How to get a Russian Visa

18 July 2017

On the background of the modern tendency for globalization, traveling abroad appears to play more and more essential role in our life. No matter who you are – a business professional, a tourist, or a Very Important Person. Notwithstanding the purposes, an arriving foreigner wants visa receipt procedure to be transparent enough. The given article covers questions most frequently asked by those who are going to visit Russia.

How to issue a letter of invitation to Russia

Invitation letter, also known as visa support, is a document issued by an individual or a company (travel, hosting, employer, etc.) which verifies the visit purpose. Namely the latter determines a specific type of invitation (see below); but in general, it has to include the following information:

  1. Surname, name, patronymic as given in the passport (so its photocopy is needed)

  2. Date of birth

  3. Sex

  4. National status

  5. Passport number

  6. Entry/exit date

  7. Type of visa and invitation

  8. Numbers of entries granted by the visa (single/double/multiple) and its expiry date

  9. Purpose of the trip

  10. Destination/route

  11. Data on the inviting party: registered name, contacts, reference number

  12. Number of invitation

Tourist visa invitation necessary to apply for a tourist visa

Typical validity of Russian visa obtained with a support in hand reaches thirty days. The inviting party in the given hand is represented by a tour operator obliged to possess a unique reference number. In addition to a tourist acceptance confirmation described above, a legislative invitation of this type needs to contain a tourist voucher. This document confirms previously done payments for tourist services as well as inviting party’s responsibility for the visitor during their stay in the country. Although an acceptance and a voucher may be issued by different travel agencies (and thus have different design), they normally share the same A4 paper sheet (see Picture 1). Current price for tourist visa support equals $15, processing time is up to 10 minutes.

Business visa invitation necessary to apply for a business visa

Visa invitation to RussaUnlike tourist one, business visa enables entering Russia for 90 days uninterruptedly and can be multiple. To get it, a businessperson will need to pay at least 55 dollars. As for processing timescales, those differ depending on such factors as visitor’s citizenship, intended length of stay on Russian soil, exact amount of entries and invitation subtypes that are examined below. Mind that business visa is not affiliated with work! In other words, its holder cannot be recruited or employed under a contract; it only enables business activity.

In case the inviting party is an organization involved into simplified visa agreements between Russia and the European Union or the United States, it is enough for the letter to be printed on a legal entity’s letterhead. This procedure hardly ever takes longer than a day. In Picture 2, there is a sample.


Picture 2. A sample of a business invitation letter from an organization

Not with standing simplicity, the above subtype is not the most common one. Vast majority of business trips to Russia are arranged via Federal Migration Service (FMS) to whose office the inviting party, whether a legal body or an individual, is to apply. The service is going to thoroughly check the arriving foreigner’s biography, in particular penalty history and deportations. Detecting any breach is a doubtless reason for refusal of the application. As the given process requires a while, the final date of invitation receipt is likely to be up to 3 weeks since applying. The procedure itself is however far from difficult. It lies in completing the form and transferring money (currently $105) from a credit card or via PayPal having done which the only thing is to wait.  In order to accelerate visa obtain, any type of support may be issued electronically. It is necessary to mention that FMS must also be involved into issuing work, private and study visa invitations.

Another institution allowed to invite foreign visitors is Foreign Ministry. Actually, they send a message or, more to the point, an enciphered signal to a certain Consular or Embassy via TELEX channel. This kind of invitation is really convenient: the candidate receives the TELEX number and all details of the inviting party and displays those in a visa application form. On the other hand, cost of such an invitation letter reaches $125.

Private visa invitation necessary to apply for private visa

A private visa sometimes referred to as a visitor visa provides its holder with a right to stay in Russia for no more than ninety days continuously within the responsibility of friends or relatives living on the local territory. Necessity to prove that the potential arriver is not a random person with possibly offensive intentions makes the process of arranging such a visa support the most complicated and subsequently expensive, first of all for the inviter. Most notably, it presupposes:

  • So-called letter of guarantee where the host undertakes to care about residence as well as financial and medical security for the visitor

  • Paying additional sum of money commonly known as a state fee

  • In certain scenarios, for instance in the event of inviting a migration risk country citizen – interview by an FMS representative.

So, taking all the aforesaid into consideration, we do not really recommend arranging a private visa invitation letter. A tourist of business one (if possible) shows itself far less time consuming and stressful.

How to obtain a Russian visa

An invitation letter is obviously far not the only document necessary for visa receipt. The first step, however paradoxical this may sound, lies in making sure that you need a visa, since a range of countries under Federal visa-free regime is fairly wide.

In case you still do, there are several algorithms you may follow. To save a certain sum of money, go to Consular Department of the Russian Federation Embassy in your country. As long as this institution does not appeal to any intermediaries, the entire visa obtain procedure appears cheaper compared to organizations which have no direct bind with the Embassy. In addition, Consulate’s employers are expected to be fully knowledgeable about fullest and newest information on actual visa obtain rules. On the other hand, their business hours are bitterly limited, and not only by weekdays and daylight, but also Russian federal holidays. In addition, it is rarely possible to consult a representative unless previously appointed.

The above disadvantages are less obvious when collaborating with Visa application centers (VACs) where you do not need any booking and frequently even attendance as documents may be couriered. What is more, you are allowed to apply for several visas on a single occasion.

That is still not the best variant to save the maximum of your time, however. Those for whom this is main priority are free to execute a visa via a travel agency. The only thing you are to do personally in this case is to provide the agency with a document package. The evident disadvantage is price – sometimes up to $150 higher versus dealing with everything yourself.

Whatever strategy you choose and wherever you come from, entering the country can only be legal after filing a set of documents, in case of Russia the following ones:

  1. Visa application form which is most commonly filled out online and then printed. In addition to all the information required, it must bear an applicant’s signature and standardized photo (recent, colorful, face, without any sunglasses or headwear)
  2. The original of a foreign passport whose expiry date is not within half a year after your exit date. Neither copies nor ID cards are valid since a visa needs to be present in the passport itself
  3. Visa invitation letter
  4. Medical insurance policy valid for the entire period of stay (also possible to execute online; see a sample in Picture 3)

The lists of data and additional documents required for arranging an invitation letter have been presented above.

How to register a foreign citizen with the Russian Migration Service

Picture 3. Medical insurance policy needed for obtaining Russian visa

Having answered a variety of visa-related questions, it would be relevant to say a word about migration policy. In accordance with currently valid rules (since 2006), Russian migration registration includes that from the place of residence or at the place of stay. The former needs an appeal to the community-based unit of the Internal Affairs Ministry. As for the latter, it covers foreign citizens who have been attending the given place for seven workdays since arrival, unless they:

  • Are unsettled

  • Stay at an institution which provides hotel services

  • Stay at in institution which implements an administrative penalty

  • Stay at an institution which practices social rehabilitation

  • Work on a rotational basis


To be registered from the place of residence, a citizen provides any testimonial, a residence permit and documents which confirm the right to occupy living quarters. The first one is not necessary for the stateless; but everybody has to pay a state fee of 350₽ (at present approximately six dollars). As for place of state registration, it is fully operated by the inviting party.