Obtaining the unified e-visa (or electronic visa) to Russia is very simple and quick: you will only need your passport and a digital photo. However, the e-visa can only be requested by some nationalities. From January 1, 2021, the unified e-visa is valid throughout Russia. I explain step by step how to obtain an electronic visa to Russia easily and cheaply (40 dollars).
Article updated on October 2, 2021
Important: despite the fact that the unified electronic visa to Russia came into force on January 1, 2021, due to the situation of the covid-19 pandemic, the issuance of the e-visa has been suspended. There is no official date on when the issuance of visas will resume. Therefore, to travel to Russia currently it is necessary to apply for a regular visa.
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0. THE BEGINNING OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE E-VISA IN RUSSIA
Many countries around the world already use the electronic visa system (e-visa) to authorize foreign citizens to enter their country. For example, former Soviet republics such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan or Georgia already use this system.
The truth is that the global trend is towards the extension of the electronic visa, due to the advantages that it offers.
Russia began to implement the electronic visa system in August 2017, through a pilot project, in the regions of the Far Eastern Federal District, though limited to citizens of 18 countries.
In July 2019, this pilot project was expanded for the Kaliningrad region and for citizens of 53 countries, including European countries in the Schengen area.
In October 2019, it was expanded again for the Leningrad region, whose administrative center is St. Petersburg, also for citizens of 53 countries.
Since January 1, 2021, this electronic visa system has already been extended to all of Russia, including, therefore, its capital, Moscow or Crimea.
It can also be said that it is a system that has already been used in some sporting events, such as the 2018 World Cup or the Sochi Olympics in 2014 with very good results.
In this article I will explain what is the electronic visa to Russia (often abbreviated as e-visa), who can request it now and which steps have to be followed to obtain it. If you don’t meet the requirements to apply for an electronic visa, then you must apply for a paper visa by following the steps in this article: How to get the visa to Russia (in paper) easily and economically
1. SOME CONSIDERATIONS ABOUT THE ELECTRONIC VISA
1.1. What is the Russian e-visa?
The e-visa (or electronic visa) is an official document issued electronically by the consular department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, which allows entry to Russia. It is the alternative to a paper visa.
It is a visa that must be requested before arriving in Russia, that is, it is not a visa that is requested upon arrival at the airport in Russia.
The e-visa has three major advantages over paper visas:
- You can obtain it electronically, in an easy manner from your home through the website enabled by the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation: https://evisa.kdmid.ru/. Therefore, it is not necessary to travel to any Consulate or Russian visa center to carry out the procedure.
- The required documentation is very small, only a digital photo and to have a valid passport. Therefore, it is not necessary to provide an invitation, hotel reservations, plane tickets or other documents that justify the purpose of your trip. Of course, once you have obtained the electronic visa, to enter Russia it is mandatory to have travel medical insurance.
1.2. How much does the Russian e-visa cost?
As of January 1, 2021, the electronic visa costs 40 dollars, in concept of consular fees. Children under the age of six by the date of the submission of the application are exempt from the consular fee.
1.3. Which e-visa categories exist?
The Russian evisa can only be from one of the following categories:
- The common tourist visa, when the purpose of the trip is tourism.
- An ordinary business visa, when the purpose of the trip is business.
- Visa for participating in scientific, cultural, socio-political, economic, sporting events and carrying out relevant communications and contacts.
If the purpose of your trip to the Russian Federation does not correspond to any of the above, then you must apply for a traditional visa (not electronic) in a diplomatic mission or consular office of the Russian Federation. For example, if you need a study or work visa, then you must apply for a regular or traditional visa.
1.4. What nationalities can apply for the e-visa to Russia?
Currently, only nationals of the following 53 countries can apply for an electronic visa:
- Czech Republic
- Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)
- North Macedonia
- San Marino
- Saudi Arabia
- Taiwan. China
Citizens of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand cannot apply for a Russian electronic visa.
In this map you can see the countries that can apply for the electronic visa:
1.5. Which regions of Russia can be visited with the e-visa?
Before 2021, the electronic visa only allowed to visit some Russian regions (Kaliningrad, Saint Petersburg, etc.), but since January 1, 2021, the unified electronic visa allows to move freely throughout the territory of Russia, with the sole exception of visits to territories, organizations and facilities for which a special permit is required and which normally correspond to military or secret facilities.
However, to enter or leave Russia with this electronic visa, it must be done through one of the following border control points:
- Moscow airports
- St. Peterburg Airport (Pulkovo)
- Belgorod Airport
- Volgograd Airport (Gumrak)
- Yekaterinburg Airport (Koltsovo)
- Kazan Airport
- Krasnodar Airport (Pashkovsky)
- Krasnoiarsk Airport (Yemelyanovo)
- Nizhny Novgorod Airport (Strigino)
- Novosibirsk Airport (Tolmachevo)
- Rostov-on-Don Airport (Platov)
- Samara Airport (Kurumoch)
Naval / Sea crossing points:
- Mamonovo (Grzechotki)
- Mamonovo (Gronowo)
- By plane, you can enter through 14 Russian airports, including those in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, which are where most travelers enter.
- By train, now, you can only enter from China. Now it is not possible to apply for an electronic visa to Russia if you travel by train (Allegro or similar), from Helsinki (Finland) to Saint Petersburg or vice versa.
- By car you can only access from Estonia or Latvia (or also from Lithuania or Poland but only to the Russian region of Kalingrado).
- By boat or cruise you can enter through the ports of Saint Petersburg or Vladivostok or Zarubino.
- You can only go on foot from Estonia (Ivangorod).
In this map you can see all the authorized entry and exit points according to type of transport:
1.6. Should I enter and exit through the same checkpoint?
With e-visa you can enter through one of the authorized control points and exit through a different authorized point. For example, you can enter through Pulkovo Airport and exit through one of the Moscow airports (or vice versa).
Border control points are points equipped with the latest technology to control electronic visa. Therefore, new control points will be added over time.
1.7. Which is the duration of the e-visa?
The e-visa is issued for a single entry and for a duration of up to 60 days from the date of issue, however, the maximum stay allowed in Russia is 16 days from the date of entry and within its period of validity.
Also keep in mind that the validity of the e-visa can’t be extended, except in cases where it is impossible to leave the territory of the Russian Federation due to the need of emergency treatment or unsurmountable circumstances (force majeure) or pandemics or natural disasters.
The above explanation may seem a bit confusing at first glance, but with an example you can see it more clearly:
- In the first place, it must be clear that 16 days does not mean that one can stay for the full 384 hours (24 hours for 16 days), since permanence in the Russian Federation always begins at midnight on the day of the passport control, when crossing the border, regardless of the actual time of passage through passport control.
- For example, if you have a valid electronic visa from July 15 to September 13 (60 days), and you enter Russia through passport control at 8:00 p.m. on August 1, in that case, you must leave the country for passport control before 11:59 p.m. on August 16 (instead of until 8:00 p.m. on August 17).
- You should also consider that if you cross passport control to enter Russia, for example, on September 1, with the electronic visa from the previous example (remember that it was valid from July 15 to September 13), then you must leave Russia by crossing passport control before 11:59 pm, on September 13.
1.8. When can the e-visa be requested?
You can complete the electronic visa application form at the earliest 40 days before the scheduled date of your trip and no later than 4 days before the expected date of entry into the Russian Federation. For example, if you want to enter Russia on July 30, you can begin the e-visa application procedure on June 20.
1.9. How long does it take to issue the e-visa?
The electronic visa is issued within a maximum period of 4 days from the date of the request, though it is usually ready in less days.
1.10. Where is the e-visa requested?
You can request the electronic visa in three ways:
- Yourself from your home computer, through the address: https://evisa.kdmid.ru/
- Through the mobile application enabled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Government. As of the writing date of this article (February 2021) the mobile application is not yet operational.
- Entrust it to a visa agency to be responsible for carrying out the procedure. These agencies charge management costs that are usually around 20 USD.
1.11. Am I required to stay in the hotels or apartments that I have included in the electronic visa application?
You are not obligated, you can change your accommodation when you arrive in Russia. In fact, a hotel reservation is not necessary to request an electronic visa. You can include any hotel.
1.12. Can I stay in apartments or private houses of friends or family?
Yes, simply choose “Individual” type of accommodation, and include host information, address and telephone number.
1.13. What if I travel with minors?
If you travel with your minor children, you must submit a separate electronic visa application for each child. All minor children traveling with their parents must have their own electronic visa.
However, children under the age of six on the application submission date are exempt from the consular fee.
1.14. Is it mandatory to apply for an electronic visa if I already have a traditional visa?
It is not necessary to apply for an electronic visa to enter Russia, if you already have a regular or traditional visa in your passport.
An electronic visa does not extend the validity period of a regular visa.
1.15. In which cases can I not apply for the e-visa and must I apply for a regular or traditional visa?
You must apply for a regular or standard visa in the following cases:
- If you are not a citizen of any of the 53 countries that can apply for an electronic visa. For example, citizens of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand cannot apply for a Russian electronic visa.
- If you want to stay in Russia more than 16 days,
- If your electronic visa is denied,
- If in 4 days you have not received any notification after your e-visa application
- If the type of visa you want to apply for is neither for tourism, nor business nor any of the types of electronic visas allowed. Therefore, if you need a work or study visa, then you must apply for a regular paper visa.
2. STEPS TO OBTAIN ELECTRONIC VISA OR AN E-VISA TO RUSSIA
To apply for the electronic visa, you will only need:
- To have a valid passport at least 6 months from the date of application for the e-visa, and with free space for the stamps that will be placed at the border crossing.
- To fill out a simple electronic form with your personal information, your work information, cities you will visit and places where you will stay.
- A recent digital photo, which you must attach during the application. You can take it with the front camera of your mobile phone, with a plain wall of light color in the background.
- Travel medical insurance with coverage in the Russian Federation during the period of your trip. Below I explain how to get valid insurance in electronic format in 5 minutes.
The best: it is not necessary to provide an invitation, hotel reservations, airline tickets, a scanned passport or any other document that justifies the reason for the trip, nor is it necessary to travel to the consulate or the Russian visa center to complete the process. You only need a computer with an Internet connection.
Important: when filling in the form, make sure that all the information is correct and that the information in your passport matches the information included in the application. The e-visa is issued with the information you provide during the electronic application process, so if there is information in your electronic visa application that does not match your passport, they could deny you entry at the border. Also, don’t include a false photo, since they will be check it at the border.
STEP 1. Have a valid passport
The first thing you will need to be able to apply for the e-visa is your passport, which must be valid for at least 6 months from the date you request the visa. That is, if you apply for the visa on July 1, 2021, then your passport must be valid beyond December 31, 2021.
In the e-visa application you will be asked for the information of your passport: passport number, date of issue, validity date, etc.
When you cross the border in Russia, they will ask for your passport and they will verify that its information contained there matches with what you declared in the application. Please note also that the passport must not present any damage, scratch or be unstitched. If this is the case, it’s better that you renew it before requesting the electronic visa.
STEP 2. Take a digital photo
Before starting to fill out the electronic visa form, you must have a digital photo of 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm, which must be recent and on a white background.
You can even take a photo yourself at home with the front camera of your mobile. Just stand in front of a plain light-colored wall and take a photo with your head held high.
STEP 3. Fill in the electronic form and get the unified e-visa
Now that you have a valid passport and a digital photo, it is time to complete the electronic visa application form.
Some prior matters to consider:
- You can start filling in the electronic visa today and finish it another day. Of course, you must save it with the “Save the draft” button. You should also bear in mind that the unfinished forms are saved on the server for a maximum period of 30 days from the last time you saved it.
- To continue filling in, editing or reviewing the application, you must choose the option “Retrieve application” from the menu: https://evisa.kdmid.ru/en-US/Account/Retrieve. For this you will need 4 information items: the identification of the application or “Application ID” (which will be provided when you start a new application), a password (which you choose when you fill in a new form), the first 5 letters of your last name and the year of your birth.
- Fields with an asterisk must be completed.
- If your minor children accompany you, you must also fill out an electronic form for each one of them. All minors who are accompanied by their parents must also have an individual e-visa.
- Certain characters (such as Ñ, É, Ü or Ç) will not let you register them. In this case it is necessary to indicate the transliterated meanings. Examples:
- LÓPEZ: put LOPEZ (no tilde)
- MUÑOZ: put MUNOZ (N in place of Ñ)
- TÜRRE: put TUERRE (UE in place of Ü)
The transliterations of these characters can also be seen under the page of your passport, in which your personal information is contained (next to the signs <<<<<<<<<<).
I show you below how to fill out the e-visa application form. The example below corresponds to an application for a visa to Kaliningrad but it is already possible to apply for an electronic visa in the same way to visit the entire Russian territory:
3.1. Select your nationality and region that you will visit
Enter your email address and choose a password. Don’t forget to write down the application number, since you will need it to recover the form and to track your application.
3.2. Indicate your personal information
Fill in your personal information: name and surnames, gender, date and place of birth.
3.3. Details of the visit
In this section you must specify the reason for your visit (tourism, business, cultural, sports, scientific-technical, etc.), the date you plan to enter in Russia and the information of your accommodations (Hotel, Airbnb apartment or address of the private house or apartment in which you will be staying). Finally, you must also indicate if you have visited Russia before.
Regarding hotels or tourist apartments, nothing happens if you include a hotel and you end up staying in a different one. Reservation of accommodation is not necessary. If you are going to visit, for example, St. Petersburg for 1 day and do not spend the night, then you can also include any random hotel (no need to book it).
3.4. Passport Information
In this section you must indicate the type of passport you have (tourist, official or diplomatic), the number of your passport, as well as the date of issue and expiration thereof.
3.5. Contact and work information
You must indicate the information of your permanent residence, as well as your work information.
3.6. Relatives in Russia (if you have)
You must indicate if you have relatives in Russia. In the case of having relatives you must indicate the relationship of kinship, name, surname, address and date of birth.
3.7. Digital photography
You must take a photo, as explained in step 2 of this article and upload it to the form. Try to fit the photo in the center of the space dedicated to it.
In the last step you will see a summary of everything you have indicated in your application. Check that all data is correct and accept the conditions for the electronic visa application. The last part of the process will be to click on the “Save and submit” button.
3.9. Payment of consular fees
The last step will be to pay the consular fees by bank card (Visa, MasterCard, etc.). Once the payment has been made, you just have to wait for the unified e-visa to be granted.
3.10. Monitoring the status of your visa application
You can track the status of your application on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, through the link: https://evisa.kdmid.ru/en-US/Home/StatusCheck
By entering your application number (Application ID and your password), the system will tell you in what state your application is.
Once the Russian authorities make a decision, the status of your request will change to “Visa issued” or “Visa denied”
The deadline for the issuance of the electronic visa is less than 4 calendar days from the date of sending the completed form. If you haven’t received a notification of concession or refusal of electronic visa within four days, then you can apply for a visa, according to the standard procedure at the consulate or at the Russian visa center.
3.11. Receive your visa in PDF format
The most normal thing is that in less than 4 days, you will receive an email that you have been granted the visa with a link by which you can download it in PDF format.
You must print this PDF file in color in A4 format, although you can also save the PDF file on your mobile and show it upon entering Russia.
Here is an example of an electronic visa recently requested:
STEP 4. Acquire travel insurance
Now you have your visa, but to enter Russia, in addition to the visa, it is necessary to have travel medical insurance with coverage in Russia, which covers your entire period of stay in Russia.
Travel medical insurance must be purchased before traveling. It is not possible to buy it when arriving in Russia, neither at the airport nor at any border entry point. In addition, the policy must come in Russian or English, it must cover the entire period of your trip and it must specify that it has coverage in Russia or worldwide.
Travel insurance can be purchased online, although you must print the policy to present it along with your electronic visa.
A quick and inexpensive way to obtain travel medical insurance online is through the Russian company Cherehapa, through which you can get an 8-day travel insurance with coverage in Russia for just over 9 euros:
3. ARRIVING TO RUSSIA
Now that you have your visa and your travel insurance, you should know that as soon as you arrive in Russia, you have to follow the following steps and procedures:
Step 1. Passport control and immigration card
As soon as you get off the plane you will pass through passport control in immigration counters or booths enabled for that purpose. There are two different lines, one for Russian nationals and one for foreigners.
The procedures for passport control, if there are not many arrival flights at the same time, usually take no more than 15 or 30 minutes. If there are more arrivals and many people (usually in summer), then it’s not uncommon that you have to wait an hour or more.
At these counters a number of immigration officials (usually women) will thoroughly review your passport to verify that the data is correct and that it has no amendments.
If you are wearing a cap, sunglasses or something that covers your face, take it off, since immigration agents will carefully check that the photo in the passport is yours.
At the border control points, you must submit the following documentation:
- Electronic visa printed in color on an A4 sheet. You can also save a copy of the electronic visa on your mobile and show it to the customs agent.
- Travel medical insurance
After the control, the customs officer will complete the so-called immigration card. You can find a detailed explanation of the immigration card in this article: Russian airports: the immigration card and customs procedures.
Step 2. Picking up the luggage
Once you have passed through the passport control, you can go to the baggage claim area. If the passage through the passport control area was fast you may have to wait a little while to get your bags out, but if passport control was slower, then your bags will be already waiting for you.
The odds of losing your luggage at a Russian airport are no greater than at any other airport in the world, since it depends more on the airline you travel with and your flight connections, than on anything else.
Step 3. Customs Control
After picking up your bags you will pass through customs. There are two corridors, the green one, if you have nothing to declare, and the red one, if you have something to declare.
In general, most tourists who travel to Russia have nothing to declare and go through the green corridor. However, in certain cases it is necessary to go through the red corridor and fill out the customs declaration form: if you carry more than 10,000 dollars (or the equivalent in other currencies), if you carry alcoholic beverages and beer in an amount greater than 3 liters, if you carry more than 200 cigarettes, etc.
More information on limitations and restrictions in this article: Russian airports: immigration card and customs formalities
Step 4. Registration in Russia with the unified e-visa
The registration is basically the process by which the Russian authorities are notified, after your arrival in Russia, of the place where they can find you if needed.
Registration is always the responsibility of the host (hotel, apartment, etc.), which must be a Russian citizen or a foreign citizen with permanent residence in Russia.
Is it mandatory to register in Russia with an e-visa? It depends.
If you are staying in Russia 7 business days or less, you don’t need to register. Weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) or the holidays don’t count as business days. For example, if you arrive in Russia on Saturday, August 1 and leave on a Monday, August 10, then you don’t need to register since your stay will be 6 business days.
Registration is required when you are going to be more than 7 business days in Russia.
More information in this article: Registration in Russia: What it is and how it is done
I hope this article has helped you apply for your electronic visa. Below you can tell us your experience.