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How to get a visa for Russia: What visa types are available?

by Juan José Herranz | November 25, 2020
Get your visa for Russia

Russia is the largest country in the world and shares a land border with 15 countries. It would take several months to visit its vast territory of more than 17 million square kilometres and almost 145 million inhabitants. The Russian Federation introduced electronic visas almost three years ago. Today, there are 3 regions that you can travel to by applying for a visa online:

  • Leningrad/St Petersburg region
  • Kaliningrad Region
  • Federal District of the Far East

The implementation of the electronic visa system is expected to include Moscow, Sochi and Kazan in 2021. The purpose of implementing this system is to facilitate the opening of borders and speed up procedures for tourism.

Do I need a visa to travel to Russia?

Yes, you will need a visa to travel to Russia. The territory of the Russian Federation has 2 different types of visas:

  • The traditional visa, or Moscow visa, which is not exclusive to Moscow. It is valid for the entire Russian territory and can only be applied for in-person at the embassy.
  • The online visa is currently only valid for the regions of St. Petersburg, the Far East Federal District and the Kaliningrad Oblast region. This is for trips that do not exceed 8 days, and only if the reason to travel to the country is for business, tourism or humanitarian work. If you intend to travel to one of these 3 regions for more than 8 days, you will need to apply for a traditional visa.

Most nationalities can apply online. You can check your eligibility here.

Types of visas for Russia

There are the 2 big types of visas, and subtypes: 

Electronic visa


With this visa, you can only visit the Kaliningrad Oblast region. It is valid for 30 days from the date it is issued and only allows an 8-day stay in the country. It is a single-entry visa, and the reason for the trip must be exclusively for tourism, business or humanitarian work.

St. Petersburg - Leningrad

This visa will only allows you to visit the Leningrad/St. Petersburg region. It is valid for 30 days from the date it is issued and only allows an 8-day stay in the country. It is a single-entry visa, and the reason for the trip must be exclusively for tourism, business or humanitarian work.

Far East Federal District

Only the federal districts in the Far East region can be visited with this visa. It is valid for 30 days from the date it is issued and only allows an 8-day stay in the country. It is a single-entry visa, and the reason for the trip must be exclusively for tourism, business or humanitarian work.

If you have a traditional visa approved, it is not necessary to apply for the e-Visa to enter these districts, as long as it is still valid. With a traditional visa you can stay in the country for more than 8 days.

Traditional visa


This visa allows you to travel for tourism throughout the territory of Russia, with a maximum stay of 30 days. It is a single-entry visa. To apply for this visa, it is necessary to request a letter of invitation to enter the country and have an ordinary passport valid for at least 6 months after entering Russia.

Business visa

This allows you to visit the Russian Federation for business purposes, meetings or market research, etc. This visa can be a single-entry or multiple-entry visa, with a validity of 30 days to 1 year. A letter of invitation from the company you will be working with must be attached.

Family Reunification visa for adoption

This visa is required for the adoption of minors in Russia. An entry and exit visa is required to visit the child, so it must be processed from your country of origin. This visa allows you to enter and leave the country up to 3 times, while the adoption procedures are in process.

Study visa

This allows you to travel to Russia to pursue different types of studies. It is necessary to have an official invitation by the institution you are going to study at. The visa is for 90 days and can be extended till the course finishes. This must be applied for in Russia. 

Crew member visa

This visa is granted to air or sea crew members to enable them to transit through Russian territory for work purposes. The duration of the visa depends on the length of stay required.

Maintenance visa

This visa allows people specialised in any sector to travel to Russia to carry out maintenance work, whether it be on machinery or any other type of work required. The validity times for this visa are short, and you must attach a letter of a Russian company.

Private visa

This visa is required for people visiting family or friends in Russia. It is for foreign citizens visiting the country as guests of Russian citizens and staying in their homes or under their care, and for foreign residents of Russia. It is valid for 90 days.

Humanitarian visa

This visa is granted to people travelling to the Russian Federation for sport, cultural, scientific or technological purposes or on humanitarian missions. The duration of the visa will depend on the event. If it does not exceed 8 days, it can be applied for online. If it exceeds 8 days, you will need to take all the documents to the embassy, including a letter of invitation to the event.

Transit visa

This visa must be applied for if you are going to stop in Russian territory as a link to your trip to another destination. It is valid for a maximum of 10 days.

Temporary residence visa

This is granted to foreigners who are allowed to enter Russia for a temporary stay. They must notify the consulate of their intentions, and demonstrate the possibility of living in Russia without working.

Work visa

This visa is valid for 1 year, but it can only be processed if you have the documentation of the company offering the job.

Service visa and diplomatic visa

It allows members of official delegations, workers of embassies, foreign consulates and the military who have a service passport to be in the country through official or diplomatic missions for a maximum stay of 1 year in the case of the military, and 3 months for the rest.

Grand Cascade in Saint Petersburg Russia

How do I apply for a Russia visa?

If you are travelling for tourism and for a maximum stay of 8 day, you can apply for the visa online. Keep in mind that this is only for the regions of St. Petersburg, Far East Federal District and Kaliningrad Oblast. To apply for a visa online, you will need to fill in a form with your personal and passport data, attach a recent photo, and pay by credit card. You will receive the resolution of the procedure via email.

For all traditional visas, you must go to the nearest embassy or consulate.

Who needs a visa for Russia?

Most nationalities need to apply for a visa to travel to Russia. Most of these nationalities can apply online. Citizens of Colombia, Peru, Argentina, and Ecuador are exempt from applying for a visa and may enter the country with only a valid passport that has a minimum validity of 6 months from the day they enter Russia.

What are the requirements to apply for a visa to Russia?

To apply for a Russian tourist visa online, you must have a passport with a validity of more than 6 months from the start of your trip and a recent photograph. Medical insurance is not compulsory to apply for the visa. However, you must have medical insurance to enter Russia, and the authorities will ask for it upon arrival. 

Contact the embassy directly about the relevant information required to apply for a traditional visa for your particular case.

snow in Russia and sunset

Can the Russia visa be changed once it has been processed?

No, it is not possible to change a visa once it has started to be processed. In case you made a mistake, you must know that until your visa expires, you cannot apply for a new e-Visa. 

The only solution is to apply for a new visa from the embassy. However, if you make a mistake, you can apply again for a visa for a different region.

How much does a visa to Russia cost?

The cost of the e-Visa has no government fees for eligible applicants. If you process the visa with an external agency, you will have to pay the processing costs. can process the visa for you, and it is worth paying the small processing fee for them to take care of everything. You won't have to worry about any of the process to get the visa.

If you are not eligible, you must go to the embassy to apply for a traditional visa and the cost will depend on the nationality and type of visa.

How far in advance do I need to apply for a Russia visa?

The traditional visa must be processed well in advance, as you will have to submit additional documentation that you may not have in your possession. This visa is processed in person, which may also cause some delays. It is recommended to process this visa 30 days in advance. Tourist visas are usually approved within 15 days from the time the embassy starts to process them. For other types of visas, the time will depend on the embassy.

In the case of the online visa, the times are shorter, and there is less documentation. The visa can be applied for at any time, but we recommend that you apply for it about 15 days before your trip. It is important to know that you will not receive the approved visa until 4 or 5 days before entering the country.

Zhivopisniy Bridge in Russia

What are the entry borders to Russia?

Russia has land borders with 15 states, plus maritime borders. Depending on the region you are heading to, you will have numerous possibilities to enter the country.

Kaliningrad Oblast

  • Air entry: Khrabrovo Airport in Kaliningrad.
  • Sea entry: Ports of the cities of Kaliningrad, Baltiysk and Svetliy.
  • Land entry: Morskoe, Pogranichny, Sovetsky and Chernyshevsky.
  • Border with Lithuania: Mamonovo/ Gronovo; Mamonovo/Gzhekhotki.
  • Border with Poland: Bagration Vosk and Gusev.
  • Railway entries: Mamonovo, Pohranicni, Sovetsk.

Leningrad Region - St. Petersburg

  • Air entry: St. Petersburg Airport (Pulkovo).
  • Land-based entries: Ivangorod, Torfyanovka, Brusnitchnoe Svetogorsk.
  • Maritime entries: Vysotsk, Big port of Saint Petersburg (Marine Station section), Port St. Petersburg, Port St. Petersburg marine station.

Region of the Far East Federal District

  • Air entries: Anadyr (Ugolini), Blagoveschensk, Vladivostok (Knevichy), Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (Yelizovo), Ulan-Ude (Mukhino), Khabarovsk (New), Chita (Kadala), Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (Khomutov).
  • Maritime entries: Vladivostok, Zarubino, Korsakov, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Posiet.
  • Railway entries: Makhalino, Pogranichny, Khasan.
  • Roadside entries: Poltavka, Turiy Rog.

Do I need any vaccines to travel to Russia?

No vaccines are required for travel to Russia, except for yellow fever if you come from an endemic country. For the regions of Leningrad, Kaliningrad and the Far East Federal District, the recommended vaccines are:

  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Rabies
  • Typhoid fever
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis 

It is advisable to ask for information from the international vaccination centre in your home country before any international journey.

What is the currency of Russia?

The official currency of the Russian Federation is the Russian rouble (RUB). You can travel with euros or American dollars and exchange the currency once you are inside the country where the conversion is more favourable. In majority of cities, you will find exchange houses and banks where you can change currencies.

You should always carry some roubles on you, especially if you go to a less visited area. In most touristic cities, you can pay with credit card without any problems. You can also withdraw roubles directly from the ATMs, but they will charge a commission and you will not be able to withdraw significant amounts of money at a time.

Moscow city at nighttime and river

When is the best time to travel to Russia?

Russia is a large country, so depending on the area you are going to visit, the temperature can vary drastically from one place to another. To travel to St. Petersburg, the best time is spring when there are not as many tourists as in summer, and the average temperature is 5º to 17º. It is not advisable to travel in winter as temperatures can drop drastically to 25º below zero and sunny days are scarce.

To visit the Federal District of the Far East, the best time to travel is summer, when temperatures are more pleasant. During June to August, the temperature is usually 13º to 19º degrees, and the rains are mild.

The Kaliningrad region has an oceanic climate, prone to rain. The best time to visit is from May to September, where you can find temperatures ranging from 17º to 23º degrees.

Is it safe to travel to Russia?

In general, Russia is a safe country, especially if you travel to tourist places like Moscow, Sochi, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok in the Far East Federal District or Kaliningrad. In main cities, the biggest risk is usually petty theft aimed at tourists, although many police officers are patrolling and watching over visitors.

When travelling, it is advisable to travel in a legal taxi, regardless of that fact that in Russia it is common for anyone with a vehicle to offer a lift at an agreed price. Taxis are rare in Russia and the cost of your journey can be higher, but it is a safer way.

One of the riskiest places in Russia is the underground or trains, which is where pickpockets tend to operate. As in any crowded city, it is best to keep your valuables secured. It is also advisable not to travel to outlying areas on your own. If you want to do so, it is better to hire a guide.

Important tips for travelling to Russia

  • It is mandatory to carry your documentation while travelling in Russia as the police can ask for it at any time. If you do not have it to show, you could be sanctioned.
  • It is advisable to learn a bit of Cyrillic. In Russia, all posters are written in this language rather than in English. It is best to download a translation application in advance of your journey.
  • You must bring the approved visa before arriving in Russia. Airports cannot process the visa, and you cannot enter the country without it.
  • In Russia, homosexuality is a crime. There is a law against homosexual propaganda which is punishable by fines and imprisonment. It is best not to show affection in public.
  • Russia is a country of extreme cold weather. You will need to dress for freezing outdoor temperatures and have lighter clothes for indoors. Shopping centres, restaurants, hotels, etc., will have very different temperatures from the outside.
  • Drinking water from taps should be avoided in most rural areas in Russia. It is best to consume bottled water at all times.
  • Consider checking with your phone company about activating roaming so that you can have internet service while in Russia.
  • Even if you travel to Russia in summer, it is best to be prepared for chilly weather as nightly temperatures are low.