Russia is the largest country in the world by area and ninth largest by the number of population. It is a transcontinental country in Eastern Europe and North Asia. About 77% of the Russian population lives in the western, European part of the country. Its capital Moscow is one of the largest cities in the world.
Russia is known for its cold climate, vodka, great literature, unique architecture, beautiful nature, and bears. That is why the number of foreign tourists in Russia is increasing each year. In 2017, 24.5 million foreign tourists made trips across the Russian Federation. Most of them had to obtain a visa to Russia before making their trip.
What is a Russian Visa?
A Russian visa is a permission in the form of a sticker affixed in a travelers passport. It allows its holder to enter, stay, and leave Russia within a specified period of time. It contains the following information:
- the entry and exit dates
- vital information,
- passport details
- information about the person or party that sends you (the visa holder) the invitation.
Do I Need a Visa to go to Russia?
Russia has a very strict visa policy. Most of the world countries will need to get a visa to Russia, even for tourism. Several others fall under the Russian visa-free regime. This means the nationals of these countries do not need a visa when traveling to Russia.
In addition, Russia has made possible visa-free visits for up to 72 hours for a cruise ship and ferry passengers, via several ports. Transiting without a visa is possible through several airports. Holders of diplomatic from several countries are exempt from the visa requirement in a few cases as well.
Russian Visa Types
Depending on one’s purpose for traveling to Russia, there are several Russian visa types. Each of them has its own requirements, application process and specifications.
The Russian visa types are as follows:
- Russia Diplomatic visa. This is a visa issued to a foreign citizen holding a diplomatic passport. I.e. heads of state, heads of government, members of an official delegation etc.
- Russia Service visa. This is a visa issued to a foreign citizen having service (consular, official, special) passport. I.e. members of official delegations, administrative and technical and service personnel of diplomatic missions, etc.
- Russia Ordinary visas.
- Russian Private Visa. This visa is issued to persons traveling to Russia for a short visit on the basis of an invitation letter.
- Russian Business Visa. This visa is issued to people traveling to Russia for business.
- Russian Tourist Visa. This visa is issued to travelers if holding an invitation letter by a Russian tour operator.
- Russian Student visa. This visa is issued to those traveling to Russia for study purposes.
- Work Visa. This visa is granted to foreigners wishing to travel to Russia for employment for a specific period.
- Russian Humanitarian Visa. This visa is granted to foreign citizens visiting Russia for a scientific, cultural, political or a sports visit. Also for religious communication and contacts, pilgrimage, charity or delivery of humanitarian aid.
- Russian Transit Visa. This visa is issued to those that need to transit through the territory of Russia in order to reach their destination country.
- Russia Exit Visa. Foreigners in the territory of Russia, whose visa expires before they leave, shall apply for an Exit Visa in order to be able to leave.
- Russia eVisa. This visa is available for nationals of Algeria, Bahrain, Brunei, China, India, Iran, Japan, North Korea, Kuwait, Mexico, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. It is only valid to visit the regions in the Russian Far East for less than 8 days.
On the other hand, depending on the number of times one wants to enter Russia with one single visa, there are the following visa types:
- Single entry
- Double entry
How to Apply Visa for Russia?
The application process for a Russian Visa is as follows:
- Get the Invitation (Visa Support). This is the first step you should make to get a visa to Russia. If you are planning to travel to Russia for tourism purposes, you can get your invitation from a travel agency or a hotel. If you are traveling for other purposes, your inviter should get the invitation from the General Directorate for Migration for the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia.
- Complete the online application form. The application form for a visa for Russia is available at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID) website visa.kdmid.ru. Give in all of the required information, with correct and honest information.
- Collect the required documents. Proceed with collecting the required documents for a Russian visa. Note that the required documents differ from one country to the other. The documents also depend on the visa type you are applying for. You should obtain a list of the required documents from the Russian embassy/consulate or the visa center representing Russia in your country of residence.
- Apply in Person at a Russian Consulate / Russian Visa Processing Center. You will need to show up with all these documents at the Russian consulate or Russian the visa center. There is no need for a prior appointment since walk-in applications are accepted. You will also have to pay the fees for a visa application when you submit your documents.
- Get the immigration card. After you get your visa for Russia, you can freely travel to the country. However, there are still some tasks you need to complete. As soon as you enter Russia, during the passport control, you will have to fill out the immigration card. The card consists of two identical parts, both of which you need to fill in. The border police will keep one part of the card. You should take the other one with you.
Later, you will need to return this card to the border police, when you leave the country.
- Register your visa. Upon arrival in Russia, you have 7 working days to register your visa. There are two ways to register a visa. First, at the hotel where you are staying. Second, through the property owner of the apartment you have rented for your stay, or where your friends reside (who have invited your over). You will need your immigration card and passport to register your visa.
For a detailed description of each of the steps for a Russian visa application, visit the article.
Russian Visa Requirements
When you apply for a visa for Russia, you will have to submit several documents as a part of your application. Based on these documents the Russian Embassy in your country of residence will take a decision on your case. You should pay special attention to these documents and submit all of them as required.
Note that the list of the required documents for a Russian visa differs based on your nationality and the visa type you are applying for.
The standard required documents for a visa to Russia are as follows:
- Visa Application Form. Fill in the form electronically on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID) website kdmid.ru, giving in all of the required information. Make sure your answers are correct and then print the form.
- Valid Passport. Your passport must have a minimum of six months of validity after the expiration of the visa you are applying for. In addition, it must have at least two blank pages, which do not have to be consecutive.
- A recent Russian visa photograph. Glue this photo to the indicated space in the printed application form.
- Proof of residence. If you are not applying from your home country, but rather from a country where you are residing, you should submit proof of residence in that particular country for the last 90 days.
- Visa support. This is an invitation to travel to Russia. It may be an invitation issued by a hotel, friends, a business etc., depending on the purpose of your trip.
Depending on your country of residence and the visa type you are applying for, you may also be required to submit the following documents for a Russia Visa.
- Bank Statements. If you are self-employed, a company director, working from home, or unemployed, you will need to submit bank statements for the last three months. These bank statements must prove that you have a minimum of €115 for each day you plan to stay in Russia.
- Health Insurance. Submit a confirmation that you have purchased health insurance in Russia. It should show the validity for the duration of the journey as well as indicate the geographical area coverage.
- Letters of Employer. You should submit a letter written and signed by your employer. It should give full details on you, your destinations, dates, and purpose of the visit. It should as well state the name of the inviting organization and contact details of the responsible person in Russia. The letter must also explain who will take financial responsibility for the trip.
- Vehicle Registration Certificate. If you are traveling to Russia for auto tourism, you should submit a Registration Certificate of the vehicle. A cover letter with the details on the journey, itinerary and the other travelers accompanying you, will also be required in this case.
- Copy of the tickets to and from Russia.
- HIV Test (AIDS) Certificate. This test is required only for a Russian student visa and Russian works visa, and it must be taken within the last three months before application.
Russia Visa Fees
The costs of a visa application for Russia depend on several factors, which are:
- Applicant’s nationality
- Type of visa
- Number of intended entries
- The length of the intended period of stay
- Processing time
Russia Visa Application Processing
The average processing time for a Russia Visa is 10 days. However, the processing can take from 7 to 20 working days. Those in a hurry can apply for expedited processing, which takes three working days. Applicants that want to benefit from the expedited visa application processing will need to pay a higher fee.
Russia Exit Visa
Unlike most countries in which you will be deported if your visa expires, in Russia, you need to get an Exit Visa to be able to leave. A Russia exit visa is granted to foreign nationals in two cases:
- If your current visa has expired
- If you have lost your passport
For a Russian exit visa, you should contact the embassy of your home country in Russia. Obtaining an exit visa can take up to twenty days.