Visa for Russia
Russian visa type description
Tourism visa single entry, less than 15 days or from 15 to 30 days. The difference for you is that the visas of maximum duration 14 days can be obtained more easily; you will just have to present an invitation (voucher). For the visas lasting 15 to 30 days, the consulate may ask you for a detailed “itinerary” or program - read more about this document in our ABCD of the Russian Visa below.
Tourism visa double entry - one person visa, with the right to make two entries to the Russian territory. The same requirements as the 14 day tourist visa, but in the itinerary you will have to indicate the exact dates and places of your entry and exit to the Russian territory.
Special tourist visa – this is necessary when you want to participate in an event or an activity in Russia, such as an exposition, a conferenceetc. In principle, the special visa is the same as a tourist visa; the only difference is that the invitation the visa indicates “special tourism”, instead of “tourism”. Maximum 30 days.
Business visa - single, double or multiple-entry visas, for 3, 6 or 12 months. It is more difficult to obtain these visas, but if you visit often or make a trip for more than 30 days duration to Russian territory, they are indispensable. The cheapest option for obtaining a business invitation is what we call the “original”: the duration for issuing this invitation is 30 days and you will have to present an original to the Russian consulate. The less expensive is a “telex” invitation: it can be obtained in 2-4 days for a 3 month visa and in 14 days for a multiple visa, for 6 months or a year. In this case, you will not need an original; you will only have to present a telex number to the consulate. For multiple 6 month invitations or more, the consulate requires an AIDS (HIV-negative) test. With a 12 months visa, you will have the right to remain on the Russian territory for no more than 180 days a year.
Cultural or exchange visa - the same as for the business visa, but it can only be offered by a cultural association, a museum, a theater etc. For example, if you come to dance on the Mariinsky Theater's stage, it's the theater who will offer you that invitation. Usually, there are no consular taxes.
Group visa - this concerns organized groups, especially the passengers of a cruise or Chinese residents that cannot leave the tour. When we hear people talking about entering the Russian territory without needing an entry visa, this is the situation. (Read more on our visa ABCD.)
Private visa (visiting visa) – the invitation for this visa has to be delivered by a resident of the Russian Federation. Its duration is for a maximum of 3 months. Even though in principle your friends can invite you to Russia, it really is a bureaucratic nightmare, therefore the procedure is very rare (read more in our ABCD).
Studying visa and Working visa – these are not exactly visas, they are more like stay permits, a green paper with a photo, separated from your passport. If you get accepted into a Russian school or if a company hires you, you will have this paper, which can be renewed every year. Its advantage: you can remain the whole time in Russia and have an unlimited number of entries and exits. We can get you an invitation for a working visa, but that will take 3 to 4 months and it costs 3000 to 4000 Euros. Therefore, it is not usually worth it, and it's simpler to come and go using a business visa.
ABCD of the Russian visa
B - Bank
Bank for paying the consular taxes. Frequently, you will not be able to pay for your visa directly to the consulate's office, so you will have to pay for it at the bank and keep the receipt.
C - Consular fees
Bank - (what the consulate charges for issuing your visa) are 35 Euros per passport. If you want your visa to be issued quickly, you have to pay supplementary taxes of about 70 Euros. Normally, the cultural visas are tax-free.
Other Russia cannot provide you with invitations on Saturdays, Sundays and on public holidays. All the periods for obtaining the tourist and business visa invitations on our site are counted in business days. Sometimes, there are delays in the issuing the business invitations that are out of our control. Don't forget to overestimate the time if you have already bought your plane tickets.
For the multiple entry Russian visas for 6 months or more, you will have to present an test result which proves that you are HIV negative. For a 3-month multiple entry visa, that will not be necessary.
The tourist invitations are included in the price of our services - if you book accommodation in Saint Petersburg, you will receive it for free.
D - Detailed itinerary or program
Detailed itinerary or program, which is a day by day plann of what you will be doing, where you will be sleeping, what you will be visiting etc. It represents one of the remains of the bureaucratic organization of the Iron Curtain, (as well as the “registration”), when all Eastern foreigners were considered spies. The Federation's consulate in Paris asks for it for every tourist visa that exceeds 14 days. Don't worry about it; the detailed programs are included in the prices of our invitations. Once you have received your Russian visa, you can throw out that paper, because it won't appear anywhere on your visa.
F - Free invitation
Free invitation - we offer invitations to those who 1) reserve accommodation, trips or Russian courses with us 2) Put a link to their site or blog on our “Invitations” page, found on the Other Russia site.
G - Group visa
Group visa if you wish to feel like an American during the Cold War - welcome. We often hear that cruise passengers who stay less than 3 days don't need a Russian visa: this is false. It's all about a “group visa”: you don't have the right to leave your group; you don't have the right to sleep in the city etc. It's a “brilliant” invention of the cruise agents and their partners in the country for selling you their organized trips for 2 or 3 times more money than their real cost. To give you an idea, a boat trip costs 55 Euros in their program, while in the city you would get it for only 15 to 20 Euros. The tickets to the Mariinsky Theater cost twice the price you would get at the theater cash desk. Furthermore, you will be travelling in large, 50-person buses that allow them to economize on the transport. It's a very lucrative business, as you can imagine, and it has already been arranged with the authorities. This is why taxis cannot enter the ports' territory; the right to enter costs 50 Euros per day - to avoiding tourists leaving their boats in different ways that do not involve buying trips from the “authorized agencies”.
H - High fine, Hotel booking
High fine - if you don't register, you may receive high fines. This is what we read on the sites of the agencies that offer registration services in Russia. Actually, 40% of the travelers don't register and have NEVER had any problems. Actually, the airport authorities don't have the right to ask for your registration, and the police officers (if they stop you on the street, which is extremely unlikely) will see that you are foreign European citizens and will let you leave without asking you for anything. We have had a curious case, where a sportsman from the Belgian Sambo team was stopped on the subway (actually, there were 5 young sportsmen, badly-shaven and bold, with big sports bags). He didn't have his passport or his registration, but when he showed his Belgian identity card, the police officers immediately lost interest in him.
Hotel booking - the Russian consulate believes that ALL the foreign tourists have to be accommodated in a hotel, which is natural, isn't it? So, how do you proceed if you will stay at your friends', rent an apartment etc.? The authorities are not interested in this, but we suggest a solution: you may simply put a hotel name on your invitation and once you've received your visa, we will cancel the reservation. This is not just a custom of Other Russia, but of all the Russian tour-operators and travel agencies that offer invitations.
M - Moskow, Migration card
Moscow - This is the only city where police officers will stop even the European foreigners to check for their papers. If you don't have your registration, it will cost you about 500 rubles (12 Euros). There are many registration agencies in Moscow, so you can register at any one of these.
Migration card - you will get this on the plane; in case you don't receive it, you should ask the customs officials. You have to give it back when you leave Russia. Don't lose it, that may cause you problems.
N - News
News - we often publish articles about everything interesting that happens regarding the visas between Europe and Russia. You can go to our “News” page.
O - OVIR
OVIR - Ancient name of the migration police, which is also used sometimes. See UFMS.
You can register to stay with your Russian friends at the post office. The procedure is simple; it takes 10 minutes and it costs 200 rubles (about 5 Euros).
Q - Questions regarding the Russian visas
Questions regarding the Russian visas - if you haven't found what you need on our site, don't hesitate to ask us by email, writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
R - Russian Embassy, Registration
Russian Embassy - do not confuse this with the consulate, even though they are considered as synonyms by the dictionary. An Embassy can have a consular service, but most of the time, they are not located at the same address.
Registration - a lot of silly things are said about this famous registration. Everything is really simple: The Russian state wants to control everything and therefore they request the following: “Every foreigner that enters the Russian territory has to register with the UFMS (OVIR) in the 3 business days which follow his/her arrival”. The rule is very harsh and it often cannot be fulfilled but, fortunately, there actually are many exceptions to it.
S - Support visa
Support visa, the same thing as the voucher and the invitation. It's often mentioned by the hotels under this name. The D System is a unique manner of handling the bureaucratic system. The Russians are great specialists in bureaucracy; here, we survive that way.
After completing your application, the normal waiting time ranges from a week to 10 days. This should be a maximum 3 days at the consulate, according to the new rules. We had one exception - one of our friends who was 8 months pregnant went to the Russian consulate in Helsinki - and she received her visa in half an hour.
U - UFMS
UFMS - « Upravlenie Federalnoy Migracionnoy Slujbi », known previously as OVIR, - the migration police, a place where you can register. No one does that, because you can register at the hotel, in an agency, in a juridical cabinet or at the post office with your friends.
V - Visa agency, Voucher
Visa agency or consular services agency. If you don't have the time to go to the consulate, you can address a consular agency. Their taxes are about 35 Euros per person for the tourist visas. The consular agencies also offer visa invitations, but since they purchase them from us or from other Russian travel agencies, their invitations are more expensive than ours. But, there's nothing stopping you from buying an invitation from us and addressing them for the Russian consulate process.
There are several points to be cleared:
- You will have to register only if you remain in the same city for more than 3 business days. The public holidays, Saturdays and Sundays will not be taken into consideration.
- If you will stay in a hotel or in an inn, the establishment registers you automatically; this is its obligation towards the State. The registration is usually free, but may sometimes cost 4 to 5 euros.
- The registration is made for INFORMATION purposes, you will only have to announce the State that you will be residing at that address, and that if they search for you, you will be there. If you have Russian friends, they can register you at their home in 10 minutes, at any post office.
- Half of our clients and all of our friends have never registered and have never had any problems. Therefore, don't panic if you don't register. The worst case that can happen is the maximum penalty by law, which means you will have to pay a maximum 120 Euros fine. However, we have never seen that happen in the last 10 years.
- The registration paper can't leave Russian territory, but the authorities don't have the right to ask for it at the airport! At the end of your stay, you will have to give it back to the UFMS. (That is why the hotels give you only a copy of it, and not your original registration.)
You have to be aware of the queues at the consulate; the Russian consulates are open just half a day. Only the Consulate in Geneva offers you the solution of booking your appointment by phone. In Paris, don't let the consulate employees skip your turn with their packets of more than ten passports. If this happens, speak to the consular agents.
A voucher is the same as an invitation, and allows a foreign tourist to come to Russia. The invitation consists of two sides of an A4 page, where one is the invitation from a Russian tour operator and the other is the booking confirmation in a prepaid hotel.