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.☺
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 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.
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.
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.☺
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:
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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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!☺
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 hope you find these information helpful!☺