Returning to the US
Russian Customs Regulations
Upon departure, you will be required to complete and submit a departure customs declaration, together with your original entry declaration (if you completed one and had it stamped). All items of value (jewelry, musical instruments) that were declared on your original form should be listed on your departure declaration as well. If you do not have a stamped entry declaration, you will be allowed to take no more than $3,500 cash with you when you leave. Amounts in excess of that can be confiscated at the border.
Purchases made in Russia
Be wary of antiques and artwork! Any article that could appear old to the customs service, including icons, samovars, rugs, books, musical instruments, and other antiques must have a certificate indicating that they have no historical value [Note: “old” and “antique” in Russian customs laws generally mean items made or published before 1961.] These certificates may be obtained from the vendor, if the item was purchased at a store licensed to sell to foreigners, or from the Ministry of Culture.
It can take several months to obtain such certificates from the Ministry of Culture, so you should begin the process several months ahead of your departure if you have any questionable items. Often a duty of up to 100% must be paid.
Russian law allows each departing passenger to legally leave the country with two liters of alcohol (3 regular-sized bottles of vodka). However, you should note that U.S. Customs laws only allow arriving passengers to carry one liter of alcohol into the country.
Failure to follow customs regulations may result in confiscation of the property in question at the border. Please also note that Russian customs laws are known to change frequently and that certain other restrictions may or may not be in place by the time you are ready to leave Russia.