Visa to Russia
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Most of foreign travelers need a visa to Russia. Answers on FAQ on this subject are below.


There are several types of visa: tourist, guest & business. Also visas can be for single and multiple entry. If you come to Russia for 1 month or less to travel around without buying an expensive tour, you need a tourist visa. Maximum period of time covered by such a visa is 1 month and this visa cannot be prolonged while you are in Russia. If you have business partners in Russia and are coming here for business reasons, OR if you plan to travel around Russia for longer than 1 month, apply for a business visa. If you have friends in Russia, they can help you to apply for a guest visa, valid for 1-3 months. This last way of getting your visa is very time-consuming, as your friends have to go to local passport office (OVIR) to apply for you and then this application is considered for some 3-6 months. So most people coming to Russia on visit trip end up considering Tourist Visa anyway.


The maximum validity period is 1 month. To get this visa you need a licensed travel agency to send to you by fax or e-mail (check it in the Embassy, sometimes they prefer fax copy) 2 papers: 1) VOUCHER and 2) CONFIRMATION of a foreign tourist acceptance. These papers shall contain information about hotels booked for you by the agency (as well as list of cities you plan to see), but all travel agencies involved in this business know, that this is just the only for Russian Embassies are prepared to accept these papers.  In reality after you get visa on the basis of these documents you are legally free:

  • to move around the country in any direction;

  • to settle in any hotels at your option;

  • to settle in private apartments at your choice.

This is actually one of the myths about visa to Russia - all accommodation shall be booked (and paid) in  advance. But what really should be done - this information should be mentioned in the invitation documents, but apparently, it is absolutely legal if you go to a city not listed in these documents and settle in an accommodation that is not mentioned there. 


The first thing one needs to apply for a visa is to get an is INVITATION.  Depending upon the type of visa you are applying for the invitations should be the following:

- for tourist visa : 2 papers - 1) VOUCHER and 2) CONFIRMATION of a foreign tourist acceptance (see above)

- for business visa : invitation from your business partners in Russia specifying dates of visit, purposes, accommodation booked for you, type of business, etc.

- for guest visa : invitation from your friends specifying dates of visit, their address and confirmation of their intention to give you any support you might need. There's a special form for this invitation, ask your friends to check at local OVIR.

For all visa applications one also needs a basic set of the following documents : 2 small photographs, filled in application form (you get this form right at the Embassy), your travel insurance, travel tickets (or their copy, or confirmation of booking). Have with you cash money (about 50 Euro in local currency).

Citizens of the following countries: Israel, Finland and Shengen visa Agreement States (Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden & France) must also present a National medical coverage certificate valid for Russia or a guarantee of medical coverage from the Russian hosting organization for the intended period of stay.


Find on this web links to all Consulates and Embassies of Russia all over the world. Here are some direct links to some Russian Embassies and Consulates:


It is important to get to the Embassy early in the morning. Usually they start working form 9 a.m., but it is better to take place in a queue at about 6-7 a.m. Embassy usually holds passport for 1 week, unless you apply for an urgent visa (ready in 3 working days, next day, or same day), but it costs considerably more, up to as much as 250 Euro.


Registration is a purely bureaucratic act that seems to bring a traveler no obvious use or help, but used to cause problems if not being done. Until recently (Jan 2007) one had to get their visas registered within 3 business days of arrival. THis is still so, with the only difference: after January 2007 the only place you can do it is OVIR (local Passport Office) and what is actually very important for you to know - after such registration YOU DO NOT RECEIVE ANY PROOF OF IT - no stamps in your passport, no receipts, nothing. The idea is that all info about your trip this OVIR is supposed to send to the customs passport control of the airport of your departure. In practice it is just not working, and for the first time in history of modern travel to Russia, no one asks for any registration papers once you leave the country. At the moment most of the independent travelers end up NOT registering their visas.

Should you still feel like to follow the law, spare full day on queuing up in OVIR WITH your translator (no-one there speaks English), paying about 25-40 Euros in Rubles equivalent and half of some other day (supposingly next working day, but in practice  may be any other day in any amount of time later) to pick up your stuff.


  • When you collect your visa from the Embassy make sure the dates in your visa are the same you applied for. Sometimes they make mistakes : you have your tickets for 2nd of January and you applied for your visa from 2nd of January, and they by mistake might give you visa that starts on 3rd January. If you notice this mistake only upon your arrival to Russian airport,  you will be charged a fee of about 150 Euro for trying to enter Russia illegally will spend time there anyway until 3rd January comes...

  • But it is perfectly all right if you enter Russia LATER  than a first day of your visa validity.

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