How to get a Russian Visa
Some international trips start with getting a visa. This article was specifically written to walk you through all of the necessary steps to get a Russian visa. Before we get to the actual information, however, it is important to understand whether you even need one. Here is the list of countries whose citizens are exempt from visa requirements:
- Unlimited stay: Belarus and South Ossetia.
- 90-day stay: Abkhazia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, South Africa, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Estonian and Latvian citizens holding an alien or non-citizen passport are also eligible for a 90-day stay in Russia.
- 60-day stay: South Korea.
- 30-day stay: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and Thailand.
- 14-day stay: Hong Kong
Even though we provide the above list for the sake of convenience, we recommend contacting your local Russian Consulate to make sure the information is up-to-date. If your country is not on the list, you will need a tourist visa to attend the convention.
Tourist visa information
A tourist visa usually provides a single or double entry and is valid for up to 30 days. There are two ways to get it. On one hand, you can contact any of your local travel agencies and they will gladly arrange everything for you, but for an additional fee. On the other, you can do everything on your own. It doesn’t matter whether you’re applying from within or outside your home country, the rules are exactly the same.
If you want to apply for the visa yourself, you would first need to consult with your local Consulate of the Russian Federation on the list of required documents. It varies a bit depending on the country you reside in but generally includes the following:
- Visa application form
- Two passport-sized photographs (3.5×4.5cm, taken 6 or fewer months ago)
- Valid travel passport (it should be valid for 6 or more months after your visa expires and at least two pages in it should be empty)
- International medical insurance (should be valid in Russia)
- Consular fee payment confirmation (the consular fee can vary in different countries; it is recommended to check with your local consulate)
- A set of support documents
Probably the most important of all these are the support documents as they play a vital role in the Consulate’s decision on whether to issue the visa or not. This set of documents – sometimes referred to as “tourist invitation” – consists of a tourist voucher and a hotel reservation confirmation. They are issued either by the hotel you are going to stay at or by a local tourist agency. It is not free but the fee is usually small. The tourist invitation may either be separate documents or reside on a single sheet of A4 paper. Most consulates will accept copies, but it is strongly advised to keep originals at hand just in case. Please keep in mind that hotel reservation alone does not have any value if a tourist voucher is not provided.
Everybody who visits Russia is also expected to have valid medical insurance that covers Russian territories. Most of the time, international insurance is fine, too. If your insurance does not satisfy these conditions, please contact your insurance company. In some cases, banks provide international insurance for free to premium debit or credit card holders and it may be worth checking with your card issuer before contacting the insurance company.
When you have gathered all the documents, all that’s left to do is to fill out the visa application and submit it to your local Russian consulate or an authorized visa center, which you can do either in person or by mail. You will also have to pay the consular fee.
The decision on visa issuance will be made within 10 days. If you are in a hurry, you can apply for priority and everything will be done within 3 days, but the price will most likely double. Children under 16 are exempt from getting a visa if they travel with a parent or a guardian that has a valid visa and are mentioned in the tourist invitation and the visa application form.
Please keep in mind that the information above may be out of date by the time you are reading this and it is highly recommended that you get in touch with your local consulate to make sure it is up-to-date.
Traveling through Belarus
Traveling to Belarus now does not require a visa for up to a 5-day stay, but that does not mean traveling to Russia via Belarus exempts you from the visa requirement. On the contrary, since the policy has been enacted, Russia has tightened security on the Belarusian border. You will be required to present your travel passport before boarding an international train or bus and if you have no valid Russian visa, you will not be let on board. Thus, there is really no point in traveling through Belarus if your final destination is Russia.