The genomes of many viruses traffic into the nucleus, where they are either integrated into host chromosomes or maintained as episomal DNA and then transcriptionally activated or silenced. Here, we discuss the existing evidence on how the lentiviruses, adenoviruses, herpesviruses, hepadnaviruses and autonomous parvoviruses enter the nucleus. Depending on the size of the capsid enclosing the genome, three principles of viral nucleic acids import are discussed. The first principle is that the capsid disassembles in the cytosol or in a docked state at the nuclear pore complex and a subviral genomic complex is trafficked through the pore. Second, the genome is injected from a capsid that is docked to the pore complex, and third, import factors are recruited to cytosolic capsids to increase capsid affinity to the pore complex, mediate translocation and allow disassembly in the nucleoplasm.