What kind of visa do I need?
How long can I stay?
How much will it cost?
Where do I submit my application?
The visa application process can indeed be a bit intimidating to the first-time traveler to Russia. Even experienced travelers routinely rely on qualified travel agents to help them navigate the process smoothly. New Russian visa rules, which entered into force September 9, 2012 intend to reduce complications for U.S. travelers. Following is a brief primer of the process to help you better prepare, and ensure that your trip to Russia is a rewarding one.
Do I need a Visa?
Most travelers to Russia, including US, Canadian and Mexican citizens, must obtain a visa in their country of residence prior to departure.
May I Travel to Russia with a Valid Visa in an Expired Passport?
The situation sometimes arises that a traveler is issued a new passport while their “valid” visa remains in the old, voided passport. Some countries allow traveling with valid visas in expired passports, but Russia does not. For Russia, a visa is only considered to be valid when affixed to a valid passport. If the passport is cancelled, lost or no longer valid, the visa loses its validity. In this case, you must apply for a new visa.
Length of Stay
The new rule allows U.S. citizens to get three-year multi-entry visas under which they can stay for up to six consecutive months.
Visa types include: TOURIST, BUSINESS, STUDENT, PRIVATE (homestay), WORK, TRANSIT, and HUMANITARIAN. Each visa type requires specific support documentation. For visa types and requirements, contact the nearest Russian Consulate in the US, or Russian Visa Center in the US, or qualified travel agency.
U.S. citizens applying for a Tourist visa no longer need a formal letter of invitation from a Russian party. Tourists must nonetheless have advanced lodging reservations and arrangements with a tour operator. U.S. citizens traveling on a Business and Humanitarian visas will need to provide a written statement from the hosting Russian organization. Americans traveling on Private visas must present a notarized written statement from the hosting individual notarized by a Russian notary.
A visa application must be filled out on-line, printed out, and a passport-sized photo affixed. The signed application is submitted along with the passport (valid for at least six months beyond the requested visa period), application fees, and visa support documents (such as tourist voucher). Other documents may be required depending on the type of visa you are requesting.
Where to Apply
How Long Does it Take?
There are two types of visa processing services: regular 10 calendar days and expedited 3 business days (assuming all documents are in order). However, it is recommended to commence the application process as soon as one’s schedule is known. One may apply for a visa up to 90 days prior to travel.
Consular and Visa Center processing fees for US citizens start at $160 for regular processing. Higher fees are charged for expedited processing. For full details of visa processing fees, check Visa Center’s website or check the website of nearest Russian Consulate in the U.S.
Tips and Updates
On the application, consider adding a week before and after your actual travel dates to allow for delays or other changes in travel plans. Consult with your Russian business partner or authorized travel agent about your travel dates and visa duration to ensure that your support documentation is processed properly. Upon receipt of your visa, verify the accuracy of all the information contained therein. Making changes or corrections after arrival in Russia can be time consuming.
- Russian Consulates in the US
- Russian Visa Center in the US
- Russian Visa: Step-by Step Instructions
- Types of visa
- Online Visa Application
Last Updated: June 2018.