If you want to visit Russia, you may encounter a problem of obtaining a visa. Do you think that it’s difficult? Sit back and relax. Just in 1 hour you will find out how to come to Russia without problems and intermediaries.
This article contains a full analysis of the Russian visa legislation in a form of step-by-step guide.
- What is the Russian visa?
- How to get a Russian visa?
It’s easy. It takes 1 hour to apply for it, then you need to wait no more than 10 days *
- Step 1. Possess a valid passport
- Step 2. Get an invitation (visa support)
- Step 3. Obtain health insurance policy
- Step 4. Complete a visa application form
- Step 5. Print an application form, sign it and glue a photo
- Step 6. Pay a Consular fee
- Step 7. Submit all the documents to the Russian Consular office or Visa application center
- Nuances of crossing the Russian border
- What a foreigner need to do after his arrival to Russia
- Legal acts and law
Russian visa is a document which gives a foreign citizen a permission to cross the Russian borders with the purpose of transit or staying in Russia. In order to obtain a visa you need a pack of documents to submit to the Russian diplomatic authority of your country. Set of documents differs depending on a visa type. Visa is being pasted to a foreign citizen’s passport.
Quick overview of Russian visa:
Only citizens of those countries which don’t have a non-visa regime with Russian Federation need a visa.
There are different types of Russian visas which differ on purposes. The main detail for you is the length of stay on the Russian territory. Another important criterion is a number of entries and exits from Russian territory during a visa validation period. Visas can be for a single* or multiple entries. If you want to travel frequently between countries, then multiple entry visa is more convenient option. If you plan a single visit, it will be cheaper and simpler to issue a single entry visa.
* Single entry visa is actually for a single or double entry but it doesn’t change the meaning because their feature is that they have limited number of entries.
Comparative table of visa duration according to the type:
|Up to 30 days|
|Up to 90 days|
Up to 1 year
Up to 3 years
Up to 5 years
* Private visa This visa type require an invitation from a citizen or resident of Russia. Not everyone has such person. Even if somebody has, this person may not want to take such responsibility. Otherwise, a private visa has no more differences from a tourist visa, except for a longer period of stay. Besides, if you invite EU or USA citizens, private visa completely loses its meaning! Read more Why it is not profitable to use a private visa?
** Work/Student visa is a visa for a permanent and continuous staying on the Russian territory. It is difficult and expensive visa type.
In most cases, tourist visa is enough for the ordinary foreigners.
Don’t confuse! Usually many people confuse private and tourist visa. Private visa is called so not because of foreigner is a private person but because of inviting person is a citizen of Russia who wants to invite a foreigner privately.
There are 7 main types of Russian visas:
Actually there are more but I’ve listed only those which can be used by ordinary people
Tourist visa is the most demanded type of visa to enter Russia. It is issued for up to 30 days to those foreign citizens who want to visit Russia for a sightseeing. It is issued as quickly and easy as possible and also it is cheap. Tourist visas can be for single or double entry. In some cases such visas can be for multiple entry if it’s issued for up to 6 months and even up to 3 years!
Business visa is required for those who arrive in cases related to the conduct business (take a part in the negotiations or exhibitions, search for the new business partners, signing contracts). Business visa can be for a single, double and multiple entry. Russian business visa can be issued for a period from 1 month up to 5 years. In case of long duration period of multiple visa you can stay in Russia not longer than 90 out of 180 days per year. Business visa holder can’t be legally employed in Russia but he can get paid for some types of work, e.g. lecturing.
Humanitarian visa is intended for the pilgrims or foreigners taking part in sports competitions. This visa type is very similar to the business visa.
Private visa is intended for those foreigners who want to visit relatives or friends residing on the territory of Russia. To obtain such a visa you need a private invitation, the registration of which should be engaged by a relative or friend living in Russia, who wants to invite a foreigner. Registration of such an invitation require time and effort from an inviting person, that’s why such visas are considered to be impractical.
Work visa is needed for those who are going to work in Russia under an employment contract. It is issued for 1-3 years. Obtaining this visa is a difficult procedure. In this article we are not going to dwell on the nuances of obtaining work visa.
Student visa issues for the foreign citizens who are going to study at one of the Russian universities with an invitation from a appropriate educational institution. It is issued for 1 year with a possibility to prolongate. Obtaining this visa is also a difficult procedure. In this article we are not going to dwell on the nuances of obtaining student visa.
Transit visa is needed for a transit through the territory of Russia. For example, while a travel from Latvia to Kazakhstan through Russia. Herewith, such a visa isn’t issued in a case when a foreigner uses a nonstop flight over the Russian Federation or he has a transfer at the Russian airport without leaving transit area.
Registration procedure of all listed visa types has a lot of similarities: to obtain a Russian visa you need to make a request to the Russian embassy or consulate, fill in an application form and submit a pack of documents. Herewith, significant differences in the registration of listed visa types are the methods of obtaining an invitation to Russia.
Usual Russian visa for the EU citizens costs from ≈68$ to ≈150$. The price for the citizens of other countries is a little higher. Visa price is determined by the paperwork cost, fees and services required to obtain it. Firstly I’ll give an example of cost calculation of usual visa, then I’ll list all the details in order.
The example of cost calculation of Russian single entry tourist visa for 14 days (2 weeks) for one EU citizen:
|Invitation to Russia||≈15$ (≈13€)|
|Health insurance for a visa||1.5$ per day * 14 days ≈ 17$ (≈15€)|
|Photo 3,5 х 4,5 cm||≈8$ (≈7€)|
|Consular fee||40$ (≈35€)|
|Post services (optional)||5$ (≈4€)|
What the Russian tourist visa price consists of:
- Invitation to Russia
- Health insurance for a visa
- Consular fee (bulk of cost)
- Post services (optional)
Invitation to Russia costs ≈15$ (≈13€), depending on a travel agency. Usually, the price don’t depend on a number of entries or the duration of an invitation. It means that single or double entry invitation costs as many as 1 day invitation or 30 days invitation.
Health insurance for a tourist visa costs ≈1.5$ (≈1€) per day. Insurance pricing is complicated and depends on a foreigner’s age. The price range depending on age is from 1.5$ to 8$ (from ≈1€ to ≈7€) per day.
It means, that depending on the duration (from 1 to 30 days) your insurance will cost from 1.5$ to 45$ for an ordinary adult.
Photos made by a professional cost ≈8$ (≈7€). The photo must be: in high quality, taken without head covering or glasses and 3,5 х 4,5 cm sized.
Consular fee for a visa (bulk of cost)
Consular fee has a fixed value and depends only on the multiplicity of a visa
Consular fee amount, depending on the multiplicity of the Russian visas:
|EU countries||40$ (35€)||40$ (35€)||40$ (35€)|
|USA||160$ (140€)||160$ (140€)||160$ (140€)|
|Other countries||80$ (70€)||128$ (115€)||240$ (215€)|
In case of expedited processing the fee doubles (except for USA, there is a general price):
|EU countries||80$ (70€)||80$ (70€)||80$ (70€)|
|USA||160$ (140€)||160$ (140€)||160$ (140€)|
|Other countries||160$ (140€)||256$ (228€)||480$ (425€)|
On the basis of reciprocity, the consular fee amount may increase or decrease. For example, there is a visa facilitation agreement between the European Union and the Russian Federation.
If you want to know precise amount of the consular fee, I recommend to visit the Consular office website and if they don’t have one, call them.
Post services (optional)
In case when you go to the Consulate by yourself, there will be no extra expenses. If a Consular Section is far, then it’s not necessary to present there. It will be enough to send a pack of documents by post. In such case you can expect some additional expenses in amount from 10$ to 20$ (from ≈9€ to ≈18€) (depending on a country).
In some cases, if you live in a migration risk country, you could be demanded an original of a tourist invitation. In that case, additional expenses for obtaining such invitation from a travel agency are added. Meanwhile, an agency charges you for a courier delivery depending on a country from 70$ to 100$ (from ≈62€ to ≈90€). I’d like to say that some invitations have an anti-counterfeiting protection and the Consulate Sections trust them more. Such invitations don’t require an original. Look for the travel agencies which can assign a number to an invitation.
As you can see, it’s not difficult at all!
It takes approximately 1 hour to collect all the documents for a tourist visa of any country and also for a business visa for EU citizens. For the other visa types, document collection will take a little more time. Business visas for citizens of other countries also will take more time. The cause of this is a feature of a business invitation to Russia.
Waiting for a visa issuance takes the main part of time. There are two types of visa processing terms:
|For the EU||4-10 calendar days||1-3 calendar days|
|For the USA||4-20 business days||1-3 business days|
|Other countries||4-20 business days||1-3 business days|
* There is a double Consular fee for an expedited processing.
Russia and EU countries have special intergovernmental agreements, that’s why issuance time decreased. For the other countries, according to the Russian law, it is given from 1 to 20 business days for it.
Warning! Always pay attention to what is specified: calendar or business day!
By the way, in case of emergency, visa can be issued on the same day by a consul’s decision. Such situation can be a death of a relative, for example, which must be proven with a document. (medical certificate of death).
In order to obtain a Russian visa, a foreign citizen needs to apply for it at the Consular section of his country, visa center or travel agency. Let’s have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of visa processing in the Russian Consular Sections, Russian visa centres and travel agencies.
|Consulate of the Russian Federation||
Possibility to save money. No additional expenses, just a consular fee.
Consulate employees have the most complete information about the rules for issuing visas.
It is possible to submit documents only in person by an appointment (you can find necessary Consulate on the web page of all the Consular offices).
Opening hours for document reception for a Russian visa usually are limited (10-13 hours). Consular office don’t operate on weekends and holidays.
|Russian visa application center||
You can submit your documents in person or have it done by a courier.
Russian visa center branches usually are open on weekdays from morning to evening.
Visa price is higher in comparison with the Consular office. Additional service fee is about 30$.
(do not confuse it with a tour operator, which is an inviting organization)
You don’t need to care about visa issuance. Agency’s employees will do everything that is necessary for it. You need to give them your passport, photo and tell them the dates of your trip.
Visa price will be much higher.
From 100$ to 200$ over the price of invitation, health insurance, Consular fee and service fee in contrast to Russian Consulate or visa center.
In order to obtain a visa to Russia, you need to submit the following documents to the Russian Consulate:
- application form with your photo;
- invitation to Russia;
- health insurance policy which is valid for the whole trip.
You will need no more than 1 hour to prepare all the documents.
I will tell you how to obtain Russian visa in all details on the example of tourist visa. This guide is suitable for business, humanitarian, private visas. Differences are only in the invitation and health insurance.
Step-by-step guide to obtain Russian visa consists of the following steps:
- Step 1. Possess a valid passport
- Step 2. Get an invitation letter (visa support)
- Step 3. Get a health insurance policy
- Step 4. Fill in a visa application form
- Step 5. Print an application, sign it and glue a photo
- Step 6. Pay a Consular fee
- Step 7. Submit all the documents to a Russian Consulate or Visa center
In order to obtain visa, you will need make some preparations first. You need to make a list of cities, which you want to stay at and precise dates of your planning trip to Russia.
Step 1. Possess a valid passport
You will need a passport to obtain a visa to Russia. Your passport must be valid at least for 6 months after the end of your planning period of stay in Russia.. If you don’t have a passport or its date of expiry is coming, you need to apply for it to the appropriate institution of your country. You need an original passport to obtain a Russian visa because it is being pasted in your passport.
Visa support (invitation to Russia) is a very important document. It is impossible to apply for a visa without it. Types of invitations to Russia differ due to a type of visa and visit purposes.
The most popular type of an invitation is a tourist invitation Tourist invitation to Russia is a document printed on the A4 size sheet. It contains an information that a travel organization registered at Federal Agency for Tourism (Rostourism) is inviting you to the Russian Federation. Such invitation consist of two parts: tourist voucher and tourist invitation confirmation. Each of these parts contains foreigner’s passport data, list of cities which he plans to visit, list of accommodations in each of them (addresses of apartments or hotels) and also planning dates of arrival and departure from the Russian Federation.
Invitation to Russia is written in Russian and English. There is always an invitation number at the top of the sheet and reference number of a tourist operator by which it is registered at Rostourism. Some agencies print verification code at the bottom of a sheet. This helps Consulate employees easily identify a fake. As a result you will get a denial of visa issuance and restriction to enter Russia for 1-5 years.
In order to avoid problems, I recommend you to order invitations via specialized organizations. Russia Support, for example. Let’s look at our detailed example:
1. Choose a visa type and citizenship
The first page is conditionally divided into 4 parts: “Length of stay and type of Visa Support”, “Tourists information”, “Cities of stay”, “Visa invitation delivery methods”.
In the first part you select a quantity and a citizenship of tourists, visa type and travel dates. Also you can find out the price of an invitation.
2. Fill in tourists information
In the second part you fill in an information about all the tourists for which you are going to order an invitation. Citizens of some countries, usually it is a migration risk countries, need to upload a copy of the first passport page.
Fields “Given names” и “Last name” must be filled in Latin, like in a passport.
3. Choose cities and accommodations
In the third part you specify cities which you are going to visit and accommodations. When you enter the first letters of a hotel name, you can select it from a drop-down list.
Here you can specify an address of your booked accommodation via Airbnb.
All the text fields must be filled in the Latin script.
4. Enter your e-mail
5. Confirm the information
At the second stage of an application you need to confirm all the information from the previous page. Then proceed to a payment.
6. Pay for your invitation
You can pay for an application by credit card or via Paypal.
Before the actual withdrawal you can correct mistakes and edit your application.
Step 3. Get a health insurance policy
You need a health insurance policy to obtain Russian visa. It must cover expenses for emergency medical care, urgent admission and repatriation. Those foreign citizens, who travel a lot, don’t need to obtain health insurance for each country individually. There are a great number of insurance companies which issue insurance policies covering several countries (if you have such insurance make sure that it covers the whole territory of Russia). If you don’t have medical insurance, you can buy it at any insurance company registered at the Ministry of Foreign affairs of Russia or Visa application center. It will be a little more expensive, if you buy it at Visa center and, herewith, it will cover fewer medical services.
Let’s have a look at process of buying an insurance via specialized service:
1. Choose a visa type and the length of a trip
Go to the website. In the right corner you can choose a language.
The first page is divided to 3 windows: “Visa type and period of stay”, “Visitor details”, “How to contact you”.
In the first window you select a number of planned visits to Russia and the length of foreigner’s stay. Here you can also see an insurance price depending on person’s age. Click on “Show price list” to see it.
2. Fill in visitor details
In the second window you fill in personal data of all tourists who order an insurance.
Fields “Name” и “Family name” must be filled in Latin, like in a passport.
3. Enter your e-mail
At the bottom of the page enter an e-mail where an insurance will be sent. You can add an additional information and your phone number by choice.
4. Check entered data
On the second stage of application, check the correctness of provided information from the previous page pushing “Show order details”.
4. Pay for your order
If everything is correct, make a payment. You can pay for your insurance via Paypal or by credit card.
It is possible to pay in cash after company employee will contact you.
Step 4. Fill in visa application form
After you obtain an invitation and health insurance, you can complete a visa application form.
You can do it online by following the link
After you open this website, select your country and a language in which it will be convenient for you to fill in an application form. Read the information below and check the box near “I have read this information”, then push “Complete new application form”.
It is better to fill in an application straight to the end. If you had no time to complete it, write down your application number. You will need to enter that number, your last name and the answer for a security question in case to get access to your previous application. If you lose your application ID, you will need to complete a form again.
1. Go to the application web page
On the start page, select a country, where you are planning to obtain a visa, from a drop-down list and choose convenient hints and help language. Hints will appear to the right of the application form.
Read carefully the instruction situated in the center of a page.
Warning! Completing an electronic application visa form is not a final stage of visa obtaining process. You must submit all the required documents to a Consulate which has been chosen before.
After you read the instruction, check the box at “I have read this information” and push the “Complete application form” button.
2. Create a password
Create a password and enter it to a blank field. Then enter the password confirmation into a field below.
3. Write down your application number
Be sure that you have written down your application ID number. You may need it to restore an application form which you’ve been completing before.
4. Complete visa information
Let’s complete the main part of application.
On this page select your nationality. If you formerly had USSR or Russian citizenship, enter “yes” and answer the specifying questions. If not, then enter “no”.
Select your “purpose of visit” to Russia from a list and according to your answer “Visa category and type” will be offered to you.
Enter “Number of entries” and dates of your trip below. Then push the “Next” button.
5. Enter personal details
Here you need to enter your personal data: name and surname, sex, date of birth, place of birth as shown in your passport. Also you will need to provide additional information, if you answer positively to “Have you ever had other names?” and “Were you born in Russia?”
6. Enter your passport details
7. Enter visit details
According to a visa type, you need to enter inviting organization details. In the case of a tourist visa it is travel company, in the case of a business visa select “Organization”, in case of a private visa select “Individual”. In the case of transit, select “None” from the list.
Then enter your full itinerary of your trip (select cities in which you are planning to stay) and answer some questions below.
8. Enter miscellaneous information
Here you need to answer to additional questions. If the answer is “Yes”, you need to provide detailed explanation.
9.Enter information about your work or study.
Indicate the work address or place of study, position, address, telephone number, number of fax and email.
10. Specify visited countries
At this step you need to answer questions about recent travel and passports of other countries what you hold. Fill in additional fields, if necessary.
11. Add your contact details
Complete the page with your contact information (place of residence, place of work) and names of close relatives.
12. Select the location where you will be applying for your visa
13. Check completed information
Here you check that you have correctly completed electronic form. If you made some mistakes, you can correct them now. Push “Save and submit” to proceed.
14. Application form has been saved
Print the downloaded form, enter the date of completion. sign it and glue an original of colored photo (3,5х4,5cm). In this photo you must be in full face and without head covering and glasses.
Step 6. Pay a Consular fee
If you apply for a visa to a Russian Visa center, you can pay for it via bank transfer (in that case attach payment receipt to the pack of documents which you submit, find out payment details in the Visa center), by credit card or in cash. While applying for a visa to the Consulate, you can pay by credit card or bank transfer. In this case it’s not possible to pay in cash.
After payment you need to submit all the documents, required for a Russian visa issuance, to the Consular section or Visa application center of your choice. Documents must be carried in person to the Consulate and, when you submitting documents to the Visa application center, you can use a courier (of any delivery service).
In order to avoid problems, when you apply for a visa with obtained tourist invitation, you should answer to the questions about visit purposes that it is tourism and tell that your trip is organized by a travel agency. After you have your documents submitted, it will take about 10 days to issue your visa. Also you can apply for an expedited process but it costs two times more. I’ve described it before.
At the border you can be questioned about your visit purpose. You shouldn’t tell anything that differs from a purpose stated in your visa. If it is a tourism, you tell that you will go sightseeing. If it is business, you will meet your partners. And so on. Border guards have the right to call to an inviting company for the additional verification. After the confirmation they will let you through.
Remember! Everything described in this article is absolutely legal. You may not worry about possible problems if you haven’t got fake documents. It is not rare, when swindlers in different countries counterfeit invitations from Russian companies. That always leads to the problems both at the Consulate and at the border. You will not have problems if you will use services which I have checked personally.
After you obtain a visa and cross the Russian border, you will need to pass through two more mandatory procedures: complete the migration form and migration registration (employees of a hotel, where you stay, usually do it).
Migration card: it is usually being completed by border guards when a foreigner crosses the Russian border. At major airports, employees of migration service filling in migration cards during the passport control. This document looks like a sheet of paper consisting of two parts. You can fill in migration card both in writing and electronic form in Russian and English. Border guard returns foreigner’s migration card after completing. You need to submit it when you apply for migration registration. It is recommended to keep your migration card during the whole period of stay in Russia because you will be asked to show it when you’ll be leaving the country.
Migratory registration: if you possesses a tourist visa, you have 7 weekdays from crossing the border to register at the Russian Migration Service (weekends and holidays don’t count). In case, when you are going to stay in Russia less than 7 days, it is not necessary to register at the Migration service.
Registration of foreign citizens, who stay at hotels and apartments, takes place there. If you stay at the hotel, an employee, who is responsible for foreigners’ registration will ask you for a passport with Russian visa and your migration card. If you stay at your friend’s or relative’s, then he must register you by himself at the Ministry of Internal Affairs or he can send required documents via post. Homeowner will need a copy of the first page of your passport, a copy of Russian visa and migration card to register you.
You don’t have to present personally at the registration. Herewith, you need to register in each Russian city, which you are going to visit. After registration, a foreigner will get a notification of migration registration (the bottom part of the document under the dotted line).
This article is based on the following:
- Federal law N 114-ФЗ от 15.08.1996 — Russian act on entry and departure procedure
- Russian government decree N 335 от 09.06.2003 — Regulations on the establishment of the visa form, the procedure and conditions for its registration and issuance, extension of its validity, its restoration in case of loss, as well as the procedure for visa cancellation
If you still have some questions, you should ask them on the forum. They will be answered either by me or other readers.