directly selling in the UK
  • carrying out UK site visits and inspections related to your overseas business
  • gathering information in the UK for your overseas employment
  • being briefed on the requirements of a UK-based customer, although any work for that customer can only be undertaken outside of the UK
  • undertaking activities relating to your employment overseas remotely from within the UK, provided that this is not the primary purpose of your visit.

With the exception of the permitted activities listed under the Rules, a business visitor must not usually engage in any other employment-related activities in the UK. However, this list is not exhaustive, where other activities, including paid engagements, may be possible.


Can Russian citizens undertake paid engagements on a UK visit?

If you are looking to come to the UK to undertake paid work as a business visitor, you may be able to travel as a Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) Visitor. The PPE Visitor route merged into the Standard Visitor route in January 2024, meaning that all visitors can now undertake permitted paid engagements in the UK without the need for a special visa.

To be eligible as a PPE Visitor under “Appendix V: Visitor” of the UK’s Immigration Rules, you must be an expert in your profession who is being paid by a UK-based organisation or client to attend a pre-arranged engagement, or series of engagements, directly relating to your area of expertise and occupation in Russia. As a PPE Visitor, any engagement must be arranged prior to you travelling to the UK and evidenced by a formal invitation.

Under the Visitor Rules, a permitted paid engagement can include:

  • giving a one-off or short series of talks and speeches at a conference or other event
  • examining or assessing students in the UK as a highly-qualified academic
  • giving a lecture or series of lectures in your specialised subject area
  • assessing UK-based pilots as an overseas pilot examiner
  • providing advocacy as a lawyer for a UK-based client in the context of legal proceedings
  • carrying out an activity relating to your profession as an artist, entertainer or musician
  • carrying out an activity as a professional sportsperson.

If granted a visa as a PPE Visitor, you may undertake the permitted paid engagements for which your visa is approved, provide these are completed within 30 days of your entry to the UK. This will be the case, even if your Standard Visitor visa is valid for up to 6 months.


UK work visa options for Russian citizens

If you are coming to the UK for a purpose not permitted under the Visitor Rules, the relevant entry requirements will depend on the purpose of your visit. In addition to the Standard Visitor visa, there are various other visa options available to Russian citizens.

Below we set out some of the most popular options when applying for a UK visa:


A Global Business Mobility visa

There are various visa options available to Russian nationals looking to come to the UK to undertake temporary work assignments, including the different visa routes under the Global Business Mobility (GBM) umbrella of the UK’s Immigration Rules. These include:

  • Senior or Specialist Worker visa: for senior managers and specialist employees being assigned to a UK business that is linked to their employer’s business overseas
  • Graduate Trainee visa: for those on a graduate training course leading to a senior management or specialist position and who are required to do a UK work placement
  • UK Expansion Worker visa: for senior managers or specialist employees being assigned to the UK to assist with the expansion of their employer’s business overseas
  • Service Supplier visa: for contractual service suppliers employed by overseas service-providers, or self-employed independent professionals based overseas, looking to provide services in the UK covered by one of the UK’s international trade agreements
  • Secondment Worker visa: for those being seconded to the UK as part of either a high-value contract or investment by their employer overseas.

There are several general and route-specific requirements for each of the different GBM routes, although these are all sponsored work routes. This means that you must have been assigned a valid Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) by an UKVI-approved sponsor prior to applying. Your CoS will contain a unique reference number, providing proof that you meet the relevant requirements for a temporary work assignment on the GBM route in question.

If approved for a GBM visa, the length of time that you will be allowed to stay in the UK will vary, depending on the route for which you are approved for a visa. You may also be able to extend your stay, up to the maximum length of time permitted under each route. The GBM routes do not provide a path to permanent settlement in the UK, although you may be eligible to switch to a different visa route, depending on your circumstances.


The Skilled Worker visa

The Skilled Worker visa is one of the most popular options for those looking to work in the UK but where that employment is not linked to any existing employment overseas. As with each of the GBM routes, the Skilled Worker route is also a sponsored work route. To apply for a Skilled Worker visa, this means that you would need to be assigned a valid CoS as evidence of a suitable job offer meeting minimum skill and salary requirements.

If approved for a Skilled Worker visa, this can be granted for up to 5 years before you need to extend it. If you want to stay on longer in the UK, you can apply to extend your visa an unlimited number of times, provided you meet the requirements. As a route to settlement, you may also be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain after 5 years.


The Innovator Founder visa

If you are looking to come to the UK to set up a business, where you intend to oversee the running of that business, you will need to apply for an Innovator Founder visa. The business must be different from anything else on the market. It must also be viable (with potential for growth) and scalable (with the potential to create jobs). Equally, even though this is an unsponsored work route, your business idea must be endorsed by an approved body.

If approved for an Innovator Founder visa, you will be allowed to run that business for up to 3 years. You can also apply to extend your stay for another 3 years once your visa is due to expire. There is no limit on the number of times you can extend, provided you liaise at regular intervals with your endorsing body to show that you are making progress with your business. Alternatively, you may be able to apply for settlement after 3 years on this route.


UK visa for Russian wife or girlfriend

If you are living in the UK and looking for a visa for your Russian wife or girlfriend, there are again various options available, depending on the reason for your loved one coming to the UK and your own immigration status. A UK visa for Russian wives, as well as a UK visa for Russian girlfriends, could come in the form of a Standard Visitor visa if your loved one is only looking to visit you. They may also be able to apply for a dependant or family visa.


Dependant visas

A dependant visa is a derivative visa that will allow the dependent spouse or partner of a primary applicant or principal visa-holder to apply for entry clearance to come to the UK, provided they meet the relevant requirements. This means that if you are an overseas national looking to come to the UK for the purpose of work, or you are already in the UK on a valid work visa, a dependant visa will allow your spouse, civil partner or even an unmarried partner to accompany or join you in the UK. Unmarried couples must have lived together prior to applying for a dependant visa for a period of at least 2 years.

If approved for a dependant visa, for example, as the dependant of a GBM Worker, your loved one’s leave will expire at the same time as yours. However, if you are a Skilled Worker or Innovator Founder applying to settle in the UK, your loved one can also apply.


Family visas

The family visa is a possible long-term option for the Russian wife or girlfriend of either a British citizen or an overseas national already settled in the UK, and is again intended for the spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner of the UK sponsor. Your loved one may also be able to apply for a fiancé(e) or proposed civil partner visa, provided you plan to marry within 6 months of their arrival in the UK. Once the wedding or civil partnership ceremony has taken place, they can then apply to switch to a spouse or civil partner visa.

When applying for a family visa from outside the UK, this will be granted for a period of 2 years and 9 months, or 2 years and 6 months from inside the UK (if switching from a fiancé(e) visa). There is also an option to renew and apply for settlement after 5 years.


Need assistance?

Contact DavidsonMorris’ UK immigration specialists for expert guidance on your UK immigration options and Home Office applications.

Last updated: 12 January 2024


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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