From Russia With Love – Visit And Transit Visa Application Process

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Have you ever wanted to hop on a plane and visit Russia? Before you do, check out the visa requirements for your type of visit so you have plenty of time to get a visa before your trip.

There are many reasons to visit Russia, on Business, pleasure or to simply transit to the Maldives on Aeroflot or to Singapore on Singapore Air. Here is a high level overview of the Russian visa process for reference in case you find yourself looking for a Russian visa anytime soon. If you want another viewpoint on the process, check out Rapid Travel Chai’s experience with the Russian visa application process.

Park Hyatt Moscow

Park Hyatt Moscow Lounge

Russia transit routes to Maldives or Singapore

Types Of Russian Visas

There are four types of Russian visitor visas each with their own set of requirements. Below are the requirements for each according to the Travel.State.Gov website.

  • Private
    • Visa application form, written statement from the hosting individual notarized by a Russian notary, including the following information:
    • Hosting individual’s full name, date of birth, citizenship, gender, passport number, address of registration, and individual’s actual residence
    • Visa applicant’s name, date of birth, citizenship, gender, passport number, number of entries sought, purpose of travel, requested period of entry, location of intended residence in Russia, and cities to be visited
  • Tourist
    • Visa application form, hotel reservation confirmation, contract for provision of tourist services with a tourist organization registered with the Russian Federal Tourism Agency
  • Business or Humanitarian
    • Visa application form, written statement from the host organization in Russian, including the following information:
    • Organization’s full name, official address, and contact information
    • Full name of the person signing the written statement
    • If the organization is established in the territory of the Russian Federation, the organization’s individual taxpayer number
    • Visa applicant’s name, date of birth, citizenship, gender, passport number, number of entries sought, purpose of travel, requested period of entry, location of intended residence in Russia, and cities to be visited

Visas require a Letter of Invitation (LOI) from a Russian party detailing the nature of the visit. The invitation letter must include:

  • The dates and length of stay
  • Full local address of visit
  • Number of entries and duration of validity that you are requesting

The Lonely Planet Russian visa overview has a great list of places you can obtain a letter of invitation.If you need to go to Russia on a Business visa, the simplest way is to get the organization you are visiting to issue a letter of invitation. Those on a private visa must have a notarized written statement in Russian from the hosting person for the private visa.

The Business visa can be obtained for single-entry, double-entry or multiple-entry visas. The single-entry and double-entry visas allow you to enter and exit as many times as the visa states while the multiple-entry visa allows many entries. All visas are subject to a maximum 6 month rule. Although the multiple-entry visa allows for validity of up to 3 years.

How To Apply For A Visa Online

The Counselor department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation now has a fully online visa application form.

Be prepared to provide additional information as needed from the visa receiving Russian Embassy or Consulate including the following:

  • Bank statement from the applicant
  • Statement from the applicant’s employer regarding the applicant’s salary for the preceding year, half year, or month
  • Medical insurance valid in Russia and fully covering the period of the first trip
  • Documents regarding the applicant’s ownership of property in the U.S.
  • A certificate of the makeup of the applicant’s family (i.e., marriage certificate and children’s birth certificates)

Photographs Required For Visas

You must provide two color copy passport photos that meet the requirements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs outlined below:

  • Be printed on photo paper
  • Have a white background
  • Be 35mm by 45mm
  • Have been taken within the last six months
  • Show the full frontal view of your head, including the tops of your shoulders
  • Have your face centered in the middle of the photo with your face square to the camera
  • Display your face with a neutral expression and your mouth closed (no smiling)
  • Not display sunglasses

Strict adherence is required and photos that don’t meet the requirements may cause your application to be declined. I’ve found that Walgreens in the U.S. has the Russian visa photo requirements coded into their systems while CVS doesn’t. So if you go to Walgreens to have your photo taken, they can print the pictures to specifications on site.

Registering Your Visa

Make sure you register your visa if you plan to stay more than 7 days in the country. This can easily be done at your hotel.

Transit Visas

If you plan to transit Russia en route to a third country by land, you’ll need a transit visa. But if you plan to transit Russia en route to a third country through one of the major international airports (SVO, DME, VKO), the law doesn’t require one if you do not leave customs and transit in less than 24 hours. But it would be safer to get one in case of mis-interpretation.

My experience with the Russian visa process took about 1/2 a day to complete all of the required material and send in for processing. The total cost isn’t worked out yet, but I’ll update this when I have the total cost at hand.

For those of you who have had a Russian visa in the past, how time consuming was your application process and what did it end up costing you to get a Russian visa?


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  1. There is also for just St. Petersburg, a 72 hour visa free option. AFAIK, you only need proof of a hotel reservation, and cannot travel outside of a defined area.

  2. I used third party, pretty quick, easy, got invitation letter from Hilton. It was expensive though, but travelling to russia is a must, and was able to get cheap booking plus SWU on AA’s ORD-Domodedovo.

  3. It’s about $160 with 4-5 days processing time. May as well go for the 3+ year multi entry visa for same cost. I used to be able to submit the LOI & Application directly with the consulate, but now you have to go thru an outsourced processor. Don’t forget that you have to register your visa after you arrive for stays of 5+ days. This is done by the hotel or a third party for a small fee. Russia visa regime is still the same as in the ole days.

  4. I’m in the process of getting a Russian Visa right now. I’m using Visqhq for the processing. They said it take about 15 days for processing. Cost = $261.08. I also bought the invitation.

  5. It is recommended to use a third party for Russian visas. They can acquire the prerequisite invite and have it back to you in either 14 or 5 days depending on whether or not you want to pay rush fees. The Russian online application has many pitfalls as well as the embassy requires the questions to be answered in specific manner. Service fees from G3 Visas & Passports, start at $55 for Russian visas. That is much easier than going to the Embassy on your own.

  6. Agree with the above poster. Use a third party service, do not try to get your own through the Embassy. My brother and I tried to get ours through the Embassy. We had airfare & hotel in St Petersburg already booked, and we even paid a service online for the invitation letters. It took us so many tries getting declined at the Embassy for not having everything absolutely perfect (which you couldn’t tell cuz the instructions were terrible, and their forms weren’t even correct half the time). After about 4 visits (waiting half a day each) to the DC Embassy and getting rejected for various things each time, we decided to give up completely on Russia, and just paid the $300 in airfare change fees and called it a day. I never want to visit Russia after that experience. You’d think they’d want to make it a little easier so tourists could come and spend money there, but I guess not. I wish I had known about the 72 hour visa-free requirement at the time, but I halfway think that might only be the case if you arrive on a cruiseship rather than by airplane. My advice: Don’t waste your time with Russia. Pick a better and easier place to visit. Supposedly it kinda sucks there anyways, so no big loss.

  7. I agree with the third party service approach. Much easier.

    I haven’t yet been to Russia. Others would say it isn’t a waste of time, but I can’t say if I agree with that yet either.

  8. anyone have ideas on getting the 72 hour transit visa? i’m having a tough time finding how to apply for this

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