If you’re planning a trip to Russia, you will likely need to obtain a visa to enter the country. Since applying for a Russian visa is a very strict and often complicated process, it is recommended that you start at least one month before your intended travel. What follows is a comprehensive guide on how to get a Russian visa.
Types of Russian Visas
There are several types of Russian visas that differ based on their period of validity, number of entries, and eligibility requirements.
The cheapest and easiest type of visa to obtain is a Russian tourist visa. This is a good option if you’re planning to visit Russia for 30 days or less. It is important to note that tourist visas cannot be extended. To avoid complications, it is recommended that you give yourself a few days of leeway by booking your trip for less than 30 days. You can apply for either a single-entry or a double-entry visa to Russia, but keep in mind that double-entry visas are only issued for trips to and from Russia’s neighboring countries.
If you’re looking to stay in Russia for more than 30 days, you may want to apply for a business visa. Although it might be more complicated and costly than a tourist visa, a business visa offers travelers a longer and more flexible trip. You can apply for this visa for periods of three, six, and 12 months. If you’re a US citizen, you will also have the option of applying for a three-year business visa. These visas are also not extendable.
A business visa can be issued as a single-, double-, or multiple-entry visa, although you can only stay in the country for 90 days within each 180-day period. This is a good option for anyone planning one or more lengthy trips to Russia, regardless of whether you are actually traveling for business. In order to apply for this visa, you will need to present a letter from a Russian entity, which you can obtain through a visa agency, as long as you prove that you can cover the cost of your trip.
If you have a friend or family member who is a Russian citizen, he or she can submit a written request for you to obtain a private visa. Private visas are valid for up to 90 days and can be single- or double-entry. It is generally not recommended that you apply for a private visa over a tourist or business visa since it is usually more complicated and can take up to three months to process. Private visas are also not extendable.
Transit visas are a good option for travelers briefly passing through Russia. These visas are valid for up to 72 hours for passengers traveling by plane and 10 days for those traveling by train or car. You do not need to apply for a transit visa if you are not planning to leave the customs zone of the airport. These visas are also not extendable. If you think you might be transiting through Russia beyond the aforementioned durations, it is recommended that you apply for a tourist visa instead.
Student visas are available for individuals entering the country for the purpose of studying at a registered educational institution. Before you can apply, you need to obtain an acceptance letter from a Russian school and be able to prove that you can cover your study costs. These visas are typically valid for three months and may be extended depending on the duration of the program.
Before you apply for an employment visa, you must receive a job offer from a Russian company or organization. Employment visas are eligible for long-term extension, although they are generally the most complicated and expensive type of visa to obtain.
How to Get a Russian Visa
Irrespective of the type of visa, there are a few general steps that everyone must follow to obtain a visa to Russia.
Before starting your application, you will need to obtain an invitation to do so. Acquiring an invitation voucher is easiest if you are planning to stay at a hotel or a hostel, as they will usually provide one to all guests for free or for a small fee. You can also purchase an invitation letter from a registered travel agency or a visa agency, which is a good option for travelers who are applying for a business visa and need a voucher from a Russian company or organization. If you are staying in a private residence with a Russian citizen or a permanent resident, your host can request an invitation from the local police department, although processing can take up to three months for private invitations. Invitations for student and work visas can be obtained through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the Federal Migration Service of Russia. If you are applying for a student visa, it is likely that your educational institution will request an invitation on your behalf.
Once you’ve acquired your official invitation letter, it is time to apply for a Russian visa. This must be done through a Russian consulate or embassy in your home country. Regardless of where you apply, you will need to present a completed Russian visa application form, which is provided online by the Consular Department of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
At the consulate, you will also need to present your passport, your invitation, a passport-sized photo, and proof of travel medical insurance. Depending on the type of visa and length of stay, you may also be required to present documentation that shows you can cover the cost of your stay in Russia. It is advised that you contact your local Russian consulate or embassy to determine if you need to provide any additional documentation or fulfill any specific requirements at the time of your application.
Finally, you will need to register your visa within seven days of arriving in Russia. This step may seem trivial, but should you find your visa status questioned by a police officer or other government official, you will want to avoid the fees and complications associated with being unregistered.
If you are staying at a hotel or a hostel, you can register with reception. Otherwise, you can register with the local post office or police station. If you are traveling to Russia on a student visa, it is likely that your school will have arranged your registration for you. It is important to note that if you are traveling to different cities or towns around Russia, you must re-register your visa when you arrive at a new accommodation.
Cost of Russian Visas
The cost of obtaining a visa to Russia will vary depending on your nationality, the type of visa, the number of entries, and the visa agency and consulate through which you apply. For example, if you are a US Citizen applying for a single-entry tourist or business visa, you can expect to pay about $160 USD in application fees, and an invitation letter might run you another $20 USD. The cost of a Russian visa in the UK is about the same, and applying in most EU countries will be slightly cheaper. You can expect to pay a higher rate for longer stays, more entries, and expedited processing. Employment visas are the most expensive type of visa to obtain, costing an average of $1,100 USD.
Most foreign nationals are required to obtain a visa to enter Russia, with a few exceptions. Passport holders of 58 states in Asia, the Caribbean, and Central and South America are eligible to enter Russia without a visa for limited periods of time. You can find a list of countries eligible for visa-free entrance and permitted periods of stay on the Federal Agency for Tourism website.
Foreign nationals transiting through Russia that remain in the customs zone of the airport are not required to obtain a visa as long as their stay does not exceed 24 hours. Cruise passengers visiting Russia on an organized group tour for 48 hours or less are also exempt from visa requirements.
Areas With Restricted Access
Keep in mind that there are several regions in Russia where foreign nationals are not allowed to travel without preapproval. When filling out your application form, make sure that
you accurately record each city that you plan to visit to avoid running into trouble later on.
There you have it, a complete guide to getting a Russian Visa. Hopefully we’ve answered some of your questions and brought you one step closer to your trip to Russia!