Registering your Passport in Ukraine
Last update: Aug. 12, 2010 (minor clarifications)
Ukrainian law requires foreigners to register their passports in Ukraine after spending a certain period of time in the country. Your initial passport registration occurs at the time of crossing the Ukrainian border when your passport is stamped.
The period of time for which this initial registration is valid is 90 days for citizens of non-WTO (World Trade Organization) countries and 180 months for citizens of WTO countries, which include the European Union, United States, and most developed countries. Note, however, that the visa-free period is still 90 days for citizens of the EU, USA, and some other countries. You can only stay in the country for longer than that if you hold a visa.
Useful tip: If you are interested in staying in Ukraine for longer than 90 days, I recommend that you ask the border officials how long you'll be able to remain in the country with your visa or without any visa and when you will need to have your passport registered. Ask this whenever you enter or leave Ukraine. Once you get to the city or town where you will be staying, at some point within the first month or two drop by the city OVIR (Office of Visas and Registrations, also termed "VVIR" in Ukrainian) and ask them the same questions. I say this because official regulations and de facto practice often differ in Ukraine, and registration periods have been traditionally been a source of considerable confusion for foreigners.
The purpose of passport registration is to loosely keep track of non-citizens in the country, to know their whereabouts, and to make sure there is a sponsor or inviting party who they can charge for our deportation if you break the law. In addition, for instance, you will need to have a passport registration to register as a private entrepreneur or to create other legal entities.
If you are not conducting business in Ukraine and leave the country every 90 days or less, you may be able to avoid the hassle of registering your passport with the local OVIR. As of fall 2009 there is still much confusion among expats in Ukraine as to whether this "border runs" to pick up a new entry stamp (which counts as registration) still work or whether they are "supposed" to sork.
Crossing the Ukrainian border to avoid OVIR registration
As stated above, as of fall 2009 "border runs" may still work, but eventually they may not, depending on how border officials choose to interpret immigration regulations. Nonetheless, as of summer 2010 I have reports from a British expat that the Lviv-Przemysl border guards still allow 5-minute border hops every 90 days, permitting him to stay in Ukraine indefinitely without a visa -- at least for the time being. It is unclear how long this situation will last.
To avoid having to register their passports, many foreigners in Ukraine simply make sure they leave Ukraine every three months (or six, if they are from the U.S.). Upon entering Ukraine you automatically receive a stamp in your passport that is a substitute for registration for a three or six month period. So, all you need to do to avoid registration is cross the border and get a new stamp in your passport. OVIR officers have said — and I personally have done this — that it is perfectly fine to go to an international border crossing (for example, between Lviv and Krakow, Uzhhorod and Kosice, or Chernivtsi and Suceava), cross by bus, car, bicycle, or by foot, and promptly re-enter the country a few minutes later from the other side (make sure you don't need a visa for the other country, though!). Your new entrance stamp allows you to be in the country another three months (or six months) without registering. Ask OVIR officers which registration period applies to citizens of your country. The registration period used to be three days (it still is in Russia)!
The registration process in Ukraine
Passport registration within Ukraine, as far as we know, is only possible if you hold a visa. To begin the process, you will need to go to the local city office of the Department of Citizenship, Immigration and Registration (commonly called the OVIR or "VVIR") and pick up the necessary forms and review any additional registration requirements for your type of visa with OVIR officers. Always bring your passport with you when visiting the OVIR, as officers will almost always want to look at it, check your identity, and look at your visa type and border crossing dates.
The registration process should be started at least one week before your previous registration expires, whether a border stamp or an OVIR registration. Registration can be time-consuming for you, your landlords, and/or your inviting party. It may require multiple visits to the OVIR, which typically have visiting hours scattered throughout the week. Find out the address of your district or city OVIR office by calling the official 09 information service (Ukrainian speaking -- at least in Kiev).
If you are late registering, you will highly regret it! You will have to pay a fine and go through additional lengthy bureaucratic procedures, and you will still have to go through the registration process all over again. Read more about this below.
Your passport registration will take up a whole page of your passport. It will show the registration period, the name of the inviting party, and your place of residence in Ukraine.
The registration forms you will need depend on the type of your visa. If you have a private visa, you will only need forms for you and the person who invited you, or whose home you are living at. If you have a business or service visa, you will need a form for you, for the person whose home you are living at, and for the organization that invited you. Hopefully your landlord isn't out of town when you need to have him/her fill out the form! This is a common problem for many expats, who have to decide at the last minute whether to be registered a different address (where he/she does not actually live) or to attempt a "border run."
Employers who hire foreigners and obtain work permits for them usually take care their passport registration as well. In addition, there are commercial services for foreigners that will take care of all the formalities for you, saving you several visits to the OVIR and local utilities offices (the infamous "ZHEK").
To register your passport while holding a private visa, you will need:
- 2 photos
- a copy of your passport (including the page with visa and the most recent stamp of entry to Ukraine)
- a copy of the inviting person's passport
- your form and the inviting party's form
- a receipt of payment of the registration fee (probably 33 UAH, or $6.50 USD before the 2008 economic crisis), which you can usually pay at a bank next to or inside the OVIR building
You will need to ask the officers at the OVIR the exact amount of the payment and where to make it. There will probably also be a minor bank processing fee of 5 UAH or less.
Confirm the above requirements with OVIR officers before bringing in your documents for registration. It is possible they may require additional documents, for example, a rental agreement or a stamp from the ZHEK on the inviting party's application.
Stamp from the ZHEK
The ZHEK is the local residential utilities office which manages utilities and building upkeep for a given neighborhood. It also issues internal passports for Ukrainian citizens and handles matters of establishing residency in a certain location. The purpose of the ZHEK stamp is to confirm that the ZHEK is aware that someone else will be residing at that address.
Trying to get through to the ZHEK may take several attempts and needs to be done by the owner of the apartment you are living at. The ZHEK will likely request to see "the foreigner" together with his passport, and may or may not require the homeowner to fill out another form stating that you will be staying at their apartment through a certain date. The ZHEK needs to know the number of people living at the apartment in order to calculate the cost of certain services for the apartment. Most landlords aren't excited about the idea of registering their tenants -- whether foreigners or Ukrainians -- at the ZHEK office. As a result of registering an additional person at an address, their utilities bill may go up. Furthermore, they may have to pay income taxes on the rental sum recorded in the rental agreement registered by the ZHEK during your visit.
If you are in Ukraine on a business, service, or other kind of visa, in addition to the requirements listed above you will also need to submit:
- a completed form from your inviting organization (obtained from the OVIR)
- a copy (non-notarized is fine) of the organization or firm's government registration certificate showing when and where the organization was registered, as well as its legal address and official name
- a copy (non-notarized is fine) of the organization or firm's Bureau of Statistics certificate showing the organization's declared fields of activity
IMPORTANT: One of the purposes of registration forms for inviting parties is to make sure there is someone to pay for your deportation, if such became necessary. These parties do not necessarily have to be the same parties who invited you for your visa. They can be any organization or private person who is willing to take administrative responsibility for you while you are in Ukraine. You do not even have to be working for the organization (which would require a work permit) or have business relations with them. Since I know of no deportees, I don't know what actually happens when a foreigner breaks the law and what consequences, if any, the inviting party may have to bear.
A couple of different sources have said that have been told at the OVIR that they can get their passport registered in Ukraine without having a visa. This would essentially make a visa completely superfluous and seems hard to believe. Check with your local city OVIR for details and whether or not this applies to citizens of your country of origin.
Extending your registration
To extend your registration without leaving Ukraine and recieving a new entry stamp, you will need to repeat the whole process described above. There is no procedural difference between getting your first registration and extending your registration. Start this process no later than one week before your registration period runs out.
What happens if you fail to register on time in Ukraine
If you miss your mandatory registration date (90 or 180 days from your last entry into Ukraine, as stated at top), you and your inviting party will have to pay a fine (as of 2008, 340-680 UAH for the foreigner and 0-840 UAH for the inviting party), even if you are just one day overdue. Technically you may be deported if you are way overdue or have been late to register more than once; however, in practice I have not heard of it.
If you are late for registration, you will need to go to the city OVIR along with your inviting party (private citizen whose home you are living at or inviting organization, as the case may be) and write a statement (handwritten is fine) from each of you explaining the reason for your tardiness. The OVIR officers will take these statements and appoint a date for you and your inviting party to appear in "court" together. Most likely, the OVIR officer submits his own comments along with the statements, based on his conversations with you.
Your "trial" will likely consist of a few questions from the judge in his or her office. The judge will decide the size of the fine you are to pay. You will need to go to the nearest Sberkassa (state bank) and pay the fine, come back with the receipt, give it to the judge's secretary, and come back to pick up a copy of the court decision several days later. Then, with this document, you will need to go back to the OVIR and complete the regular passport registration procedure, with the court decision attached.
As you can see, resolving registration problems can take several weeks, so make sure you keep track of your registration period and either register or re-enter Ukraine within the time limit. Note as well that you will need the signature of the owner of the apartment you are staying at, so if the owner is abroad you may have problems! So, plan well in advance.