Russian Visas
Find Out What Visa You Need to Travel to Russia.

There are different types of Russian visas to choose! The question is do you know which one you need, and how to apply? If not, find out more below.

By now you should know that to enter the Russian Federation you need to apply for a Russian visa, unless you travel visa free on a cruise ship, or your country is part of a signed bilateral agreement with Russia, such as for the CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States), as well as other states, see the full list here.

Russian visas.

If your country is on the list mentioned above, then lucky for you because you don't need any visa, but if not, then you need one!

As you can see on this page, you can choose from different types of Russian visas, so it's very important to know what type of visa you need first. Then in order to start your Russian visa application, you must check all the Russian visa requirements and get all the official paperwork together.

For your information, the type of visa that you need depends on the length of your stay and the purpose of your visit. Whether you plan to leave the country and return during the period that your visa is valid is also a factor in choosing the type of visa to apply for. And don't forget that for each type of Russian visa, there are also different kinds of documentation that you must present to the Embassy/Consulate before you apply.

True, there is a lot of paper work involved! But don't panic because it isn't as hard as you think.

Below you can find explanations of the conditions and requirements of the main types of Russian visa, and how to apply for them.

RUSSIAN TOURIST VISA


Are you planning a Russian vacation to St Petersburg? Travelling to Russia for pleasure? If so, you just need to apply for a tourist visa.

A Tourist Visa is the easiest and cheapest type of Russian visa to get. It is a single entry/exit visa valid for the specified duration of your stay in Russia, up to 30 days.

In order to get a tourist visa you should submit the following documents to the Russian Embassy or Consulate to enter Russia:

1.  A passport with at least one blank page (two are better), valid for at least six months after the end of your proposed visit to Russia.

2.  Two copies of your Russian visa application form, completed and signed.

3.  Two passport-size photos signed on the back.

4.  A tourist confirmation either from the hotel where you will be staying or from your travel agent (Russian or otherwise).

5.  A tourist voucher, also issued by the hotel or booking agent

6.  Travel insurance if you live in an EU country (except UK) or USA.

Let me explain better below...

If you are in a tour group or with a cruise: you need to present a letter from the tour company or cruise line confirming the itinerary and including a copy of the confirmation from an authorized Russian travel company, which shows the reference number and confirmation number for the visa.

Alternatively, if you are travelling independently: you need a confirmation of hotel arrangements from an authorized Russian travel company, or directly from the Russian hotel, showing a reference number and confirmation number for the visa.

Generally, the Russian visa invitation for tourists consist of two separate documents: one is a hotel voucher showing your hotel reservation has been paid for (including reservations made with a credit card), the other is a tourist confirmation (stating that you are a guest at that hotel). You will most likely get these documents via an e-mail, and you then simply print them out for submission along with your visa application, passport, visa photo, etc.

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RUSSIAN BUSINESS VISA


Are you a business person? Travelling to St Petersburg to meet your business partners? Going to visit an exhibition or sign up a contract? If so you need to apply for a business visa.

A Business Visa is far more flexible and much better for an independent business visitor than a tourist visa. It is valid for 90 days, six months, or one year and may be single-entry, double-entry or multiple-entry giving you the right to do business in Russia, but not to take up full-time employment.

In order to get a business visa you should submit the following documents to the Russian Embassy or Consulate:

1. Your original passport with at least two blank visa-designated pages. Passport must be valid for at least six months after intended departure date from Russia.

2. Two copies of your Russian visa application form, completed and signed.

3. Two passport-size photos signed on the back.

4. Travel insurance if you live in an EU country (except UK) or USA.

5. Official invitation from an organization authorized to invite business visitors to Russia.

6. An introductory letter from you (if self-employed) or your company explaining the purpose and itinerary of your trip.

7. Your bank statements for the last 3 months (if self-employed or unemployed).

8. For a stay exceeding three months, or a multi-entry visa, an HIV test is required.

As for the tourist visa, you need to get a Russian visa invitation. I explain below...

When you apply for a business visa you must have an official letter of invitation from a Russian company and a cover letter from your company or organization (or yourself) stating the purpose of your Russian trip.

The company should be officially registered with the Passport and Visa Department (PVU). Within three to four  weeks, your business visa should be issued by the PVU at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, allowing you to stay in Russia up to twelve months.

In the event that you handle this type of visa personally, then make sure to have at least a double-entry or multiple-entry visa on it, and choose an agency that can provide registration of your visa in Russia and help you in exceptional cases. 

Bear in mind also that your business visa invitation must be original and include a seal, a signature, an address and the name of the inviting person. If you need an invitation, but don't have anyone to help you, don't worry. There are lots of agencies in Russia that will issue an invitation for a reasonable fee.

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RUSSIAN PRIVATE VISA


Do you have a girlfriend or boyfriend, friends or relatives in Russia? Do you want to stay up to 3 months? If so, you need a private visa, also known as a Homestay visa.

Private Visas are designed for those visiting friends or family in Russia, and allow them to stay in Russian soil up to 3 months. However, as the process is quite long (1.5 months) and very tedious (long queues, a lot of paper work, and many frustrations), it is normally easier to visit your Russian friends and relatives on a Tourist Visa.

In order to get a private visa you should submit the following documents to the Russian Embassy or Consulate:

1.  A passport with at least two blank pages (two are better), valid for at least six months after the end of your proposed visit to Russia.

2.  Two copies of the Russian visa application form, completed and signed.

3.  Two passport-size photos signed on the back.

4. Travel insurance if you live in an EU country (except UK) or USA.

5.  Visa entitlement certificate / Invitation (Priglashenie) from the local Immigration Office (UFMS) in Russia. Your host must obtain this certificate for you, and send you the original one. Your host will need to know: your full name, address, nationality, passport number, date of birth and your dates of arrival/departure in Russia.

The same as for the tourist and business visa, you need to get a Russian visa invitation. I explain below...

If you want to apply for a Russian private visa, you need to call your Russian friends, relatives or Russian girlfriend or boyfriend and ask them to officially invite you over. Basically, anyone else you may know in St. Petersburg or Russian can do this for you.

But remember, they all have to be Russian citizens because to start the process you need an invitation from a Russian citizen.

And, don't think that your friend, or girlfriend or boyfriend will know what to do, because they surely won't. For him/her or anyone inviting you it will be probably the first time doing this, so it might be a painful process to digest.

Based on our own experience (we've done this in the past) the private visa process is not so easy. When it comes to actually dealing with the Russian immigration bureaucracy, it all becomes one nightmare, but don't worry, it can be done. Just arm yourself with a lot of patience!

RUSSIAN TRANSIT VISA


Are you just passing through St Petersburg? Travelling via Russia to another destination? If so, you may need a Russian transit visa, or no visa at all.

If you are just travelling to a third country via Russia, then you should apply only for a Transit Visa. But if you stay less than 24 hours in Russia, and you not intend to leave the airport transit area, then you will not need a Russian Visa for your trip.

On the contrary, in all other circumstances, you will need to apply for a Russian Transit Visa, normally valid for up to three days if you are travelling by plane or ten days if you are travelling by train.

In order to get a Russian transit visa you should send the following documents to the Russian Embassy or Consulate:

1.  Your original passport with at least two blank visa-designated pages. Passport must be valid for at least six months after intended departure date from Russia.

2.  Two copies of the Russian visa application form, completed and signed.

3.  Two passport-size photos signed on the back.

4.  Visa to the country of destination, if required.

5.  Tickets for the whole itinerary.

For your information, this type of visa is usually issued for three days if you're crossing the country or need to change airports. The requirement and the prices depend on the country you're in, so the best thing to do is to contact the Russian consulate and they'll explain everything.

However, if you travel by train and not by plane, the term of visa can be longer. For example, if you travel by train from Moscow to Vyborg, you can be given a visa for one day, to Sochi, Novorossijsk – for three days, to Zabajkalsk – for five days, to Nakhodka - for eight days and so on.

Instead when traveling by car, you will get a visa for the term calculated in the following way: the full distance of your travel will be divided by 500 km. For example if you need to drive 3000 km, you can get a visa for six days.

Lastly, if you are on a flight through the territory of Russia and you need to change your flight (maybe you have a connecting flight), but you can't leave airport unless you are a Russian visa transit.

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RUSSIA VISA FREE TRAVEL


Are you going to travel to St Petersburg by cruise or ferry, and stay less than three days?  If so, you don't need a Russian visa.

Finally after a couple of years of political debate, almost any foreign tourists, so maybe you too, can travel to Russia Visa Free, if you meet certain requirements of course.

In accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation (RF Government Resolution №397), if you arrive at the port of St Petersburg with a cruise ship liner or the St. Peter Line ferry, and you have a pre-booked organized tour with any registered local tour operator, then you can enter Russia without a Russian visa and stay no more than 72 hours.

To be eligible for this visa-free entry, you must:

  • Arrive and leave by the same ship or ferry;
  • Have a passport valid for 6 or more months from the date of entry;
  • Stay for less than 72 hours;
  • Return to the ship in the evening and spend the night(s) on the ship, or have a hotel voucher with a confirmation of payment of the booking, if you come by ferry;
  • Remain in the company of an authorized tour guide while you are ashore;
  • Have your voucher ticket with the name of the guide who will be in charge of the tour, or have the boarding passes and shuttle-bus ticket, if you come by ferry;

Please note, if you travel by ferry, and arrive from outside the Schengen area, you must have a multiple entry Schengen visa to enter back to Finland or Sweden after the cruise.

As you see, between ferries and ship cruises there are some differences. I explain below...

If you travel by cruise to St Petersburg, you are required to stay overnight on the ship, and spend all your time ashore with a licensed tour guide. You can't tour the city on your own!

Alternatively, if you travel by ferry, for example with St. Peter Line, you can book a hotel of your choice, and visit the city freely, but on the condition that you book the city tour shuttle-bus offered by the ferry company.

In both cases if you want to leave the ship and explore the city you must book in advance a city tour with a tour company sponsored by the cruise or the ferry company, or with a private guide chosen by you - plus have all documents mentioned above!

If you want to learn more about how to travel to St Petersburg visa free, then I recommend you read our popular ferry to St Petersburg page. There you will find all the answers you need on this topic!

RUSSIAN VISA REQUIREMENTS


Before getting through Russian customs, have you got all the necessary documents with you along with your visa? Not sure? If so see below...

Whether you are a tourist or a business traveller, never mind. When you are standing at the immigration border, the Russians authorities will check the following mandatory travel documents to enter Russia:

  • Passport valid for six months beyond intended stay;
  • Tickets and documents for return or onward travel;
  • Russian visa;
  • Migration card filled in completely;

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TIPS AND RECOMMENDATIONS


What else should I know?

We've tried to give you a complete brief overview about Russian visas, though as you can imagine the topic is quite wide. However, if you still have some doubts or questions, try to read our tips and recommendations below. They might be helpful!

  • You should consider the type of visa you want to apply for. Most travellers get a tourist visa, because it allows you to stay in Russia for up to thirty days. However, if you need to stay longer or travel to Russia several times, then getting a business visa may be a better choice because you can have multiple entries. However, if you are just coming for a short business trip, then it will make more sense to apply for a tourist visa.
  • The most convenient option among all Russian visas (tourist, business, student, private, transit, work) in terms of price, processing speed and flexibility are tourist and business visas; though between the two, the processing speed of the business visa is longer and more expensive than the tourist visa.
  • Remember, Russian officials usually don't care about which visa you finally take, what matters is how much you pay. So, when you choose the type of visa, you should evaluate carefully the price of the visa, its speed of processing, the period of stay and the number of entries the visa allows.

  • Keep in mind that to start your Russian visa application you should know by now that you need an invitation (also called visa support document) issued from a third party. However, we advise you to give only the original invitation to the Russian consulate when applying for business or private visas. This way you will avoid any possible rejection.
  • Don't forget to register your Russian visa within seven days upon arrival, excluding holidays and weekends. Russian law says that it is the responsibility of the accommodating party to register your visa once you arrive; so your hotel, hostel or friend should take care of this, but to be sure, always ask.
  • If you are going to St Petersburg by sea, then we suggest that you take advantage of the visa free rule by booking the St Peter Line shuttle bus. Once the bus has dropped you off you're free to do almost what you wish, but remember, you can only travel around the St Petersburg area (included Peterhof or Tsarskoye selo), and not beyond that.
  • If you take the St Peter line ferry, I really recommend you hire a private tour guide, so you will enjoy a high quality tour and get the most out of your short stay. If you want you can book a tour with us.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION


A Russian tourist visa lets you stay in the country for up to thirty days, with just one entry which cannot be extended while in Russia. Also, keep in mind that you can get a visa for Russia only in the country of your citizenship, except if you hold a residence permit for another foreign country for a period of more than ninety days.

Be aware that if you stay more than seven days in Russia you must register your visa within seven working days of arrival. However, if you’re staying at a hotel, the receptionist should be able to do this for you for free or for a small fee.

Invitations for Business Visas are issued through the Russian Foreign Ministry or its regional representatives, or an appropriate branch of the Russian Federation Migration Service.

When travelling visa free to Russia, your guide will provide you with travel tickets in advance - this is a document, also known as a blanket visa, stating that an authorized tour operator is waiting for you outside the passport control area. You show this ticket along with your passport to the passport control officer and you are free to go.

Written by Davide C.

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