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How to get a visa for Russia

by Luis Sánchez | Wed 25 Nov 2020
How to get a 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 by region 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 extend in 2021 to include Moscow, Sochi and Kazan regions. 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, is not exclusive to Moscow, but rather is 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 provided that the maximum stay does not exceed 8 days, and that the reason for the visit is business, tourism or humanitarian work. If you intend to travel to one of these 3 regions for a period longer 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

These are the 2 types of visas that exist, and their variants:

Electronic visa

Kaliningrad

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 for 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 allow you to visit the Leningrad/St. Petersburg region. The validity and stay are the same as for the other 2 areas, as well as the reasons for the trip.

Far East Federal District

Only the federal districts in the Far West region can be visited with this visa. It has the same conditions as all other Russian online visas. 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. It is allowed to enter these 3 regions using a traditional visa within its validity period without the limitations provided by the electronic visa, and you can stay in the country for more than 8 days.

Traditional visa

Tourism

This visa allows you to travel for tourism throughout the territory of Russia, with a maximum time 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.

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, or meeting must be attached.

Family Reunification visa for adoption

This visa is required for the adoption of minors in Russia. An entry and exit visa are required to visit the child, so it must be processed from your country of origin. This visa allows a stay in the country and entrance and exits 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 processed by the management of the institution where we are going to study. The time of the visa is 90 days of stay, extendable from Russia to the full duration of the course.

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 validity 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 supplied by the 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 a maximum of 90 days.

Humanitarian visa

This visa is granted to persons travelling to the Russian Federation for sporting, cultural, scientific or technological purposes or on humanitarian missions. The length of validity depends on the need of 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 documentation to the embassy, including a letter of invitation to the event.

Transit visa

This visa must be applied for if you arrive on Russian territory as a link to your final destination. It is valid for a maximum of 10 days, during which time you must enter and leave the country.

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 in the country, 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 from 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 of the diplomatic corps.

How do I apply for a Russia visa?

The application process for obtaining a Russian visa depends on the specific visa required. Tourism with a maximum stay of 8 days is applied for online 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 make payment 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 time of entry. You can check the specific situation of your nationality with our eligibility checker.

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 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.

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 for the region you wish to visit. 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. Visagov.com can process the visa for you, and it is worth paying the small processing fee for them to take care of everything. 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 Moscow visa, or 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 a delay. It is recommended to process this visa a minimum of 30 days in advance of travel. 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 the documentation is much less. The visa can be applied for at any time; 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.

What are the entry borders to Russia?

Russia has a land border with 15 states, plus maritime borders and air access. Depending on the region you are heading to, you will have numerous possibilities for entering 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 tickets: Mamonovo, Pohranicni, Sovetsk.

Leningrad Region - St. Petersburg

- Air entry: St. Petersburg Airport (Pulkovo).
- Land-based tickets: Ivangorod, Torfyanovka, Brusnitchnoe Svetogorsk.
- Maritime tickets: 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 Tickets: Anadyr (Ugolini), Blagoveschensk, Vladivostok (Knevichy), Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (Yelizovo), Ulan-Ude (Mukhino), Khabarovsk (New), Chita (Kadala), Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (Khomutov).
- Maritime tickets: Vladivostok, Zarubino, Korsakov, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Posiet.
- Railway tickets: Makhalino, Pogranichny, Khasan.
- Roadside Tickets: Poltavka, Turiy Rog.

Do I need any vaccinations to travel to Russia?

No vaccinations 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 vaccinations are as follows:
- Japanese Encephalitis.
- Rabies.
- Typhoid fever.
- Hepatitis A.
- Hepatitis B.
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 the 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 by credit card without any problem. You can withdraw money in roubles directly from the ATMs, they will charge a commission, but it is not excessively high. The only drawback is that you cannot withdraw significant amounts of money at a time.

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 of the year 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.

For the Federal District of the Far East, the best travel time 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, and temperatures during these months range 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 the main cities, the most significant risk is usually petty theft aimed at tourists, although many police officers are patrolling and watching over the safety of 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 within sight. It is advisable not to travel to outlying areas on your own. If we want to do so, it is better to hire a guide.

Important tips for travelling to Russia

- It is obligatory 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 word in 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 even imprisonment. It is best not to show affection in public.
- Russia is a country prepared for extreme cold weather. You will need to dress for freezing outdoor temperatures and have appropriate 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. Where water is not drinkable, it is better 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.


About the author
Luis Sánchez

Luis Sánchez
Hello! I'm Luis, a boy from Extremadura who loves to travel and share his experiences with readers. I write articles for Visagov.com and I also help users to process electronic visas for all countries in the world that require it. I'm more of the mountains than the beach, so the quiet destinations with green landscapes are my favorites.


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