Is it possible to visit Russia without a visa, how to get a Russian visa and not to blow your mind and what to do after you cross the Russian border?
If you have asked yourself these questions at least once – then this article is for you 🙂 Last couple of years Russia becomes more and more popular as a touristic destination for guests from different countries. That is why more and more tourists are looking for information about how to get Russian visa. Also you can find such questions in Google search like “How to visit Russia without visa” or “How to get visa to Russia and not to get old in the process” 🙂 Such questions mean that a lot of travelers think that To Get Russian Visa = Mission Impossible, and only Tom Cruise can accept this challenge 🙂 But seriously, a lot of people think that getting a Russian visa is a very long and difficult process that is not for everybody. Let me tell you that it is not as scary as you may think.
Of course, it is easier to travel somewhere without strict visa requirements, and of course getting a visa of Russia is a process that need to be done. But visiting such an unique, interesting, and varied country as Russia is worth of your efforts for sure 😉 So if you really want to visit Russia – this article will be very useful for you! And believe me, I assure you that your efforts will be worthwhile, as you look back on your Russian travels with unforgettable memories and emotions! By the way, if you haven’t planned your trip itinerary, perhaps one of our planned Tours to Russia will suit your tastes. Or, if you are unsure about what to do in Russia, what to see in Russia or why to visit Russia – check the page Interesting Places of Russia and you will not be disappointed 🙂
Ok, let’s see if it is really so difficult to get a Russian visa.
How to visit Russia without visa?
Maybe some of you already thought about how to travel to Russia without visa? Of course it is possible, but not for everybody 🙂 That is why before speaking about steps to get visa of Russia, let’s discuss how to do it without visa. You can see below a list of countries whose citizens have a visa free entrance to Russia:
Abkhazia, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus (no limits), Bosnia and Herzegovina (30 days), Brazil, Chile, China (only for travelling as a part of an official tour group and only for 14 days), Colombia, Cuba (30 days), Ecuador, Fiji, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong (14 days), Israel, Kazakhstan (no limits), Kyrgyzstan (no limits), Macau (30 days), Macedonia (30 days only with invitation voucher that we can do for you), Mauritius (60 days), Moldova (no limits), Mongolia (30 days), Montenegro (30 days), Nauru (14 days), Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Serbia (30 days), Seychelles (30 days), South Korea (60 days), South Ossetia (no limits), Tajikistan (no limits), Thailand (30 days), Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan (no limits), Venezuela.
If you have a passport from one of these countries in your pocket – you are lucky and can start to pack your luggage and search for good flights to Russia! Citizens of these countries can visit Russia for 90 days (or number of days that is in brackets). Usually it is more than enough for travelling. If you have a diplomatic or other special passport in addition to a regular one, you have different visa requirements and periods. Fill our Contact Form to get visa information if you have any type of special passport. Also if you are a citizen of the world or have double (or triple) citizenship (ex. Portuguese / Brazilian), you can use your visa-free passport to enter Russia.
Important exception: If you are arriving into a river port or seaport of Russia, use the service of an official tour operator and leave the ship for less than 72 hours – you can stay in Russia without visa. Such trips on cruise ships and excursions for such tourists are much more expensive than a locally-guided trip. Of course, it is very comfort, additional cruise romantics and you can do it without visa, so for somebody it is also ok. Just keep in mind that travel to Russia by cruise ship will cost you around 3 times more expensive than regular tours and excursions from local guides.
Types of Russian visas
1) Touristic visa to Russia. Usually this visa is issued for maximum 30 days and can be with single or double entry. USA citizens can apply for touristic visa for 3 years which will allow them to cross the border many times. I really advice people from USA apply for this multi visa because its price is more or less the same as visa with single entry.
2) Business visa to Russia. If you are going to visit Russia for business purposes – you need to apply for this type of visa. It is valid for up to 1 year and allows to visit Russia many times during this year. There is one trick – it is not mandatory to have some business in Russia to apply for business visa. If you can get business invitation – you can apply for business visa. The issue is that you need to be careful and fill information about purposes of your trip regarding information in your invitation when you apply for visa. That means that you can’t tell that you are going to visit friends when you apply for touristic visa and that you want to visit sights if you apply for business visa.
3) Private visa to Russia. If you have relatives and friends in Russia, you can apply for private visa. In this case your relatives and friends need to provide an invitation for you. These visas can be with single or double entry and are valid for up to 3 months.
4) Student visa to Russia. You are going to study in Russian school, college or university? Then this type of visa is for you! When applying for student visa your passport must be valid at least for 1.5 years. Studying in Russia means that you will stay here for more than 3 months, so in addition to main pack of documents you need to attach a certificate that you don’t have any HIV infections (this certificate is valid for 3 months).
5) Working visa to Russia. This is for those of you who want to work in Russia. When applying for working visa your passport must be valid at least for 1.5 years. Working in Russia means that you will stay here for more than 3 months, so in addition to main pack of documents you need to attach a certificate that you don’t have any HIV infections (this certificate is valid for 3 months).
6) Transit visa to Russia. You need this if you don’t want to travel to Russia and just want to get to another country through territory of Russia. This visa can be issued based on documents that confirm that you are going to another country. It can be tickets, visa to neighbor country, or visa of your destination country or your passport of this country. For those of you who will travel by avia transport transit visa can be issued maximum for 3 days.
As we are travel company, I will explain you how to get Touristic Visa.
Which documents are required to apply for Russian Touristic Visa
1) Your valid passport (of course 🙂 ). Your passport must have at least 2 blank pages and need to be valid at least for 6 months after date of expire of visa.
2) 2 copies of filled visa application forms. You can download these forms below, or you can get one in your language from Russian Embassy website in your country. I really recommend you to take 2 blank application forms with you in case of any mistakes and wrong filling for you to be able to re-write it at the embassy. When filling your application form you need to put there reference number – it is МВТ or MVT number that is listed under the name and address of agency that issued your invitation. Also you need to put confirmation number – it is serial number of your Russian travel voucher (invitation to Russia) which is 8 digits and can be a combination of letters and numbers . It is labeled like “Voucher No”.
Please note that you can’t save what you type in this form. You can just fill required data and print it.
3) 2 photos 3,5 х 4,5 cm with clear image of your face without sunglasses and headdress (exception can be if wearing hat is a mandatory feature of your nationality or religion and if you have photo with this hat in your passport)
4) Receipt of payment visa fee. Usually you can pay it right at the embassy or visa agency when submit documents to apply for visa, but you’d better to call and check it. Usually visa fee is equal to one that your country charges from Russian tourists who visit your country. I guess they do like this not to upset someone 🙂 So you can check this info by the phone or to find it at the website of Russian Embassy in your country.
5) Russian touristic voucher or invitation to Russia (please, read below how you can get it).
IMPORTANT! Possible additional documents:
– If you are EU citizen (except UK), you need to provide medical insurance. Usually your credit card already have included insurance that is valid all over the world – in this case just print it and attach to documents. If not – you can buy it in the office of insurance company, special agency or online.
– If you want to stay in Russia more than 90 days, you need to provide certificate that you don’t have any HIV-infections. This certificate is valid for 3 months from the date when it was issued.
– Application forms for some countries (ex. UK, USA, Canada, etc.) it is required to list all your foreign trips for the last 10 years. It is not mandatory, but try to take your expired passport with stamps if possible, even if this info is not required in visa application of your country in case of any additional questions.
– From December 10’th, 2014 for visas issued in UK, Denmark, Namibia and Myanmar it is required to provide biometric data (it is not applied for kids under 12). This means that you need to come to visa agency personally when apply for visa and provide your fingerprints (it is made by scanner).
When you have a full pack of required documents you just go with these docs to Embassy / Consulate of Russia (or authorized visa agency) in your country. You can check by the phone if it is possible to get a pre-registration for you to come just in required time and not to wait for your turn for too long. Please, notice that in USA and UK Russian consulate doesn’t handle visa function anymore. Instead of this you need to bring documents to special authorized visa agency. You can find their contacts in internet or ask by phone in embassy or consulate.
After you pay the fee and submit all documents, you will receive a receipt with date when your visa will be ready. You need to show this receipt later when you will get your documents back.
How to get Russian Visa Support (Invitation to Russia or Russian tourist voucher)
To apply for visa you need to provide Invitation to Russia (Russian Tourist Voucher). This invitation can be issued by hotel (some agencies with rented apartments and hostels also can provide this document, but not every of them. That’s why you need to ask about it when booking it), Russian travel agency or your travel agent in your country. If you Travel to Russia with us then we issue this invitation for you. To apply for visa it is enough just to attach printed scan copy to your documents.
Unfortunately, these hotel invitations cover only dates that you stay at the hotel. That is why if you are going to visit several cities during your trip, you need to provide several invitations from all hotels that you are going to stay in to cover all days of your staying in Russia. Please, notice that nobody will provide you this document automatically when you book a room and you need to ask about it. Also you need to understand that in case when your plans will change and you would like to cancel your booking due to changes in your plans or in your travel program, you will be charged for some fee from hotel.
If you don’t want to be linked to strict schedule, we can issue an invitation for you without linking to your route. If you travel with one of our tours that last more than 3 days – we do it for free. But if you choose an excursion less than for 3 days or you just want us to issue this invitation for your independent traveling, then fill the form Invitation for Russian Visa. In this case it will cost you from 50$ to 150$ depending of your citizenship.
How to pass Russian Border: how to behave and what are regulations for transportation of foreign currency, alcohol, tobacco, equipment and medicines in Russia.
When you get Russian visa – you can relax, everything that will be next is simple 🙂 Regulations of crossing Russian border doesn’t differ too much from regulations of other countries. You can bring with you maximum 10000$ of cash (or equal amount of other currency) without declaring it. If total amount will be more – you need to declare it not to be charged with penalty. You can also bring with you 3 liters of any alcohol, 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco without declaring, just tell that it is for your personal use if they will ask. If you’ll decide to bring more – you need to be ready to share excessive amount with customs officers or to use this excessive amount right here in the airport 🙂
If you need to bring some medicines for your own, check with the air company or at the airport by phone if your medicine can be included in the list of medicines that are prohibited in Russia. If your medicines are prescribed by doctor, you need to have a document that approves it. It can be a recipe, a doctor’s note or copy of your medical history. If these medicines contain psychotropic or narcotic components, in addition to the presentation of the documents from the doctor, they also need to be declared.
As for equipment, you can bring equipment that costs no more than 2000$ in total without declaring it. If you have more expensive equipment, you will have to pay customs taxes of 30% of equipment cost. But it is not necessary 🙂 Just tell that this equipment is cheap, old and only for your personal using.
So how to pass Russian passport control?
When you get to passport control, you will meet customs officers who will check your documents, and usually they are not too friendly 🙂 Just don’t pay any attention to it. These guys need to do very important job, so just let them do it well. Very often they don’t have good sense of humor when they are at work (just believe me that outside of the airport majority of them are very good and friendly people 🙂 ), so it is better not to joke during passport control or it can cause some unwanted questions to you. Even if you really like a lady or a man who checks your passport – it is better not to flirt 🙂 There are a lot of beautiful men and women in Russia, so if you are really destined to meet your future wife or husband in Russia, you will most probably do it outside of customs checkpoint 😉
Please, make sure that you know properly the information that is listed in your visa (purpose of your visit and date of departure) and don’t tell them more then they ask you. In case of any serious issues ask them to contact the agency that issued your invitation.
Migration registration or Visa registration after arrival to Russia
On arrival (before passport control) you will need to fill Migration Card that you will get in the plane or near passport control area. You will need it to pass registration and need to keep it till the end of your trip. Be sure that you’ve put there correct departure date even if you have a valid visa for longer period.
After your arrival, doesn’t matter if you need visa or not, you need to pass registration at Federal Migration Service (FMS). Sometimes this process is wrongly called “Registration of visa”. The main thing that you need to understand is that if you stay at the hotel, hotel will do it for you without your participation within 24 hours, but I really advice you to ask them if they did it or not. Because hotels in St. Petersburg and Moscow MUST do it and they do it for free. Some hotels in other cities can try to skip this procedure or can charge you around 15$ for this servic or do it for free (depending of the level of hotel). If you decide not to stay at the hotel, you must be registered during 7 working days which excludes weekends and holidays. In this case your host needs to go to FMS or Post Office with you and provide you a registration.
Basically, you need to be registered every time when you change your place, as you can be checked in subway or railway station for example. If the policeman stopes you and you don’t have registration you can be charged 30-75$ fee. But this will make sense only if you move really far from the place you are registered or if you arrived more than 7 days ago. For example, if you are registered in Moscow and policeman stopes you in Yaroslavl (300 km from Moscow), you can show your Moscow registration and tell that you are not going to stay in Yaroslavl for a long time and will go back to Moscow today / tomorrow. Or if you arrived to Novosibirsk 4 days ago, you can also show your Moscow registration and tickets and say that you didn’t have time to do it yet as you have 7 working days for registration. In both cases you will not have any problems. But if you are not registered in the hotel for some reasonss, or you want to stay at the camping for couple of days and it is impossible to get registration – it is not a problem at all! Because you have absolutely LEGAL right to stay in Russia for 7 working days without registration. Also, to be honest, nobody outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg cares about your registration 🙂 And usually local police officers don’t speak English, so they will not be able to explain you what they want and will not waste their and your time 🙂
Now you know how to get Russian visa! Somebody will say that it is not simple, but don’t let difficulties to stop you. Your first days in Russia will fully compensate all your efforts with bright positive emotions and impressions! Have a happy travel to Russia 😉
Do you want to learn more about Russia? Then follow us in social media!
Want to get regular inspiring newsletters with our new articles, dates of trips, interesting books and movies about travelling, announcements about our contests with gifts and other useful information for travellers?