Do You Need a Russian Visa?
find out How to Get One!

Welcome to St Petersburg Essential Guide - Your Best Travel Guide to Russia

Nowadays getting a Russian visa has become easier than before. Learn everything you need to know about a visa for Russia and apply for one today.

Almost everyone who wishes to travel to Russia needs a visa. Of course, there are some exceptions for some foreign citizens but for the majority of foreign travelers, a Russian visa is required. If you arrive without one you will be sent straight back at your own expense and you may end up paying even a fine.

People travel to Russia for several reasons and for each reason there are several types of Russia visas on the menu. According to your length of stay and the purpose of your trip you can apply for a tourist and business visa, or for a private and transit visa as well as for a visa for employment, study, or humanitarian projects. For each category, different requirements must be met in order to be eligible for a Russian visa. 

Usually, most foreign travelers are used to apply for a regular or traditional tourist visa at Russian consulates or visa centers, which allowed them to stay in the country for a maximum of 30 days from the date of entry, and for many, that is enough. However, lucky for you, now you can also apply for an electronic visa, a new visa type in the form of an electronic document that you can get easily and faster without leaving the comfort of your home.

Currently, this low-cost e-Visa lets you stay in the country for up to 8 days and you can get one in just a few days without spending a fortune. Compared to the traditional tourist or paper visa the e-Visa is a very good deal for tourists because there is no paperwork involved and is cheaper. And, if you don't want to think at all of arranging a visa, you can even travel to Russia visa-free if you meet certain conditions.

So, if visiting Russia has been always in your bucket list but you did not come because obtaining a visa was expensive and a big hassle now you have no more excuses. You and all tourists around the world can now travel to Russia free worries and free stress than before.

all you need to know about a visa for russia

We bet you have a lot of questions about getting a Russian visa flocking your mind. Visa application is a huge topic constantly changing. So take your time to digest it all. Below we've summed up the most important information everyone should know before leaving. Happy Reading!


For your information, a visa to the Russian Federation is a document that permits you to stay in Russia for a specific period of time. A visa records your entry/exit dates, your vital information, passport details, and information about the inviting party. Sometimes you may also have your photo stamped into it, including fingerprint scanning for all Russian visa applications in the UK and Northern Ireland since 2014.

Bear in mind that your Russian visa is an exit permit in the same way as it’s an entry permit. Thus, if you lose it or stay over your designated departure date, leaving the country could be more troublesome than entering it.


This is a common question we have been asked a lot of times from our visitors and the answer is always the same. It all depends on what nationality you are from! If you are from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Europe, UK, Japan, China or India, you will need to obtain a visa in order to travel to Russia; while most countries of South America and Central American, including some countries in the Middle East and Asia, or those with passports from ex-USSR states like Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine, are exempt from needing to obtain a Russian visa.

Russian VisaDo I Need a Russian Visa? Find out Here!

Russian visa is required for most countries of the world, apart from the following countries: Argentina, Bosnia, Herzegovina (holding an invitation letter or voucher); Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Hong-Kong, Israel, Macau, Macedonia (holding an invitation letter or voucher); Montenegro, Nicaragua, Peru, Serbia, Thailand, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela. Also, most citizens of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) they don't need a visa to travel to Russia, while Georgia and Turkmenistan they need one.

If you are from one of the countries listed above, good for you. You can enter Russia without a visa for a specific period of time (from 30 to 90 days) and for a specific purpose only (tourism, business, private, etc.) but with some restrictions. On the contrary, if you aren't on that list, then, we're sorry but you need to apply for a visa.

There is, however, one small exception. If you choose to travel to St. Petersburg for up to 72 hours on a cruise ship (on the condition that you are sleeping on the ship and are accompanied by an authorized tour guide) or on ferries from Helsinki and Tallinn with St. Peter Line, you do not need a visa. However,  make sure your country is listed on Schengen Area or have a Schengen visa if you need one.

For more information on the visa-free regime, see Who Does Not Need a Visa to Russia and before you go contact also your Russian consulate in your country to double-check whether you are eligible or not to visit Russia without a visa. Things can change over the years!

Please keep in mind that you can obtain a visa to Russia ONLY in the country of your citizenship. Exceptions include those who have a residence permit for a foreign country for a period of no more than 90 days.



Depending on the purpose of your trip there are different types of visas you can choose for travel to the Russian Federation. Each visa requires different documentation and the prices and time of making one vary. Below we provide you with a comprehensive list of the types of visas for which you may apply. Just click on the link for additional information.

If the purpose of your trip to Russia is mainly for tourism and business, or for sports, cultural, scientific, and technological events, and you plan to stay in the country for a very short time, then you should apply for the new electronic visa (e-Visa). Today this is the faster and easiest way to obtain a Russian visa because the application is held entirely online. Currently, e-Visas are available for specific Russian regions and for some nationalities only. They are valid for 30 days and allow you to stay in the country up to 8 days within the region it was granted for.

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If you don’t meet the requirements to apply for the new electronic visa or simply you want to stay in Russia longer than 8 days, then you can apply ​​for a regular or traditional tourist visa. This is the most common visa and it is issued to travellers visiting Russia for tourist and leisure purposes or even for short business visits. It’s a visa you must apply for at Russian consulates or visa centers in your country and is attached to your passport. Regular tourist visas are either single or double entry, for a period of no more than 30 days.  

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If you travel to Russia for business or commercial reasons, then you should apply for a Russian Business Visa. Business visas are usually issued to travellers visiting Russia on official or private business and allow you to travel when and where you wish within the visa’s validity period. The period of validity of the business visa can be 30, 90, 180 or 365 days (even more in certain cases). During this time you have the right to do business in Russia, but not to take up full-time employment. Business visas can be single, double, or multi-entry.

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If you travel to Russia to see your family or friends for a period of time over a month, but under 3 months, then you can apply for a Russian Private Visa. A private or homestay visa is designed for those who wish to visit family or friends who reside within the territory of the Russian Federation. Invitations are obtained in Russia by private individuals and are not normally available through agencies. The visa process is known to be slower and complicated. Private (homestay) visa (type 1) can be valid for single or double entries for the period up to three months only.

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If you are travelling through Russia en route to a third country by plane, train, or car, then you must apply for a Russian Transit Visa. This visa is for foreigners who travel to another country via the territory of the Russian Federation. Prices for transit visas are usually low, and they are not difficult to get. They are normally valid for up to three days for air passengers and up to ten days for passengers travelling by train or by car. However, if you are staying in Russian for less than 24 hours and do not leave the airport transit zone, no visa is required.

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In addition to the above list, you can also apply for a Russian Student Visa or a Working Visa.

These two Russian visas are issued to people who plan to work and study in Russia. You can obtain these visas only with the requisite support of your Russian employer or the university at which you will be studying. A different procedure, documents, and requirements apply to obtain these Russian visas. For more information, we recommend consulting with the Russian Embassy or Consulate in your country and/or asking your future employer or the institution you've chosen to study with.


If you want to skip the hassle of arranging a Russian visa and avoid lots of long paperwork, currently, there is only one option to let you travel to Russia Visa-Free, and that is to board a cruise ship or take a ferry line.

If you book a cruise or ferry and St. Petersburg is one of the calls, you DO NOT NEED to get a Russian visa before you depart if you are staying in the city for no longer than 72 hours and you purchase a shore excursion tour beforehand.

Yes, you heard well! You have the right to leave the ship and come back on board of the ship only as part of an organized tourist group and within the defined program within the given 72 hours. More than 2 million foreigners have been entering Russia this way lat year (2019). Among them, you can find Americans, Germans, British as well as other nationalities.

In accordance with the new legislation of the Russian Federation, since 2012 foreign tourists and persons without citizenship or relevant visa and/or proper permission travelling on ferries or cruises may arrive in the Russian Federation without a Russian visa for a period of 72 hours, being part of an organized excursion group, and holding a valid passport.

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where TO apply for A RUSSIAN VISA?

We’ve had to apply for tourist visas to Russia for family and friends on several different occasions, and we are still continuing to do that when someone asks. So, we know pretty well that the visa processing can be extremely bureaucratic one.

That said, once you know what type of visa you need and what documents you must have in order to submit your visa application, you can have your visa processed at any consulate of the Russian Embassy or Russian Visa Center in your country.

For example, if you need a Russian travel visa for tourism and business you can do it individually through a Russian Consulate (stressful, daunting, but cheaper), or you can go to a Russian Visa Center which is an independent business that is subcontracted by the Russian Embassy (no queues, time-saving, reasonable price), or ask a Local Travel Agency to do it on your behalf (fast, easy, but expensive).

On the contrary, if you want to apply for the new e-Visa you can simply do it by yourself through a special website of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is no need to go to a consulate or visa center but having someone who knows how to do it or knows the Russian language such as a friend or a relative in Russia can be very helpful. 

Instead, if you need to apply for a Russian Private Visa the person who is inviting you to Russia will have to take care of the whole visa application on your behalf and go to the Russian Immigration Office in the city where he/she lives. Instead, if you're applying for a visa for work or study, the company or school you are planning to work or study with must take care of some part of the visa documentation required, while you must provide the other part and submit it to the nearest Russian consulate.

Personally speaking, we have always recommended applying for visas through the Russian Visa Center since it is the most effective and fastest place to apply to get a visa. In contrast, at the Russian consulate, you often have to wait a long time for them to give you an appointment, and, sometimes in the case of a tourist visa, they might not even accept applications directly but refer you to the Russian Visa Central anyway.

If you don't have time the most efficient way to get a Russian visa would be applying through a reputable Online Visa Agency Service, which compared to a local travel agency, the application process will be 100% hassle-free as you will apply easily from the comfort of your home. The problem with these private online agencies is that there are too many out there and finding a good and reliable one is not that easy.

In conclusion, remember, whether you have time or not relying on outside help or intermediaries can make your visa application easier and the whole experience better.

how to get a russian visa

Russia is one of those countries where it pays to utilize a travel agency to coordinate your visa application. What makes the process slightly different to other countries is that to get a Russian visa, the first thing you need is an invitation letter (also known as visa support document).

This document is needed to apply for a visa and must be issued by a Russian person, institution, hotel, or business who has invited you to visit them. A Russian family member, university you’ll be attending, a business or a hotel where you will be staying can provide you with the letter.

Once you've received the invitation (usually two documents - hotel voucher or tourist confirmation), the next step is to collect all other documents which are:

  • A valid passport (Must be the original and a photocopy is also required);
  • Two photos (Must be a passport-sized photo only);
  • Travel insurance for Russia (It is necessary that you have travel insurance that will cover anything that may happen during your trip. Get your travel insurance here);
  • The HIV test certificate (in case you stay 6 months or longer).

Remember, your visa must include your entry and exit dates meaning the first and last date that you will be in the country. This means you will need to know the dates of your trip and outline the itinerary and plan out the cities you want to visit, including the hotels or apartments where you’ll be staying before applying for your visa and before asking for your invitation letter.

Our advice is to set out your itinerary first, and then collect all the documents needed for your visa application.

Once you have all your documents, the final step is to take everything to the Consulate, or to the Russian Visa Center that is nearest your place or residence. This can be done in person or by mail.


how much does it cost to get a visa?

The cost for processing a visa varies by country, by type of visa, and by the speed of the making of the visa. It usually includes the following costs: consular taxes, administrative fees, and the cost of the letter of invitation or visa support.

Please note that consular and administrative fees for each country are different so it is difficult to estimate how much someone should pay. Generally, the cost of a traditional tourist visa is under $200, taking into account all the costs. On top of that, you may also want to take into account extra expenses if you want your visa to be processed quickly and delivered by postal mail to your home.

If you do the procedure through a private agency the cost will be higher but you won't have to do anything as the agency will take care of everything on your behalf.

when should i start applying for a visa?

You can apply for a Russian visa up to 90 days prior to your date of travel. The Embassy recommends that you apply at least 3 weeks before to your date of travel to accommodate any unforeseen processing delays.

However, applying for a visa and gathering the necessary documentation can take some time, so we recommend starting the process about 4 or 5 weeks ahead of time. In the event, you already have a passport and electronic copies of your documents, you can get through the process in 2 weeks or even within 3 or 4 days if you use the expedited process.

The golden rule here is the sooner the better.


the visa support document

The visa support document (also known as the invitation letter) is a special document issued by the party that invites you to Russia. The letter of invitation should not be confused for a hotel reservation. They are not the same.

The visa support document is required by a Russian consulate to be able to process your visa and must be issued by a Russian travel agency or by a company or organization authorized by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA).

For every type of visa, there is a different type of invitation (tourist, business, work, private, student, humanitarian, etc.), so according to whichever type of visa for which you're applying, you will be issued a specific invitation.

For example, if you plan a trip to Russia for tourism your hotel should send you by fax or email the document, which is a simple A4 page format. The document you have received by your hotel must contain the Tourist Services Contract (tourist voucher) and the Foreign Tourist Reception Confirmation (confirmation letter). The first is a document that states that you have hired a Russian hotel service. The second serves as a confirmation that you will use the hotel during your visit.

Remember, the visa support document includes four important things that you will need when filling out your visa application form: Name of Organization, Full Address, Reference Number, Confirmation Number. Please also note that is not necessary to have a hotel reservation in order to get a visa.

So, the visa support document can be from a resident for a private visa (valid for 3 months, with single or double-entry), from a Russian travel agency, a hotel, or a local travel agent for a tourist visa (valid for up to 30 days, with single or double-entry), and from a Russian company or a travel agency for a business visa (valid for up to 1 year, with multiple entries). Alternatively, if you're applying for a working or student visa, then the invitation will be sent by the company you will be working for or the university where you'll be studying.

How do you get visa support for a tourist trip?

You can ask the invitation from the hotel where you will be staying (Usually it costs between $25 and $40), or, much better, you can get your invitation through an authorized Russian Tour Operator (There are different local travel agencies that can quickly provide the visa support online within a day for about $20). 

Do you need an invitation letter? If so get one HERE today!


As a foreign traveler when entering Russia you're requested to fill out a migration card (see a sample here). You can find these cards in the waiting halls for passport control at airports such as the Pulkovo airport, or Russian border points. Alternatively, the personnel on board the plane or train or bus should give one to you. In practice, it is usually the immigration service that takes care of it during passport control (either digitally or manually), so they are the ones responsible to check if this card has been given to you.

The immigration card is a paper which consists of two equal parts that are the size of a passport page. It contains your personal information, terms of stay, passport number, the purpose of visit, and prospective place of residence. One of the parts is kept by the border police and the second will be delivered to you.

This card is very important as you will have to present it at passport control upon arrival and departure as well as when registering your visa. For this reason, we recommend that you keep this card with you for the whole time you are staying in Russia. In case of loss, you should report the loss to regional bodies of domestic affairs domiciliary within 3 days. If you don't, you will have some trouble.

Please note also that you cannot stay in Russia longer than stated in your migration card. For example, if your Russian visa is valid for one month, and you have written that you would stay for 20 days, you are not allowed to stay for more than 20 days.



Upon your arrival in Russia you must register with the Federal Migration Service in the city or region where you're staying within the first seven working days of arrival (excluding weekends and holidays). Before March 2011, the registration needed to be done within 72 hours, but the new Russian law modified this term. If you are going to stay in Russia less than 7 working days, then you do not need to register.

The purpose of this registry is to notify immigration authorities of the place where you will stay while you are in Russia. The registration must be done in each of the cities that you are going to visit. You will need to fill out another registration form.

By Russian law, the responsibility for registration lies with your accommodation provider or the organization or individual who issued your visa invitation. Thus not you, nor the agency which issued your visa support.

For instance, if you are travelling on a tourist visa and staying in a hotel, the hotel itself must register your visa. The hotel may charge a small fee for this procedure, though they should not do it. For the registration, the hotel will ask your passport with the visa and your immigration card (the one you get at the border when you arrive in the country). If you will not stay in a hotel, but in a private house, your Russian host, who invited you, will need to register you.

Registration can be completed by them at local branches of the Federal Migration Service or any post office. The same applies if you're renting a flat through an agency or a private owner. To complete the visa registration your passport and the migration card are needed.

Remember, the accreditation registration is not required to leave the country, but the immigration card it will be asked. Also, you may find a Russian host not so keen to do the registration for you as it can be a half-day spent at the immigration office. So before renting a flat with someone ask if they will take care of the registration upon your arrival.

dictionary of terms

The documents connected with travel to Russia are often called by different names. To avoid confusion, check the quick definitions HERE.



If you are applying for a Russian Visa independently, you will need to submit documents - either in person or, in some cases, by post - to your nearest Russian Embassy or Consulate. Therefore, if you need to find your Russian consulate quickly check out this website. There you can find links to a list of comprehensive contact information for all Russian consular departments throughout the world.

russian visas in your country

As we said early Russian visa requirements for travel to the Russian Federation may slightly differ from country to country. To get your Russian visa application you can apply directly through the Russian Consulate by prior appointment or you can visit one of the Visa Centers in your country (Recommended).

Most people don't know but you might find it interesting to know that Russia is present in some 150 countries around the world, where it is represented by about 250 Embassies and Consulates.

In addition to that, there are also several Russian visa centers (Small private companies which are in charge of managing Russian visas on behalf of the Russian government). The offices of the visa centers are located in the same cities where the consulates have their headquarters because they serve as intermediaries between applicants and the Russian consulate and charge management fees for each visa processed.

Some of the most important companies are VFS Global (VFS), Visa Handling Services (VHS), or Invisa Logistic Services (ILS).

Currently, there are Visa Centers in 32 countries. So to help you find the nearest Russian consulate, embassy, or visa center in your country we recommend visiting the official website of the Consular Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Unfortunately available in Russian Language only) or you can click on the below links. Each link contains information on Russian consulates and Visa centers in some specific countries.



It's not hard to get a Russian visa if you play it right. That Russian embassy only looks tough, you know. Do your homework, and it will fall like a card house. After all, you are speaking to someone, ME (Davide), who has applied on my own for a Russian visa several times before settling myself down in Russia for good.

For this reason, I have made a quick free guide to getting a visa for Russia which will take you step by step through all the main stages of your visa application. If you follow carefully my suggestions, you'll save time, nerves and perhaps get it the first time. Click here to download the PDF file!

tips & recommendations

Tips & Recommendations

Getting a traditional paper Russian visa can be a long and expensive process for some foreign travellers, especially for US, Australia, or Uk citizens. However, if you are from one of these countries please don't despair because applying for a visa is not as complicated a process as it may seem. You just need to know how and where to apply and what documents to collect. Below we provide some tips to keep in mind when applying for a Russian visa.

  • We would like to remind you that the faster and easiest way to get a visa is applying for the e-Visa. However, if you need to stay in Russia longer than 8 days then you must apply for the traditional tourist visa or another type of visas. In that case, the visa processing is different.
  • Remember, tourists from all over the world on board large cruise ships have the right to stay in the Russian Federation without a visa for up to 72 hours provided living on board of ferry or within a territory defined by the group tour program. Most tourists love to travel to St Petersburg by ferry, see if you may like it too.
  • Please note that if you will be traveling to Russia on a trip organized by a travel agency, the agency will likely take care of the entire visa process and simply ask you for the necessary documents. If you choose to apply this way, the price will be significantly more than if you file for the visa yourself.
  • Keep in mind that the Russian Visa Center Application acts as an intermediary between the applicant and the consular section by receiving documents, verifying they are correct and complete, and sending them to the consular section to have them processed. However, the final decision to approve or deny a visa application still comes from the Russian Consulate.
  • Several Russian Visa Centers in some countries offer additional services for an extra cost such as photo services, postal services, filling in of an application form, etc. Taking advantage of these services can make your visa experience better so use it if you can.
  • Please note that all other websites that offer Russian visas are NOT AUTHORIZED AGENCIES but simply private companies that act as intermediaries and make the final cost of the visa a lot more. Of course, you can use them, and in some cases, we recommend using them to make things easier and faster.
  • The only advantage of applying for your visa a the Russian consulate is that it is a little bit cheaper. On the contrary, the disadvantage is that you must book an appointment in advance, and sometimes it can take a while to get one. If you go, make sure you get there early to avoid queuing because you won't be alone on that day. 
  • Be aware that if you are missing a single document or something is done poorly, you will have to return on another day as the consulates do not provide additional services like completion or correction of forms, photocopying, or photo and mailing services.
  • In general, all types of visas are processed in a similar way. The only difference worth mentioning is the obtaining of the so-called letter of invitation. This is an important document and once you get one we recommend checking that your Letter of Invitation sent to you does have the correct information. Name misspelling can happen!
  • Remember, the Russian visa application must be completed online, but before you’re ready to do that, make sure all your proper documentation is in order. The number one rule here is to set out your trip and gather all the documents you need before applying online.
  • If you have to apply for your Russian visa we recommend doing your application through the Russian visa center. It is the most effective and fastest place to apply to get a visa. In contrast, if you go to the consulate, you often have to wait a long time for them to give you an appointment.
  • According to the Russian Embassy, you can submit your application for your Russian visa up to 90 days before your entry into Russia. We highly recommend submitting your application at least 5 or 6 weeks 60 prior to your date of travel to accommodate any unforeseen processing delays. 
  • Regardless of your nationality, to apply for a visa, you must have a Passport that is valid for at least six months after your visa expires. You should also have at least two blank pages available. And, your passport must not present any type of deterioration such as being torn on the cover, be stained, or having broken pages.
  • Please remember that to get a letter of invitation or visa support, you will need to know which hotels or apartments you will be staying in. However, once you arrive, it doesn’t matter if you end up staying in a different hotel or Airbnb apartment as long as you are still staying in the city that you are visiting.
  • If you have booked your accommodation through Airbnb (or platforms such as Wimdu, Tripping, CouchSurfing, Interhome, HomeAway, VRBO, HomeStay, etc.), you can get an invitation through here.
  • Be aware that to process a Russian visa in a foreign country, you need to have legal residence in the country for more than 90 days, either for work, studies, etc. In case you are a tourist, you can't get visas and you will have to return to your country to apply.
  • Please note that you do not have to buy your flight or train tickets to Russia in order to apply for a visa unless you want. You just need to know your exact travel dates before applying for your via and later once you're ready you can do all the booking.
  • For your information, since September 2012, American citizens can apply for a 3-year multiple-entry Russian visa.
  • If you have more questions or you did not find what you were looking for here, then we suggest that you check with your Russian embassy or consulate in your country of residence. Sure they know more than us!

We hope you find these information helpful!

Davide & Anastasia founders of St Petersburg Essential Guide Travel Website

Hello! We are Davide & Anastasia the founders of

We would like to let you know that apart from writing unique content for our travel website we can also help with the arrangement of your Airport Transfer, Private City Tour, and Russian Visa Support, or anything else you may need during your stay or the planning of your trip to St Petersburg Russia. Just get in touch with us today for more info!


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