Apply for a Russian Visa

The process of applying for a Russian visa may seem frustratingly more complex that applying
for visas for other tourist destinations, but the effort is all worth it in the end. And actually, like
many things in Russia it seems complicated, but is slowly becoming more straight forward.

Here is a step-by-step rundown of the application process:

1. First, you need an invitation from an inviting party in Russia. This can be your hotel, travel company, business partner, employer, university, or a Russian friend. Many of the agencies we have listed on our site can arrange invitations for you.

2. If you go to the Russian consulate with your invitation you have to fill in the visa application
form. You can do this at the Russian consulate, or at home by downloading the visa application form in PDF format (in English and Russian). It is usually a good idea to print out the application form and fill it out at home with a few spare copies just in case you have made a mistake.
Note that some embassies (for example in London) insist that application forms be filled in only online and then printed out and taken to the embassy (so as to minimise handwriting mistakes).

3. You must have a document that proves you have health insurance for Russia covering the period of your Russian visa. Not all Russian consulates require this proof, but most consulates in European countries do, so we advise that you check, even if health insurance is becoming less and less mandatory. If they do, make sure you contact your insurance company, so you have this document in time (if you have private health insurance) or buy holiday coverage from your local travel agency.

4. Don’t forget your passport photos; one should be enough, but officially you need to give three. The photos must be three identical, professionally done and passport sized (3x4cm). Pictures can be black-and-white or colour, preferably on matte paper. You will see on the application form the size of the space where the picture should be placed if you are unsure.

5. You have to give your passport to the Russian consulate. It must be valid for at least six months AFTER the period of your visa. Remember that it can take 2-3 weeks before your visa is ready (unless you pay for the speedy visa dispatch for which the costs are high), so you will not have your passport at your disposal during this time and should plan your travel accordingly.

6. If you apply for a visa that lasts longer than three months you may need a document certifying that you are HIV negative. It is worth noting that many embassies no longer require this, unless you are applying for a work or student visa.

7. Money: in 2007 the costs for visas were standarised so that all visas should cost no more than €35 for being processed within a standard amount of time (usually 7 working days). This rule however has many exceptions. For example if you want to get a visa quickly or are resident of a country that is not part of the standard system, like the UK the process may take considerably longer and/or cost more.

Where to apply

If you apply in a country where you are not a resident, you may also pay more in additional fees or be required to submit more documents. It is very important to check with the embassy that you wish to apply in as to whether you can make a visa there. Very often citizens of non-schengen first world countries such as the UK, Switzerland, USA, Canada, Australia etc are required to show residency permits for the country in which they are applying for a visa (even if it is just for short tourist visa) or return to their home countries and apply for a visa in a Russian embassy there.

The rules however are changing all the time, so if in doubt contact your travel agency or call your local consulate.

Good luck!

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