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How to apply for a Russian visa, Russian consulate requirements



If you already have an idea about all the steps you need to take to get a Russian visa and selected the type of visa you need, the only thing left is to get all the paperwork together and apply for the visa at a Russian consulate. Here's what you need to do next:
 
 
What Documents are Needed to Get a Russian Visa

Russian Tourist Visa requirements:

1. A valid passport with at least one blank page (for the visa), the expiration date should be not earlier than 3 months after your visa validity ends. Sometimes you may be required to present two photocopies of your passport (copy all the most important pages of the passport -- showing your name, birth date, photo, passport number, expiration date).
2. Russian visa application form completed and signed (it's available in a Russian consulate for free, you can download a sample here - Adobe Acrobat format).
3. Three passport-type photographs (make sure you have no glasses and hats on).
4. For individual travelers: a letter of invitation (also called "visa support" or "tourist voucher and tourist reservation confirmation") issued by a Russian travel agency authorized in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), or directly from a Russian hotel, showing the reference number of the company in the MFA and the confirmation number for the visa (see Types of Visa section).
5. Shengen countries, Estonian, and Israeli citizens need to present an insurance valid in Russia (usually already included on your credit card policy).
6. French citizens sometimes are also requited to present bank statements for the last 3 months and a copy of their return tickets (as well as insurance, as above).

Most Russian consulates do not require originals of the invitation papers: a fax or a scanned copy (sent to you via e-mail) is enough. Only the consulates in Switzerland, Sweden and sometimes in Germany ask for originals. Also note that a consulate has the right to request the originals of the papers, if they need them.

For cruise passengers or group travelers: the Russian visa should be arranged with your cruise organizers. You will be able to leave the port only together with the cruise organizers.
 


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Russian Business Visa requirements:

1. A valid passport with at least one blank page (for a visa), the expiration date should be not earlier than 3 months after your visa validity ends. Sometimes you may be required to present two photocopies of your passport (copy all the most important pages of the passport -- showing your name, birth date, photo, passport number, expiration date).
2. Russian visa application form completed and signed (it's available in a Russian consulate for free, you can download a sample here - Adobe Acrobat format).
3. Three passport-type photographs (make sure you have no glasses and hats on).
4. Official invitation from an organization authorized to invite business visitors to Russia. The Invitation to Russia must be issued by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, its regional representatives, or Russian travel agencies authorized to process invitations for business visas.
The Russian consulate where you will apply has a right to ask for an original copy of the invitation.
5. If you're applying for a visa longer than 6 or 12 months or a multiple entry visa, an HIV test may be required by some consulates.
6. Some consulates may require to present a letter from your employer confirming your trip to Russia and itinerary.
7. Shengen countries, Estonian, and Israeli citizens need to present an insurance valid in Russia (usually already included on your credit card policy).
8. French citizens sometimes are also requited to present bank statements for the last 3 months and a copy of their return tickets (as well as insurance, as above).

Most Russian consulates do not require originals of the invitation papers if you are getting a single or double-entry business visa: a fax or a scanned copy (sent to you via e-mail) is enough. Only the consulates in Switzerland, Sweden and sometimes Germany ask for originals. Note, however, that a consulate has the right to request the originals of the papers, if they need them. Originals of multiple entry business visa invitations are always required by all consulates. 

 

Russian Private Visa requirements

1. A valid passport with at least one blank page (for a visa), the expiration date should be not earlier than 3 months after your visa validity ends. Sometimes you may be required to present two photocopies of your passport (copy all the most important pages of the passport -- showing your name, birth date, photo, passport number, expiration date).
2. Russian visa application form completed and signed (it's available in a Russian consulate for free, you can download a sample here - Adobe Acrobat format).
3. Three passport-type photographs (make sure you have no glasses and hats on).
4. A private invitation certificate ("izveshchenie" or "priglashenie") from the local OVIR office (immigration officials) in Russia (for Moscow this certificate is issued by a local police department). The person who's inviting you must obtain this certificate for you in OVIR and send the original certificate to you. When you come to Russia, you can only live at this person's place.

American male citizens also need to fill in a very strange paper (called "a supplement to visa application form") to make sure they will not be spying in Russia. It should be presented along with the other documents to paranoid consulate officials. You can see it here (Adobe Acrobat format). 
 
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How to Increase Your Chances

We strongly recommend you to obtain the appropriate invitation ("visa support" or "tourist confirmation") first and only after that fill in the visa application form and submit all documents.
To increase your chances of getting the visa, the data you specify in the visa application form should be the same as in your invitation (e.g. the purpose of the trip, the place of stay, etc.).

Also, while having an interview with a Russian consulate official, you'll increase your chances if you say things that don't contradict to what's written in your application form and your invitation (e.g. if you say that you want to come to Russia only to make the Trans-Siberian and to camp for 3 months around lake Baikal, when you're applying for a business visa it will definitely not increase your chances).
  
 
 

How to Submit the Documents

There are three ways to submit your documents: either you can do it all by yourself (going to the consulate), by post (this is convenient, because you can send your papers from any country), or through a travel agency in your country (they'll take all your documents, send them to the consulate and charge you an additional fee for that).
If you apply for a business visa, the invitation can be sent by telex to the Russian consulate where you will apply. It's really easier for you when it's done like that, so we recommend to use this option. Some travel agencies charge additional fees for telex, some don't.

 
 

Russian Visa Prices

The price of the visa depends on its type (tourist, business, amount of entries), on the speed of processing (1 to 14 days), nationality, and the country where you apply. The more flexible conditions the visa provides (e.g. valid 12 months, multi-entry) or the faster it is processed (min 1 day), the more expensive it will be. Generally, the price of a Russian visa for a national of some country will be the same as the price of the visa in this country for a Russian national. For example, a British visa for Russians costs about $50 US, so they charge British the same price for a Russian visa. The most expensive visa for Russians is a visa to the United States, so the citizens of the US are charged the most, usually.

The price of a Russian visa can also vary depending on which country you are applying in. For example, if an American citizen applies for a business visa in Finland, it may cost more than $200, however, in Romania it will cost $80. So, if you are planning to get your visa somewhere in Europe it is worth calling a few Russian consulates to search for the best bargain.

Here's a breakdown of visa application fees by country:

Visa Prices in the Russian consulate in USA for USA citizens:
For single entry visas:
$100 for not less than six business days processing;
$150 for not less than three business day processing;
$200 for next business day processing or two business day processing;
$300 for same day processing;
For double entry visas:
$100 for not less than six business days processing;
$200 for not less than three business day processing;
$250 for next business day processing or two business day processing;
$350 for same day processing;
For multiple entry visas:
$100 for not less than six business days processing;
$300 for not less than three business day processing;
$350 for next business day processing or two business day processing;
$450 for same day processing;
 
Visa Prices in the Russian consulate in UK for UK citizens:
£30 - for not less than 8 working days processing
£40 - for 6 working days processing (£100-multiple entry visa)
£60 - for 3-5 working days processing
£80 - for next day processing (£130-multiple entry visa)
£90 - for the same day processing (£150-multiple entry visa)
£120 - for express visa
Additional charge for double-entry visas is £10.
£30 - any correction in visa or visa duplicate.
The citizens of other countries pay an additional £18 consular fee on top of the price for a business, tourist, or transit visa, or additional £84 for a multiple entry visa.

Visa Prices in the Russian consulate in France for French citizens:
Single-entry or multiple-entry tourist, business, or private visa:
54EUR - 5-7 working days processing
Transit visa (or any visa valid for 3 days or less):
28EUR - 5-7 working days processing
 
 

Where and When to Apply for a Russian Visa

It is only possible to apply for a Russian visa in the country that you are a national of or in the country where you have a residency permit valid for longer than 90 days. This means that if you come from an EU country, you can apply for a Russian visa in any other EU country, because you are entitled to permanent residence in any of these countries by European law. However, if you're from the US, then you can't apply in Finland, for example, unless you have a valid residency permit there. 

Therefore, if you're planning a long journey, you should always apply for the Russian visa before you leave. It's possible to get a tourist visa support at any moment before your journey, however, you can only apply for a tourist visa not earlier than 90 days before the date of your first entry to Russia. Business visa support can be obtained not earlier than 45 days before your first entry to Russia. These rules, introduced a couple of years ago, make it very complicated to get a visa for Australian citizens who usually go on a long journey through Asia and Russia into Europe and leave their country earlier than 90 days before their travel (so they simply can't apply in Australia, and the Russian consulate in China will not accept their documents either because they don't have a residency permit there. However, according to our own information, the consulates in Austalia and New Zealand are often willing to make exceptions and issue visas beforehand. But check with them first.

If you have a problem with this 90-day rule, there are several ways to solve it.
First, you can apply for a Russian visa by post. Make sure you get all the documents together first and once you're 90 days before your journey, simply send it off to the Russian consulate in your country, ask them to send it back to your address back home, and ask your friends or relatives to forward the documents wherever you are at the moment. This may not always work, though, because not all consulates receive applications by post. In that case you could try to find a local travel agency and send the documents to them, so they can apply on your behalf.
Second, you can try to get a temporary residence in the country where you want to apply. For example, if you are an American, you are automatically entitled to stay 90 days in any EU country. So, say, if you're staying in Russia on a multiple-entry visa and need to prolong it, you would not be able to travel to Helsinki for a visa run, because you don't have a residency permit for Finland valid for longer than 90 days. The best solution in this case would be to either find a country where as a US citizen you can stay longer than 90 days or try to get a local residency. It's usually possible if you bring your bank accounts to the local immigration office and tell them you need to stay longer to start a business, for example. 
Finally, there are some countries where the Russian consulates are not that strict about the 90-day rule. You should always try to call them before. Also, from our own experience, if you're getting a business visa this rule is not so strictly enforced, so this may be an option as well.

Also, check out this page on the problem Russian consulates, so you know how to deal with some of them.
  
 
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What If Your Russian Visa Expires?

We strongly recommend you not to get into this, because this process of renewing an expired visa is a real pain in the ass and expensive too. The best thing to do is to leave to one of the Baltic States countries (Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania) before your Russian visa is expired. The Baltic States are the closest to Russia and you most likely don't need a visa to get there if you're from the EU or US.

Before you leave Russia, get the invitation you need (tourist or business) and then, when you come to one of the Baltic State countries, you can directly apply for a new Russian visa in the Russian consulate there. Besides, the Baltic States is a beautiful place to visit... and... we have a guide to Riga on Way to Russia, as it's a popular "visa-run" destination.

 

Disclaimer: We attempted to make all the information presented in the Russian Visa section of this site as accurate and up-to-date to possible, a a lot of work was done, but visa rules and regulations change so often that we can't guarantee anything. So, we are not liable or responsible for anything, ok? 
For example, we said you can send all the documents by post and you'll do it, but the crazy people in a consulate may issue a special regulation that all the documents received should be destroyed because of a possible anthrax attack... Or when we say that there are beasts working in the Washington consulate (based on previous experience), well, maybe they fired all their staff recently and now there are just nice people there... How can we be responsible for that? Hope you understand... and send us your feedback too, so we can keep this section up to date.
 

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