Chukotka and Alaska: visa-free travels
The Government of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics and the Government of the United States of America striving to develop cooperation in the Bering Straits Region and provide a mechanism for solving minor incidents at the local level agreed to establish the Bering Straits Regional Commission.
The Intergovernmental Agreement was signed on September 23, 1989 at Jackson Hole, State of Wyoming, USA.
The Commission consists of three Russian and three American members, named Commissioners; one of the Commissioners on each side is named Chief Commissioner.
Russian Chief Commissioner is a permanent resident of Anadyr or Provideniya. His authority extends to the Iultinsky, Providensky, Chukotsky Districts, and the eastern part of the Anadyrsky District, including Anadyr.
American Chief Commissioner is a permanent resident of Nome or Gambell. His authority extends to Nome and Kobuk Census Areas of the State of Alaska.
The Commission examines and resolves, where appropriate, such minor local incidents as:
• unintentional trespass of the border without permission or at absence of any other legal grounds;
• return of fishing equipment including crab traps taken across the border due to natural reasons, as stipulated by the Soviet-American Agreement on Mutual Fisheries;
• return of property incidentally taken across the border.
The Commission is also involved in:
• providing help in emergency cases (detention, arrest, people missing, illness or death of the visitors/travelers);
• organizing medical care, etc.
The Commissioners plan regular meetings held in Russia and the USA on a rotary basis.
September 23, 1989 - Intergovernmental Agreement Concerning Mutual Visits by Inhabitants of the Bering Straits Region and concerning the Bering Straits Regional Commission signed at Jackson Hole, State of Wyoming, USA.
September 27-28, 1991 - the first official meeting of the Commission parties held in Nome, State of Alaska, USA. Chief Commissioners Mr. Caleb Pungowiyi and Ms. Nina I. Vaal were in charge of American and Russian parties to the Commission. The participants of the meeting discussed some important issues, including format of the invitation and notification documents, procedures of their communication to the other party, communication tools, handling of personal belongings and gifts, environmental protection and other.
1992 – Chukchi representatives were permitted to travel to Alaska on a visa-free basis.
1994 - the number of Chukotka natives who visited Alaska hit a record of 355 people .
1996 - the visa-free application fee was abolished.
2001 - the Alaska-Chukotka Summit reinforced the Parties’ intentions to develop and support cooperation in the Bering Straits Region with the important part of this cooperation being the visa-free travels of native inhabitants under the joint economic, cultural, educational and tourism programs.
What do you have to know to travel across the Bering Strait?
Today native inhabitants from the Iultinsky, Providensky, Chukotsky Districts, and the eastern part of the Anadyrsky Rayon, including Anadyr, are permitted to travel to Alaska visa-free.
Having decided to visit your relatives, who live in the Nome or Kobuk Census Area, you must notify the U.S. (Chief) Commissioner through the Russian Chief Commissioner or through your U.S. host relatives at least ten days in advance of the visit. The invitation/notification must specify your surname and name, your Russian passport number, your date and place of birth, the names and addresses of your hosts, the planned date of your visit, the method of travel, and the planned checkpoint.
The Russian border checkpoints in the Chukotka Autonomous Region are Anadyr, Provideniya, Lavrentiya and Uelen.
The US border checkpoints in State of Alaska are Nome and Gambell.
Visa-free travelers are subject to border and customs checkpoint control.
Children under the age of sixteen may travel only if accompanied by parents or other custodians. An insert specifying a child’s place of residence complements the passport of a parent or an accompanying adult.
The said insert is issued by the Federal Migration Service departments in the Chukotka Autonomous Region. To obtain this insert, an applicant must provide the invitation from his/her American host relatives signed by both American or Russian Commissioners, his/her Russian passport, his/her visa-free travel application and two photos.
Keep in mind that at least two weeks are needed to handle the documents.
If you decide to invite your relative living in Nome or Kobuk Census Area in Alaska, you must apply to an officer of the Federal Migration Service Department in the Chukotka Autonomous Region, provide your passport, and then fill an application. Having your check completed, you will receive an invitation/notification that you have to fill and send to your relative in Alaska. It must specify your relative’s surname, name, address and passport data, the entry point, the method of travel and the scheduled date of departure from Alaska.
This invitation must be signed and sealed by Russian Chief Commissioner.
If you have any questions, please contact the Russian Office of the Bering Straits Regional Commission. Address: Suite 49, 20 Bering Street, Anadyr. Phone/Fax: (42722) 2-90-49
Your rights, duties and responsibilities across the border
Chukotka residents may stay in the Alaska areas specified in the Agreement for no longer than 90 days. They may not go to any other part of the USA off the designated areas.
Alaska visitors must follow its laws. Perpetrators of laws and the Agreement Concerning Mutual Visits by Inhabitants of the Bering Straits Region may be denied permission to enter in the future.
The loss or damage of your passport or insert at the time of your visit to Alaska must be reported to the designated State authorities. You have to apply to the Russian consulate/representation body to obtain a document permitting return travel.
Chukotka travelers may bring personal belongings or gifts. These items cannot be sold in the host country.
When planning your travel, take time to familiarize with laws and customs of the host country and appropriate code of conduct.