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How to Get a Russian Visa: A Step-by-Step Guide

You need a visa to travel to Russia. While a handful of very lucky countries have a "visa free regime" with Russia, none of these countries is the US, Australia, Canada, or within the EU. You can click here for list of "visa-free countries," but in general you are going to need a visa.

Now that we have that out of the way, you are probably asking "Great, how do I get one?" The answer, unfortunately is: "Very carefully." Russian visas are surrounded by a complex bureaucracy that is constantly changing. Navigating it can be tricky – which is why this site exists: to make sure that you can get your visa with a minimum of headache and expense. Learn more about our full service visa package here.

Step 1. What Type of Visa Do You Need?

Complex procedures are easier when divided into steps – so, let's start at step one. First, you'll need to decide on a type of visa to apply for. We can directly help you with the two most popular forms of visa that suit most travelers' needs:

  1. Tourist Visa (Good for up to 30 Days and 1-2 entries to Russia)
  2. Business Visa (Good for up to 90 days out of each 180 for up to one year)

Note that names of these two visas might not exactly reflect the purpose of your trip – that's ok. There are also other types of visas such as work, student, and private visas – but for these you will need to have a qualified employer, a contract with a qualified educational institution, or a private individual jumping through hoops for you on the ground in Russia. Our site can't help you find these, unfortunately. There is also residency, but for that you'll have to jump through your own hoops.

Step 2. Get Your Invitation

Like any party worth going to, Russia is by "invitation only." This is basically a "pre-visa" – it is an official document from an officially registered Russian entity (agency, organization, business, etc.) that states that you may officially apply for a Russian visa.

While it used to be that this implied your official purpose for wanting to arrive to the USSR, it is now, in the case of tourist and business visas, mostly kept as a way to make sure that there are multiple paper trails for each foreigner in Russia and that will be at least one Russian entity that can be "held responsible" for the safety, status, and legality of each foreigner in Russia.

Most invitations (also sometimes referred to as "visa support") are managed through agencies which put the foreign invitee in contact with the officially registered Russian entities to get them the invitation they need. For every type of visa, there exists a different type of invitation (tourist, business, private, student, etc.). While this may seem complicated and perhaps silly, it is far from unimportant!

Your inviting agency may need to help register you when you get to Russia (another remnant, see below) and will need to help you in the case of any "extreme situation" such as the loss of your passport or accidently overstaying your visa. So, make sure that you have contact information for the folks arranging your invitation, that they can provide 24-hour emergency service, and that they can help in registering the visa.
P.S. If you get the invitation through this site, you won't have to worry about any of the above!

Step 3. Get Your Visa

Once your invitation is issued, gather the following documents.

  1. Passport: Your passport should be valid at least 6 months after your Russian visa will expire and contain at least two free, adjoining pages.
  2. Two Passport-Size Photographs: Should be recent and good quality.
  3. Russian Visa Application Form: If you are getting your visa from an agency, the agency will likely have an electronic form for you to fill out. Otherwise, you can get these at the consulate.
  4. Consulate-Specific Documents:
    • Most consulates require an HIV certificate for trips 3 months or if you are applying for a multiple-entry visa.
    • Some consulates may require the original invitation if you applying for a business visa.
    • Some consulates will also require other documents. Check with the consulate website. If you are applying through an visa agency, the agency will likely be able to advise you of any consulate-specific documents as well.
  5. Consular Fee: There will be a fee to submit as well – check the consular website for rates.

All of these items, along with your invitation, must be presented in person to the Russian consulate. You can either do it by yourself, or through a local travel agency.

You can avoid these headaches by ordering our full service visa package to get the visa. This will save you time in having to travel to the consulate, stand in line, perhaps re-fill your forms a few times, etc. We guarantee that the agents we partner with have proved to be the best in their field thanks to their expertise and experience.

Step 4. Register Your Visa

A final step in being legal in Russia is to register your visa with the Russian authorities after you arrive. Click here for additional information on registration.

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This is a non-government site and whilst every endeavour is made to ensure the information is correct and up to date, there may be changes which we are not aware of. It is always a good idea to check the latest regulations. You should confirm details with your local Russian Consular Office.
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