The most popular online travel guide to Russia, since 2001.

Russian Visa Application: Step by Step Guide



If you want to travel to Russia, you need a Russian visa. In order to get a Russian visa, the first thing you need is an invitation (also known as visa support letter). After that, you can apply for the visa at a Russian consulate either by yourself or through a local travel agent (usually for an extra fee). Be careful, however, because many agents and hotels "lock" people into a fixed itinerary or limit their visa validity to the period they are staying at a particular hotel.
 
If you want to avoid bureaucratic traps, follow our step-by-step Russian visa application guide below. It is designed for independent travelers who want to have a flexible itinerary and be free of any

 

Q: You say that no hotel reservations are needed to obtain a Russian visa, but the Russian consulate website says that I need a hotel reservation confirmation (among other documents) in order to get my visa. Who is right?

A:
In order to get a tourist Russian visa, you need to have an invitation (also called visa support) which comprises two papers: reservation confirmation and cover letter (or travel voucher). When you apply for visa support through our site, our partner visa agency (not us!) provides complete visa support papers to you: the reservation confirmation and the travel voucher. Officially you have a hotel reserved, but you simply don't have to stay there. So, to make things easier, we write here that you need no hotel reservation to get a visa. However, when you fill out the visa application form for the consulate, you should specify this hotel(s) (that is specified in your invitation) as a place of your stay (obviously, as it's reserved for you).
 
 
Q: The consulate says that they need a Cover Letter from a travel agency in my country and the Itinerary. Where can I get it?

A: The cover letter is required only if you got your visa support documents from a local travel agency (in your country). If you get it from this site, the letter is not required.
In the very unlikely case the consulate asks you to present the cover letter after you submitted all the documents, our partner company will provide it to you for free. Again, this is very unlikely and may only happen in Japan or Australia. It has not happened in 4 years though to any of the clients who ordered a visa through this site.
The itinerary is always specified on the voucher invitation that you receive, so even if it's required you already have it.
 

Q: Are the visa dates completely fixed, that is, do I have to travel to Russia on the date my visa starts and leave on the date it expires?

A: No, you can enter and leave Russia anytime within the time span specified by your visa start and expiry date. For example, if your visa starts on 5 December 2004 and expires on 25 December 2004, you can enter Russia on the 5th of December or anytime after this date, and you should leave Russia anytime before 25th December on on that date.
We always recommend to give yourself a time span and to apply for your visa to expire 1-2 days after you intend to leave Russia - in case there's a problem with your flight or a sudden change in plans.
Please make sure that the travel dates indicated in your consulate application form match those listed in your invitation.
 

Q: I received only one document for visa support. Where is the rest?

A: What you received is all visa support (invitation) documents you need to apply for your visa. It comprises the reservation confirmation (see above) and travel voucher. It can be printed on one A4 (Letter size) piece of paper - that is OK. The business invitation is usually printed on A5 paper (half of normal A4 - Letter size), that is also OK. Our partner company processes more than 10,000 visa support requests every year, so you can rest assured that everything is done correctly. :-)
 

Q: I want to travel for longer than 1 month or need multiple-entry visa.

A:
Then you can apply for a business visa. You don't need to be in a business to get it, it's just a name for the type of visa that's given for people who want to explore business opportunities, attend conferences and meetings related to their work.
 

Q: Can I enter Russia after the date my visa starts?

A:
Yes. The dates you specify is simply the time span during which you have to enter and leave Russia. You don't have to travel on these dates.
 

Q: Can the visa be extended?

A:
No, it's so complicated and expensive there's no point. If you're not sure when you want to leave, just put your visa end date a few days later in this application.
  
 
Q: Any comments about the consulate in the country where I will apply?

A:
Note, that since October 2007 foreign citizens are supposed to apply for a visa to Russia ONLY in the country of their citizenship. Exceptions include those who have a residence permit for a foreign country for the period more than 90 days. Of course, if you are a EU citizen, you can get a Russian visa in any EU country. The final decision, however, is left up to the consulates. Also, to avoid any problems always state the same purpose for your trip in your visa application form as the type of invitation you obtained. For example, if you have a tourist invitation, the purpose of your trip can only be tourism. If you got a business invitation, the purpose of your trip should be business (e.g. exploring business opportunities in Russia, visiting exhibitions, conferences, having business meetings, etc.)

Here's a list of the problem Russian consulates around the world. A more detailed list is available on our Russian Consulates Insider Information page.

Russian Consulate in Sweden - problems getting tourist visas at the moment in Stockholm (solution: either apply in Goteburg or in another EU country). Russian Consulates in Australia - consulate in Sydney is hard to deal with (problems reported March 2009), apply in Canberra. Russian Consulates in China - better to apply in Shanghai, but you can get a Russian visa in China only if you have a residency permit there. Mongolia - all ok at the moment, but visas are given only if you have a residence permit. France – the consulate in Paris will only give a tourist visa for 2 weeks, if you need to stay longer get a business visa or apply in Marseilles. Also may sometimes require originals of business invitation. Copies of tourist invitations are OK. Switzerland - requires originals of business invitation papers, for tourist invitations copies are OK. Netherlands – If you apply in Hague, we recommend to use a local agency to assist you. You can get the invitation on our site and then contact them and ask to submit your visa. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – originals of invitations are sometimes required. The hardest consulate to deal with is in Estonia. Poland – it's hard to get a visa in Poznan. Better apply in Warsaw.
All other consulates seem to be fine at the moment.
 

Q: Do I need originals of the invitation papers?

A:
In most cases - No. It is sufficient to present copies (fax or scanned copy received by e-mail) of tourist or business visa support documents (invitations). The originals are required only for business invitations in Sweden and in some countries in Asia. Take a look at the answer above – consulates in some countries require originals more often. In this case you can ask the agency to send you originals (only with UPS post) and it'll cost you about $65-80 (courier post charge).
 

Q: How long before my travel dates can I apply for the invitation and the Russian visa itself?


A: Please note that since October 2007 foreign citizens are supposed to apply for a visa to Russia ONLY in the country of their citizenship. Exceptions include those who have a residence permit for a foreign country for the period more than 90 days.
You can get tourist visa support from most travel agencies at any moment, however, you can apply for a tourist visa at a Russian consulate not earlier than 90 days before your requested visa validity start date. So, say if you want to go on a 4-month trip to Asia and then travel to Russia, it's better to get visa support and visa before hand.
Business visa support cannot be processed earlier than 45 days before requested visa validity start date (the processing is handled by the Federal Migration Service (UFMS) and it's their limitation). However, you can apply online on this site earlier than 45 days before business visa start dates and the processing will automatically start 45 days before your visa requested validity start date, provided the order is paid.
However, the final decision is left up to the consulates. You really need to get in touch with the Russian consulate of your choice and make sure that your application will be accepted.
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.
 

Q: Can I travel where I want?

A:
Yes, as long as it's not some secret military base. And you can stay as long as you wish in each city as well. There are some restricted territories where you may be not allowed if you are travling there directly (e.g. taking a flight or crossing the border at these territories), they include Sakhalin island and Chukotka at far east and Murmansk region (north Russia).
 

Q: How to make sure I get the visa at the consulate?

A:
The main rule is to provide the information that is consistent to this visa support letter you're getting. So for example if you are getting a tourist visa support you should specify the purpose of your visit "tourism" and not "visiting friends". And you should make sure you specify exactly the same hotels in your visa application form as in your visa support (invitation).
 

Q: Do I need an insurance to get a visa?
A:
UK - no, USA, EU (Shengen countries) - yes. Your credit card insurance might be enough in most cases. In Italy the rules are more strict – you need a specific health insurance purchased for the period of your travel to Russia.
 

Q: Do I need a flight to be booked in order to get a tourist visa?
A:
No.
 

Q: Is this service legal and reliable?

A:
Yes, 100%. We started it actually just to help our friends come to Russia, so it's something we personally use ourselves. Thousands of customers get their visa support through Way to Russia every year. We are recommended by Lonely Planet, BBC, Rough Guides, and the leading national newspapers in UK, USA, Australia. You can see our Russian Visa forum and Facebook Page - there are lots of reports from satisfied customers.


Q: I have a question that is not listed here. What do I do?

A: Look through our Talk Lounge Forums / Russian Visa section and if the answer is not there, post your question to WayToRussia.Net facebook page.

 

hotel commitments, and has been recommended by Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, BBC and other reputable publications.

  

Step 1: Get the Invitation (Visa Support)
 
First, you need an invitation (aka visa support letter) to apply for a Russian visa. You can get it online on this site through one of our carefully selected providers – they all cater to independent travelers, provide 24-hour support, and guarantee that your visa will be issued by the consulate (we never heard of anyone being refused so far).
 
It's the same price and process as when you use them directly, but doing it through our site you support our free guide to Russia and get our backup in dealing with the providers.
 
Option 1: Tourist Invitation         
Period of stay: 1 to 30 days (up to 36 months for US Citizens)
Entries: Single- or Double entry
Purpose: Tourism
Flexibility: You can stay where you want and as long as you want
Processing time: 1 to 24 hours
You will get: A scanned copy (per e-mail) both of the original Reservation confirmation and the Tourist voucher.
These are all the documents needed to get a Russian visa. Originals can be sent by post when required by the consulate (normally the copies are sufficient).
Price:   $30 US (24 hours processing)
$45 US (same day processing)
Option 2: Long-Term (Business) Invitation  
Period of stay: 1 day to 12 months
Entries: Single-, Double or Multiple entry
Purpose: Research trip, exploring business opportunities, business meetings, visiting conferences, etc.
Flexibility: You can stay and travel where you want
Processing time: 3 to 18 working days, 
You will get: Telex (digitally transmitted directly to the consulate), scanned copy over the e-mail, or original of the official paper invitation from the Russian Authorities. Itinerary and cover letter can be provided upon request.
Price:   $80 to $300 US

• If you're not sure which type of visa you need, try our Russian Visa Troubleshooter or ask the people on our Forum or Way to Russia Facebook Page 

• There are also private and student invitations available. In order to get them, you have to contact your friends / education instituation (e.g. language schools) in Russia. Be aware that these invitations usually take about a month to process, require lots of paperwork, and the originals should be presented to the consulate. But with the student visas you get visas with unlimited stay, so it may be an advantage.
 
Step 2: Get the Passport, Photos, and Visa Application Form
 
Once you have your invitation (Russian visa support), you need to prepare the following documents to apply for your Russian visa:
 
• Travel Passport
Should be valid at least 6 months after your Russian visa will expire and contain at least two clear pages - for the visa and the migration card.

• Two Passport-size Photographs
Should be recent and good quality.

• Russian Visa Application Form
Available either at the Russian consulate where you will apply, through a travel agency if you choose full visa processing services, or online on our site.

• Consulate-Specific Documents
Almost all consulates will require an HIV certificate if you are traveling to Russia on a business visa for 3 months or longer or require a multiple-entry visa.
In case you apply for a business visa, some consulates may require a letter from your employer confirming you work for the company and travel to Russia for business purposes.
 
Step 3: Apply for a Russian Visa
 
Finally, you need to submit all your documents, including your visa support, to the Russian consulate. You can either do it by yourself, or through a local travel agency.
 
Option 1: Apply in Person at a Russian Consulate      
Step 1: Download the latest visa application form from the Russian consulate's website in your country and fill it out. 
Step 2: Prepare all the documents above and check with the consulate's website if that is enough.
Step 3: Apply to the consulate in person or by post. You will need to pay the consular fee and present (send) the documents and the invitation (visa support).
Step 4: Get your visa and have a nice trip to Russia!
Timing: The whole process will take you approximately:
1 day (research)
1 day (queue at the consulate - if you apply in person)
1 hour to 15 working days (depending on your visa type and how much you pay)
Prices:   You will need to pay the consular fee, which depends on the type of visa, the country where you apply, and your citizenship.
Single-Entry, processing time 6 - 8 business days:
USA: $100
UK: £30
France: 54 EUR
Single-Entry, same-day processing:
USA: $300
UK: £90
Multiple-Entry, processing time 6 business days:
USA: $100
UK: £100
Multiple-Entry, same-day processing:
USA: $450
UK: £150
Option 2: Apply through a travel agency  
For UK only, but can also be used by US citizens who are in the UK, any EU citizen, or those who have a residence permit in UK valid for longer than 90 days.
Just use our online form to choose the most appropriate visa processing company for your situation. We will forward you to our partner's website, where you will need to fill out one form. That's it. No queues, no worries, no hassle at the consulate. Our partner company will do everything for you and you will receive your passport with visa by post.

If you are outside of the UK, you can use some of the agencies we recommend worldwide in order to submit your documents to the Russian consulate. They will charge a $50 to $100 US on top of the consular fee, but you will save the time queuing and the agencies normally know all the consulate's requirements.
 
Important: Visa Registration
 
So you obtained the Russian visa, finalized your travel arrangements, and now arrived to Russia. You have 7 business days (excluding weekends and holidays) to register your visa (this is a new regulation valid as of 25 March 2011 – before that you had to register in 3 working days, which is not the case anymore).
 
• If you are staying in a hotel:
The hotel will usually register your visa. The charges are from $0.5 to $20.

• If you are staying in an apartment or with friends:
The landlord of the apartment you're staying in should fill out a special registration form and submit it to any post office or immigration authorities office. It will cost them about $5 and take about an hour of their time, they will need to bring their original passport with registration (propiska) and a copy of your passport. 
Alternatively, the agency that issued your visa support documents can provide the registration for you for about $30 US (30 days maximum).  If you need this service, just ask them to provide it to you when you order your visa support.
 

 

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