Many would love to travel to Russia for the holiday of a lifetime, however they hesitate at the thought of obtaining a Russian Visa due to the stringent requirements required to get one. However a smooth visit to Russia can happen if you do your homework and prepare by conquering visa hurdles, registrations and the other requirements needed to visit this amazing country.
To enter the Russian Federation a foreign citizen must submit a valid identity document, accepted as such by the Russian Federation, and a visa. For most westerners is not possible to obtain a visa at the airport on entry to Russia. A visa entitles the holder to travel to the Russian Federation and apply for admission, however it does not guarantee entry.
An immigration inspector at the port of entry determines the visa holder's eligibility for admission into the Russian Federation, therefore you should be able to present at the port of entry the copy of your invitation or visa support papers along with your passport and visa.
Visitors from many Latin American countries and those born in Thailand do not require a visa to enter the Russian Federation, to be sure check the Russian consulate website in your country. For the remainder, the following information is provided to inform visitors from the majority of countries about the major procedures and documents required for the application process.
Foreigners can apply for one of the following types of tourist visas:
One arrival, one departure, with the total duration of your stay up to 30 days.
Two arrivals, two departures, with the total duration of your stay up to 30 days.
Unlimited arrivals and departures, with the total duration of your stay up to 90 days within a 180-day period.
Listed below are the basic sets of documents which are required to be provided at the Russian consulate or embassy in which you will apply:
Make sure there are at least two blank pages in the passport for visas and ensure the passport expiration date is at least six months after the visa expires.
2. Completed Application Form
You can find a visa application form on the website of the Russian Embassy, consulate or visa center for your home country. You will be required to provide general information about yourself and about your planned visit to Russia.
In some countries, foreigners may be required to provide details of all trips taken abroad over the previous 10 years. This is especially true at British, American and Australian visa centers, so be sure to prepare a comprehensive list of countries and the dates visited.
3. One Color Photo Size 3.5 x 4.5 cm
The picture must be clear and sharp and set against a light background. The applicant must not be wearing any headdress, hat or sunglasses.
4. Visa Application Fee
The exact amount of the fee depends on the country where you apply, visa type and urgency. It's worth noting that fees are not refunded if the application is denied, so avoid mistakes and bring all necessary completed documents at the same time.
5. Tourist Voucher And Confirmation Of Accommodation By Certified Tourist Organization
This does not imply that you cannot plan your own trip. All that is required is to purchase a voucher from a private enterprise or have your hotel issue one. To do so, a company must be accredited by the Federal Migration Service and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, so it is better to choose a reliable source.
After your passport details have been provided, pay the service fee and receive a confirmation from a hotel. Make sure the company's registry number and its stamp are on the voucher.
Another, simple but risker option is to book a room at a hotel and send them a letter with a request for 'visa support documents'. It is common practice to charge the cost of a night's stay for a confirmation voucher, however after you have been granted a visa, you can cancel the booking and stay somewhere else.
Do take note that visa centers sometimes verify whether you have actually checked in at a hotel after the fact, and they can cancel your visa if you haven't, which can lead to serious problems. So it’s probably not worth the risk.
7. Travel Insurance
The coverage amount must be at least 30,000 Euro and the policy of insurance must be valid throughout the entire territory of the Russian Federation, which stretches across Europe and Asia, so do not choose 'Europe' only when completing your travel insurance application, even if you are not planning a trip beyond the Ural Mountains. The best choices are 'Europe including Russia' or 'Worldwide.'
8. Migration Card
Once you've arrived on Russian soil you will be asked to complete a migration card at the border. Make sure you depart from the country on the exact date that you indicated on your migration card, even if your visa is valid for a longer period.
9. Visa Registration
The only step that remains is to register your visa, and it is strongly recommended that this is attended to as soon as possible after arrival. Not getting registered on time could be discovered at the passport control desk on the day of your departure and could pose a problem for future visa applications. Your visa registration deadline depends on the choice of accommodation.
For example if you stay at a hotel, in theory its administration will automatically register you within 24 hours after your arrival. While this is the case most of the time, be persistent if a hotel administrator comes up with an excuse for why it can’t be done immediately. Also, while technically all hotels should register foreigners some do not, so confirm in advance.
If you choose private sector accommodation you have seven days to register your visa. You can ask your landlord to register you at the local Federal Migration Service department or the post office.
By law, visitors are required to renew their registration every time they change locations and by delaying registration, it could result in a fine of 2,000–5,000 rubles ($30-75). Registration checks are quite common on the subway at railway stations and on suburban trains.
Requirements may vary depending on the country where you apply for the Russian visa. U.S. visa centers sometimes request additional documents, such as your bank account statement, a letter from your employer or a certificate concerning the makeup of your family.
On the other hand you can also apply for a three-year multiple entry visa on the spot. UK nationals have to submit their fingerprints. The Chinese are required to show their airline tickets, while the French have to come up with a detailed plan of their journey if they intend to visit Russian towns off the typical tourist trail. Indonesians are issued visas right at the airport, whereas the Thai do not even need one for visits of up to 30 days.
It is highly advisable that you verify all information at your visa center. But do not let the complexities scare you. The first days of your Russian vacation will compensate for all the bureaucratic hurdles you have encountered along the way.
One way to bypass most of the hassle of obtaining a visa yourself, is to utilize the services of a visa processing agent such as TexVisa, or Visalink in Australia.