Applying for a visa to travel to Russia from the United States or Canada, whether for work, business, study or tourism, is not as complicated a process as it may seems. In this article, I’ll explain how to gather all of the documents you’ll need to apply for a visa from your computer in a way that is quick (less than 1 hour) and cost-effective. I also explain the additional requirements for Covid-19. Despite the the war in Ukraine, consulates issue visas to travel to Russia.
Updated in November 2022
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I’ve had to apply for tourist visas to Russia for family and friends on several different occasions. The process for obtaining a visa to Russia is an extremely bureaucratic one and thanks to this, many companies have taken advantage of the opportunity to do business related to it.
Hundreds of internet articles explain the process for obtaining a Russian visa, but I haven’t found any that clearly explain each step of the process in detail or explain how to complete the process yourself without relying on outside help or intermediaries.
It’s for this reason that I’d like to explain in detail how a US citizen can obtain a visa to travel to Russia in an easy and inexpensive way.
- If you will be traveling to Russia on a trip organized by a travel agency, the agency will likely take care of the entire visa process and simply ask you for the necessary documents. If this is the case, the price will be significantly more than if you file for the visa yourself.
- This article gives a step-by-step explanation of how to obtain a visa on your own from the United States. The process is very similar in other countries:
- Canada. Read this step by step guide: How to Get a Russian Visa in Canada. In Canada differs at just a few points: You need to present and introductory letter from yourself giving full details of the travel, destinations, terms and purpose of the visit. Also, in case of applying for a double entry tourist visa, it is also required to provide a copy of airplane or ground transportation tickets showing the full travel route from the Russian Federation to the neighboring state and back to the Russian Federation.
- United Kingdom. Read this step by step guide: How to obtain a Russian Visa in the UK .
- Australia. Read this step by step guide: How to obtain a Russian Visa in Australia.
- India. How to obtain a Russian Visa in India.
1. INTRO QUESTIONS
Before going into detail about the Russian visa application process, it’s important to answer a few questions in order to better understand the procedures.
1.1. What is a visa and who should request one?
A visa an authorization for a citizen of a foreign country to enter, stay in, or pass through the territory of the Russian Federation. It is a document that adheres to your passport and looks something like this:
Below you can see what the different sections of a Russian tourist visa mean:
If you are from USA or Canada, you will need to obtain a visa in order to travel to Russia.
However, people from about 40 countries that have bilateral agreements with Russia are exempt from needing to obtain a visa (see map). For example:
- Those with passports from ex-USSR states like Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine, etc. are allowed to enter Russian territory using ordinary passports from their respective countries.
- Most South American and Central American countries are exempt from needing to obtain a Russian visa.
Source: Visa policy of Russia – Wikipedia
Also, note that tourists from all over the world on board large cruise ships have the right to stay in the Russian Federation without a visa for up to 72 hours provided living on board of a ferry or within a territory defined by the group tour program. They have the right to leave the ship and come back on board of the ship only as part of an organized tourist group and within the defined program.
- All the information about Russian visa exemptions in this article: Is it possible to travel to Russia without a visa?
1.2. What types of visas exist?
Depending on the purpose of the entry, the Russian Federation issues 7 types of visas:
- TOURIST. This is the most common visa and as the name indicates, it is issued for stays that are for tourism purposes. Regular tourist visas are either Single or Double entry, for a period of no more than 30 days. You will need a letter of invitation from a Russian Licensed Tour Operator. It can be obtained in 5 minutes (below I explain how). Double-entry tourist visas are only issued when the second country is of the ‘near-abroad’ (CIS states, Baltics) or those that require return transit through Russian territory, such as China and Mongolia, etc.
- Important. In accordance with the simplified visa formalities agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States, from 2012 US citizens are able to obtain either a 3-year Multi-Entry Tourist visa upon request which exceed the 30 day stay limit. The easiest way is to obtain a standard visa support letter (single or double entry) for 30 days from one of the services mentioned in this article (for example, iVisa), but then specify a 3 year long period in your visa application form. The starting date of your visa would be on the day your visa support starts, but the end date would be not in 30 days, but in 3 years (ex. Date of Entry 25/10/2019 until Date of Departure 24/10/2022-minus one day).
- PRIVATE VISA. These are issued to guests of Russian Nationals who reside within the territory of the Russian Federation. If you are staying in a private apartment with a Russian friend or family member, you can process a private visa, although the process is slower and more complicated:
- If your stay is for a maximum of 30 days, it is easier to process a tourist visa. Simply include random hotels in the invitation letter and once obtained the visa you can stay where you want.
- If your stay is more than 30 days (and 90 days maximum), then you must ask your Russian friend or relative to get you a private invitation letter to process a private visa. It may take 2-3 weeks. It must be requested through the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation.
- BUSINESS. This type is for trips to Russia that are professional in nature and have a commercial purpose or are used to do business. The period of validity of the business visa can be 30, 90, 180 or 365 days (even more in certain cases).
- It is a kind of visa that is also usually requested by people who do not have business in Russia but want to visit the country for a period of more than 30 days (maximum allowed by the tourist visa). It must be kept in mind that in essence the business visa is not addressed to these travelers, but the Russian authorities have always been permissive with this practice (maybe one day it will change).
- STUDENT. This is issued to those who are studying in the Russian Federation.
- WORK. Visa that permits a person to work in Russia.
- HUMANITARIAN. Issued for stays with for the purpose of cultural exchange, sporting events, scientific/technological, socio-political, religious or humanitarian missions.
- TRANSIT. Used to pass through the Russian Federation in order to reach another country.
- This visa is not necessary for foreigners who have a layover in an airport given that they don’t leave the international area or for those who fly over the territory without a layover. More info about transit visa in this article.
Latest Russian visa statistics:
- 53,2% of visas issued in 2016 were for tourism, 26.1% for business, 7.2% for humanitarian reasons, 5.6% for private visas, 4.2% for work and 1.4% for studies.
- Germany, China, France, Finland, Italy, the United States and Great Britain accounted for 53% of visas issued by Russia.
- Behind these countries stand out by number of visas issued: Estonia, Latvia, Spain, Japan, Lithuania, Poland, Switzerland, India, Netherlands, Turkey, Austria, Czech Republic, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Belgium, Vietnam, Sweden and Iran.
Source: Visa statistics 2016 – Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia
In general, all types of visa are processed in a similar way. The only difference worth mentioning is the obtaining of the so-called letter of invitation that, in the case of a tourist visa, is issued by a Russian tour operator or, in the case of a business visa, must be issued by a Russian company that has invited you to visit and in the case of a student visa, must be issued by the Russian educational institution where the person will be attending.
1.3. Where is the visa processed?
As an individual, you can have your visa processed at any consulate of the Russian Embassy in the United States (which can be found in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Houston, and Seattle) as well as at the Russian Visa Center in USA, an independent business that is subcontracted by the Russian Embassy in the USA which also has delegations in these same cities.
If you are Canadian or reside in Canada, you can process your visa at any consulate of the Russian Embassy in Canada (located in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal) as well as in the Russian Visa Center in Canada, whose offices are also in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal).
Let’s talk about the advantages and inconveniences of processing a visa at each of these sites.
Option 1: Consulates of the Russian Federation in the USA
In the USA, you can visit a consulate of the Russian Federation depending on which state you live in:
Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington (Consular Section)
Consulate General of Russia in New York
Consulate General of Russia in San Francisco (Closed since September 2017)
Consulate General of Russia in Houston
Consulate General of Russia in Seattle
- The only advantage of applying for your visa in one of these consulate offices is that it is a little bit cheaper. The normal processing of a visa costs $160 (same price for expedited processing). You do not have to pay the $38 administrative cost that is applied at the Russian Visa Centers.
- You must request an appointment in advance and it is likely that it will take a while to get one
- Customer service is not a strong suit of the consulates
- The application must be done through an interview process (it cannot be done through the mail or courier service).
- If you are missing a single document or something is done poorly, you will have to return on another day as the consulates do not provide additional services like completion or correction of forms, photocopying, or photo and mailing services.
- Not all consulates give appointments in advance for tourist visas and instead recommend that these be processed at the Russian Visa Center.
Option 2: Russian Visa Centers
During the last few years, the number of visas to Russia from the USA and Canada has greatly increased. Because of this, and to streamline the process, authorization to manage and process Russian visas was given to the Russian Visa Center, an entity managed since January 2020 by the private company, Russia Visa Centre which handles visas for the residents of the USA and Canada (before January 2020 was managed by VFS Global and before April 2019, by Invisa Logistic Services ILS).
Since then, the Russian Visa Center has been allowed to process visas used to travel to Russia. They are available in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Houston, and Seattle, as well as the Canadian cities of Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal.
The Russian Visa Center acts as an intermediary between the applicant and the consular section by receiving documents, verifying they are correct and complete, and sending them to the consular section to have them processed. However, the final decision to approve or deny a visa application still comes from the Consulate.
The individual consular sections recommend on their websites that you apply for a visa at the Russian Visa Center, as this significantly lightens their workload.
All other websites that offer Russian visa are NOT AUTHORIZED AGENCIES but simply private companies that act as intermediaries and make the final cost of the visa a lot more.
- The visa process can be complete either face-to-face or at a distance through the Visa Center courier service.
- Better Hours of Business: Monday through Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm (closed on Saturday and Sunday)
- You can easily make an appointment in advance, although you can also just take them your documents without having to make an appointment.
- In the offices, they offer additional services for purchase that are not available at the consulates: completion of application forms, photocopying, visa photos, mail service processing, etc. Everything is set up so that you don’t have to come back on another day (and of course do business).
- In exchange for better service, the price of the visa is greater since applying requires additional management and a cost of $38 per visa is added (and $85 if applying through the mail).
I have always applied for visas through the Russian Visa Center since it is the most effective and fastest place to apply to get a visa. Even more, if you forget a copy or haven’t filled out the form correctly or need a photo, the Visa Center can provide any of these services so that you don’t have to come back on a different day.
In contrast, at the consulate sections, you often have to wait a long time for them to give you an appointment. In addition, in the case of a tourist visa, some consulate offices don’t even accept applications directly and refer you to the Russian Visa Central anyway.
Option 3: Private agencies
One last option is to use the services of a private agency, which will be in charge of carrying out the whole process of managing the visa. The main advantage is the comfort (you give them your data and they take care of everything). The main drawback is that the price will be higher.
For example, the VisaHQ agency offers visa processing services, for which you must complete your form and make the payment. You can check the requirements (for tourist, business or private visa) through this form:
1.4. How much does it cost to get a visa?
The cost for processing a visa is divided into two quantities:
- The actual visa processing fee, called consular taxes, which at the consular sections cost $160 for a regular or expedited visa (processed within 10 calendar days from the date of delivery of the documentation). At the Russian Visa Center the cost will include the additional $38 dollars in administrative fees (+$85 if completed by postal mail).
- In addition to the cost of processing the visa, you must also add the cost of the letter of invitation or visa support, which is also required. In the case of the tourist visa, hotels can proved the letter for free, but this rarely happens and we have always had to pay anyway. The cheapest are around $18-$20 (later I’ll explain how to get one for this price in a PDF format in a few minutes).
The cost of a tourist visa at the Russian Visa Center is as follows:
- $198: $160 in consular taxes + $38 in administrative fees
- $18: letter of invitation
- TOTAL: $216 per visa
Important: you need to pay extra 45 $ (including tax) per each application if you are submitting documents in Visa Centre in Seattle or San Francisco, because Russian Consulate in Seattle does not process visas and Russian Consulate in San Francisco is closed, so the Russian visa centres in Seattle and San Francisco have to send the documents to another consulate.
If you do the procedure through a private agency you must add at least $ 50 (also note that if you request the invitation letter through a private agency the cost will be higher).
Note: In Canada, the consular taxes for each visa are usually 112 CAD (single entry) and the administrative cost could be up to 50 CAD. A step-by-step guide on how to obtain a Russian visa in Canada in this link.
1.5. When should I start applying to get a visa?
You can apply up to 90 days prior to their date of travel. The Embassy recommends that you apply at least 3 weeks prior to your date of travel to accommodate any unforeseen processing delays.
However, applying for a visa and gathering the necessary documentation can take some time, so I recommend beginning the process about 4 or 5 weeks ahead of time. Although, if you already have a passport and electronic copies of your documents, as I explain in this article, it is possible to get through the process in 2 weeks (or 3 or 4 days if you use the expedited process).
2. STEPS TO APPLY FOR A TOURIST RUSSIAN VISA
When applying for a visa, you must provide the following information:
- The electronically completed Visa application form (you must print, sign, and glue a passport-sized photo)
- Passport (must be the original). In some Visa Centers they will also ask you a photocopy of your passport identity page.
- Letter of invitation or visa support (“Сonfirmation from a Russian hosting travel agency or hotel registered with the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism”)
Next I’ll explain the step-by-step process of obtaining your visa. Remember that the visa application form must be filled out with information from your letter of invitation and must clearly state the dates of your visit and which cities you will be staying in. Because of this, it’s better to gather your documents and complete the form once you have all of the information you need for the visa application.
- In accordance with the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on the simplification of visa formalities for nationals of the Russian Federation and nationals of the United States of America, the US citizens shall as a rule be issued multiple-entry business, private, humanitarian and tourist visas that are valid for three years (36 months) from the date of issue of the visa.
- In order to apply for a 3-year multiple-entry Tourist visa, the easiest way is to obtain a standard visa support letter (single or double entry) for 30 days from one of the services mentioned in this article (for example, iVisa), but then specify a 3 year long period in your visa application form. The starting date of your visa would be on the day your visa support starts, but the end date would be not in 30 days, but in 3 years (ex. Date of Entry 25/10/2019 until Date of Departure 24/10/2022-minus one day).
- When filling out the electronic visa application form at: http://visa.kdmid.ru choose «multiple» from the drop-down menu and indicate a 3-year period of stay starting from the date of entry in your visa support documents (invitation).
- A multiple-entry visa allows subsequent trips with a purpose other than what was initially indicated in the visa. Thus, the new purpose of each trip and information on the new hosting organization must be indicated in the Migration Card form in order to clear Russian customs and border control.
Step 1. Have a valid passport
To apply for a visa, you must have a Passport that is valid for at least six months after your visa expires. You should also have at least two blank pages available.
To apply for the visa you must submit your original passport, which will remain in the hands of the Consulate or Russian Visa Center for a few days. This is because the visa will be attached to one of the pages of your passport.
You must also submit a photocopy of your passport identity page.
Your passport must not present any type of deterioration such as being torn on the cover, be stained or having broken pages. In these cases it is better to renew the passport before applying for the visa, since in the consulate they are usually very strict and they won’t approve the visa if the passport is damaged.
Step 2. Set your itinerary: Cities and Hotels
Your visa must include your entry and exit dates meaning the first and last date that you will be in the country. This means you will need to know the dates of your trip before applying for your visa.
Once you know your entry and exit dates, you should outline your itinerary and plan out the cities you want to visit and the hotels or apartments where you’ll be staying.
On the visa application form, you have to include the cities you are going to visit as well as whether you will be making one or two entries. The most common type is single entry visa but you may also want to visit St. Petersburg, then go to Finland and return to St. Petersburg (double entry). You may also want to visit Latvia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan or Georgia. If so, you need to be very clear about where you will be going and what dates you will be entering or exiting the country.
To book accommodation I always use Ostrovok, a Russian booking platform in which you can find wide variety of accommodation and very good deals. Other good option is Booking.com. I recommend you use hotels with free cancellation. This way later, if you want, you can change hotels.
I made a short list of hotels I recommend as value for money is very good:
- Ibis Moscow Centre Bakhrushina (3 stars)
- Novotel Moscow Centre (4 stars)
- Novotel Moscow City (4 stars)
- Radisson Royal Hotel (5 stars)
- Ibis St Petersburg Centre (3 stars)
- Novotel St Petersburg Centre (4 stars)
- Park Inn by Radisson Nevsky (4 stars)
- Radisson Royal Hotel (5 stars)
More info about accommodations in Rusia in this article: Accommodations in Russia: How to choose and where to make a reservation cheaply.
A typical example itinerary for a trip to Russia:
- Trip Dates: September 21-30, 2022 (10 days)
- Stay in Saint Petersburg from September 21-24
- Travel on the Red Arrow night train from Saint Petersburg to Moscow during the night of September 24 (I recommend that you get tickets for the train electronically through the RZD Russian trains website instead of using a third party).
- Stay in Moscow from September 25-30.
- Another example here: Organizing a Trans-Siberian Train Trip
Step 3. Get a letter of invitation or visa support
The letter of invitation (also known as the visa support letter) is the most important document but also the most controversial. The letter of invitation should not be confused for a hotel reservation. They are not the same. It is not necessary to have a hotel reservation in order to get a visa.
This document is needed to apply for a visa and must be issued by a Russian person, institution, hotel, or business who has invited you to visit them. A Russian family member, university you’ll be attending, a business or a hotel where you will be staying can provide you with the letter.
Visa support is the most common support received when getting a tourist visa. This document is issued by the hotel in which you’ll be staying and is printed on an A4 page. It is divided in two separate but similar parts:
- The Tourist Services Contract (tourist voucher) is the document that states that you have hired a Russian hotel service. This part will show your personal information, the cities you will be visiting, as well as the services you will receive from the hotel and the proof that you have paid for a reservation.
- The Foreign Tourist Reception Confirmation (confirmation letter), as the name indicates, confirms you will use the hotel during your visit. It also includes personal information and the accommodations you’ll be provided with during your stay. The visa support includes 4 things that you will need when filling out your visa application form. Take a look at the example of the real visa support shown below to see the 4 things which are marked in red:
- Name of organization: Visa Centre, LLC
- Address: 10, Bolshaya Konyushennaya st, 4th floor, St. Petersburg
- Reference number: 007612
- Confirmation number: 3856
How do you get visa support for a tourist trip? There are two options:
- Option 1. Ask for it directly from the HOTEL, they can either fax or email it to you. While the document should be free in theory, the hotels usually charge a fee (between $ 25 and $ 40). If you stay in two or more hotels, you will need an invitation letter from each hotel.
- Please note: if the hotel makes you a free invitation letter you must stay at the hotel since if you cancel the reservation after obtaining the free invitation, the hotel can invalidate it and charge you a supplement.
- Option 2. Getting a letter of invitation on your own through an authorized RUSSIAN TOUR OPERATOR. If you simply want to do things more quickly without having to call or email each individual hotel, there are different travel agencies that can quickly provide the visa support online in 5 minutes for about $ 20. With this option you can include the hotels or apartments in which you are going to stay, but with the advantage that later you can change the hotels after obtaining your visa (you may find a cheaper hotel, or Airbnb apartment or one that you simply like better than the original hotel or apartment).
The three best options that I used to get an invitation letter are: iVisa, Russia Support and HotelsPro. You can get it in 5 minutes in PDF format and you should print it in color.
If you have booked your accommodation through Airbnb (or platforms such as Wimdu, Tripping, CouchSurfing, Interhome, HomeAway, VRBO, HomeStay, etc.), you can get an invitation through iVisa, Russia Support or HotelsPro. In these cases, in the invitation request forms (Hotel section) specify “apartment + address”. More info: How do I get the invitation to Russia if I’m staying with Airbnb?
If you travel on a cruise to St. Petersburg, specify the name of your cruise. More info: How do I get the invitation to Russia if I travel on a cruise ship?
Let’s see how to obtain an invitation letter with these Russian tour operators:
iVisa is one of the best systems currently available to obtain an invitation letter to travel to Russia. The system of issuing visa support is fully automated. You receive the invitation letter immediately after paying (in PDF format ready to print). You can pay by credit card or Paypal. Currently, the price is about $22 each visa support.
The automated process of purchasing visa support can be done through this button:
The form is simple to fill. Here is an example:
3. Payment: PayPal or credit card
4. Download Invitation
After payment you can download the invitation letter in PDF format. You will also receive the invitation in your email. An example of a visa support:
The information you need to fill out the visa application form:
- Name of organization: Visa Centre, LLC
- Address: 10, Bolshaya Konyushennaya st, 4th floor, St. Petersburg
- Reference number: 007612
- Confirmation number: in the above example is 3856 but note that it is different for each visa support.
Another excellent system is that used by Russia Support, an agency specializing in the issuance of invitation letters. The form is very easy to fill out and allows you to get the invitation letter, ready to print and to present along with the rest of the documentation. The price is cheaper, it costs 19,90 USD. They usually send the letter of invitation quickly (in minutes), although sometimes it may take a few hours.
The process of purchasing visa support can be done through this button:
Russia Support – Invitation to Russia
The form is simple to fill:
The information you need to fill out the visa application form:
- Name of organization: VOYAGE EXPO, Ltd
- Address: Russia, 109382 Moscow, 129 Lublinskaya st
- Reference number: 017740
- Confirmation number: in the above example is 166407 but note that it is different for each visa support.
HotelsPro is a registered tour operating business. A letter of invitation costs 1.200 rubles (about $21). Once you have paid they will send you the letter by email. The price is the same for both single and double entry visas and can be much more expensive through other providers.
To get the letter, head to the reservation button:
Next, you will have to make the payment with a debit or credit card:
Below you can see the screenshot of the email you’ll receive once you have paid for the invitation. You can download and print your letter of invitation in PDF format. I’ve marked in red the information from the letter of invitation that you will need to include in your visa application form:
Step 4. Fill out the Visa Application Form
Once you have all of the information you need as far as dates, entries/exits, a current passport, and your letter of invitation, you are ready to fill out the visa application form.
The form can be filled out electronically by visiting:
The application should include your personal information, the purpose of your visit (tourism, business, study, etc.), your itinerary and dates, your insurance policy information and other information that I’ll show you here.
When you go to fill out the form for the first time, you should select your country (USA) and the language you would like to continue in. Also mark in the box that you have read the introductory information. Next, click Complete new application form.
You can leave your form incomplete and come back another day but make sure to write down the code you are given in reference to your account since you will need it, along with your last name and answer to your security question, in order to log back in to your account. If you forget your code, you will have to fill out a new application.
Choose a password to be able to recover the form later (for example: ma123456789). If you have any problem to retrieve a completed form, you can fill in a new form.
The first information they will ask on the application under the “Visa details” section are:
- If you had USSR or Russian nationality at some time
- Purpose of visit and visa category and type
- Number of entries (single or multiple)
- Date of entry into Russia / Date of exit
- If you are applying for a visa 3-year Multi-Entry Tourist visa you specify a 3 year long period in your visa application form. The starting date of your visa would be on the day your visa support starts, but the end date would be not in 30 days, but in 3 years (ex. Date of Entry 25/10/2018 until Date of Departure 24/10/2021 – minus one day).
Once you have filled out this information, click the Next button:
On the next page, you should input your personal information in capital letters as it appears on your passport:
- First name
- If you have ever had other names: maiden names, pseudonym, holy order, etc.
- Date of birth
- Place of birth
- You must specify whether you were born in Russia
- Marital status
On the next page, finish entering the information from your passport:
- Type of passport
- Passport number
- Date of issue
- Date of expiry
- The name of the authority your passport was issued by (United States Department of State)
In the section that says Visit details, you should include the following information from your visa support that I mentioned earlier:
- Travel company (in the case of tourist visa)
- Name of organization
- Reference number
- Confirmation number
Note: If you have more than one visa support, you only need to fill out the information for the visa support from the first city that you will be visiting.
You should also include information from your itinerary (cities you’ll visit) as well as the name of your insurance company and policy number if you have travelers insurance. It’s always recommended that you have traveler’s insurance (for example, Cherehapa).
If you stay in an apartment (from Airbnb or similar), in the Hotel section specify “apartment + address” (same as in your invitation letter).
Next, you need to indicate who is paying for the trip to Russian as well as the hotels you will be staying in including the name and address (these should coincide with those listed in your visa support).
To continue, you will need to answer a series of questions, the answer to most o which will be “no” except for the question that asks if you have personally completed the application to which you should answer “yes.”
On the next page, mark whether you have attended any educational institutions, excluding secondary school. Also mark if you have ever changed your place of employment before entering the current job.
On the next page, mark whether or not you have received a Russian visa in the past, if you lost your passport, or if it has been stolen as well as the other countries that you have visited in the last 10 years which will probably take some difficult remembering (I can hardly ever remember them all).
To continue, you will need to enter family information (name of your father and mother, your contact information, and the company where you work or school where you study. The required fields are marked with a red asterisk. If applicable, you should indicate whether your parents are from Russia.
Lastly, select the place where you will be processing your visa application. You can select any consulate or Russian Visa Center in your area:
Once you have finished entering all of the information, a summary will appear in case you would like to change something. If all of the information looks correct, click the Save button.
On the next page, you’ll see that you can download the completed form as a PDF. Simply click on the A4 Print button.
Step 5. Print the Visa Application Form, sign it, and glue a photo
You must print the PDF form double-sided, write the date, paste a photo, and don’t forget to sign it:
The photo should be an original photo (3,5 x 4,5 cm) that is recent, in color, from the front, against a white background, and without glasses with tinted lenses or hats. Detailed instructions:
Step 6. Take all of your documents to the Russian Visa Center (or consulate)
Once you have all your documents, the final step is to take everything to the Consulate or to the Russian Visa Center that is nearest your place or residence. This can be done in person or by mail.
Option 1: Consulate
You can submit documents at the consular establishment of the Russian Federation in USA that is in your jurisdiction by prior appointment only. Appointments have to be booked online:
- Washington: http://washington.kdmid.ru/
- New York: http://new-york.kdmid.ru/
- Houston: http://houston.kdmid.ru/
- Seattle: http://seattle.kdmid.ru/
To apply at the consulate, you must make an appointment in advance. I have tried on a few occasions to request an appointment at the consulate through this system but I usually find that the schedule is completely full (in red) and I have been unable to request an appointment ahead of time.
Note that applications sent by post are not accepted for processing.
Option 2: Russian Visa Center
A) Applying in person
When applying in person at a Russian Visa Center, you don’t need to make an appointment ahead of time. Just drive to the Russian Visa Center nearest you and give them your completed documents.
Payments can be made at the Russian Visa Application Centre in USD by cash or by major Credit or Debit Cards.
You must come either in person, or nominate a person to submit the documents on your behalf, providing they have a letter of attorney.
B) Applying through the mail
If you are unable to apply in person at a Russian Visa Center, you can also send your application by mail.
Step 7. Collect your passport with your visa
If you apply in person, in order to collect your passport with your visa you will need to present the original receipt given to you during the submission. If you wish to nominate somebody to collect the passport on your behalf, they must carry the original receipt.
Processing times vary from application to application and are at the sole discretion of the Russian Consulate. Processing times under normal circumstances are as follows:
- Normal application – 10 Calendar Days from the day the documents are submitted to the Russian Consulate for review.
- Urgent application – 3 Business Days from the day the documents are submitted to the Russian Consulate for review.
The final result of the whole process is your passport with your visa attached to one of the pages. Check the validity of the visa issued to ensure that it covers the period of stay requested, the number or entries required, and that it is valid for the purpose of trip immediately after collection of the passport. The Embassy of the Russian Federation in USA accept resubmission of passports for correction on the day of the passport collection only.
Below is an example of a tourist visa (ТУРИЗМ, 004), with the information you should check:
Step 8. Travel insurance (optional)
US citizens are not required to present traveler’s medical insurance in order to receive a visa though it is recommend that you have travel insurance that will cover anything that may happen during your trip (medical expenses, cancellation costs, etc.)
A very good option is Cherehapa, a Russian company specializing in travel insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online your travel insurance to Russia, even after you’ve left home. The insurance has a medical expenses coverage of 50,000 euros (Covid-19 insurance coverage included).
If you want to apply for a Russian visa on your own and want to avoid the hassle of third-party providers and consulate offices, the easiest way is to apply through the authorized Russian Visa Centers. The visa will cost you $198 which includes the $38 administrative fee.
If you already have a passport (remember that you have to take or mail the original passport), the rest of the necessary documents for the visa application can be quickly and easily gathered in less than hour through the Internet:
- The letter of invitation for $19-20 from iVisa, Russia Support, or HotelsPro.
- Complete the visa application form for free through the website https://visa.kdmid.ru/PetitionChoice.aspx, which you can print, sign, and glue a photo to.
Once you have all the documents, take them to a Russian Visa Center and in less than 10 business days your visa for your trip to Russia should be ready (3 days for expedited applications).
3. ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR COVID-19 AND WAR IN UKRAINE
Once you have obtained the visa and before boarding the plane, you must take into account the additional requirements for Covid-19 that must be met:
Every passenger must show a printed medical document (in English or Russian), confirming a negative PCR test for COVID-19 no older than 48 hours, at the check-in and then at the border of the Russian Federation. Since 4 September 2021 the 14-days isolation for those arriving to Russia is no longer required. As of October 21, 2022, a negative Covid-19 PCR certificate is no longer required for foreigners to enter Russia. As a consequence, you can enter Russia with your passport and valid visa.
- However, you still need to fill out a form that you can download on the website of the Federal Service for the Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor): https://www.rospotrebnadzor.ru/files/news/авиаАнкета%20RUS.docx
- Despite the war in Ukraine, consulates issue visas to travel to Russia.
4. SUBSEQUENT FORMAL PROCEEDINGS AFTER OBTAINING THE VISA
Once you have the visa and the Covid-19 documentation, you should bear in mind that there are two additional steps that must be done once you get to Russia: the immigration card and visa registration. The first thing is usually completed by the customs officer and the second the hotel where you will stay.
It is important to always carry both the passport and the immigration card while traveling, and the accreditation of the registry in case it may be required from you on the street by the police (it is rare for them to do so, though).
Document 1: Immigration card
Once you enter the territory of the Russian Federation, you must fill out the immigration card, though in practice, at large airports, it is usually the immigration service which takes care of it (either digitally or manually). It is done during passport control.
The immigration card is a paper which consists of two equal parts that are the size of a passport page. One of the parts is kept by the border police and the second will be delivered to you. It is important that you keep this card as they will ask it to you when you leave the country. In addition, you will also need the immigration card to register the visa, as I explain in the next section.
In the following screenshot you can see how the immigration card looks, which usually comes in Russian and English:
Document 2: Registration
If you have applied for a tourist visa, you have the obligation to register within the first 7 working days of arrival (excluding weekends and holidays). Before March 2011, the registration must be done within 72 hours, but the new Russian law modified this term. If you are going to stay in Russia less than 7 working days, then you do not need to register.
The purpose of this registry (which comes from the communist era) is to notify immigration authorities of the place where you will stay while you are in Russia. The registration must be done in each of the cities that you are going to visit.
You will need to fill out another registration form. It’s not your obligation to register, but rather the hotel where you are staying or the host of the apartment where you are staying.
If you are staying in a hotel, when you arrive, the hotel itself will register your visa. They will ask you the passport with the visa and immigration card (the one you get at the border when you arrive to the country).
If you will not stay in a hotel, but in a private house, then the Russian host is the one required to register his/her guest at a police station or at the post office. You don’t need to be present in the registry but you must provide your host a copy of the first page of the passport, the visa and the immigration card. You may be charged a small fee for this procedure.
The accreditation registration is not required to leave the country, though the immigration card is required.
In the following screenshot you can see how this form looks. The tourist stays with the bottom part (from the dotted line):
I hope this article has helped you apply for your visa to Russia from the United States and Canada!
If you’ve found it useful, please share. Thank you!
I am applying for the tourist visa at VFS Toronto and they ask for a ‘Introductory Letter’ from myself indicating itinerary, terms and purpose of my trip. Do you have any tip for that?
Simply write and sign a letter, indicating all aspects: itinerary, purpose of your trip…
Hi Irena, after you apply for the visa in one of the visa centers, who can pick up the passport? For example, if I go apply in San Francisco, can my sister-in-law pick it up for me and my husband in 10 days or do I have to pick it up since I applied? Also, I have an 18 hour layover, do you recommend a transit visa? Will I be able to get one or should I just do the tourist visa? Thank you for any info you can provide!
I managed to piece together just about everything I needed to make a business visa application but the invitation letter portion left me stymied! This article was far more helpful than anything I’ve read online or obtained from the VFS Global in Canada – thank you! I just wondered whether the i.Visa support letter was suitable for business travel as well? The screen shots don’t say anything specifically about whether it’s tourist or business travel and we’d only be applying for a single-entry visa regardless.
For a business visa you need a business invitation (not tourist). You can also get a business invitation with iVisa.
Thanks. Would you be able to point me to the right link for the business visa on iVisa? I couldn’t find it through the link on your website. Also, as ILS Canda seems to now be going out of business, I’m wondering if you can recommend any other reputable visa centers for Canada?
Thanks so much, Irena!
Leo S. Abdalati
my heart has been broken since i know , hotels-bro and ivisa don’t offer invitation services to Libyan citizenship .
while other websites are not trusted so what can i do please?
HI, Irena what wonderful information. I am planning to visit St Peters for 3 days then go to Batumi for 1 week and back to st Peters for 2 days before returning to Canada. Do I have to request multiple entry visa for this ??
Double entry visa
Thank you! I was having a really hard time figuring out all the steps I needed to take, but this article was extremely helpful!
Thank you very much Andrea!
Thank you for the useful information. I have some questions, for example am I able to apply for a visa at ANY of the consulates? I currently live in Arizona and my “given” one is in San Francisco but they do not accept work visas through mail. Will I be able to simply send it to the one in Houston instead?
Also, if I must go to SF do you know if they will mail back my passport if I simply go to drop it off?
I know this isn’t tourist related so I understand if you might not know the answer.
Thank you anyway for the great article!
Thanks for sharing this awesome blogs.
Hi Irena, This is a very helpful article. However, the visa services centers in Canada closed last week and the Toronto consulate does not seem to be processing visas anymore either. It seems that application only works via the embassy or consulate in Ottawa. They also say that applications will not be accepted if arriving by mail or courier. I live a long way from Ottawa, and wondered if a local friend could drop off the application for me? Do you have any updates or suggestions about obtaining a single entry tourist visa for Canadians, given these recent changes. Thanks very much. Ruth
The visa office on Sparks street will accept applications sent via Canada Post. I found the office to be very responsive and thorough in answering questions sent by email. I had three visas processed within the 10 days referenced in their information.
This is such a lovely and informative web site. Thank you so much for the information.
Thank you for commenting 🙂
Many thanks for the article. I have a question: how to best acquire a multi-entry visa valid for at least three months as a Canadian? I emailed the Russian consulate in Ottawa and they told me it’s enough to get a letter of invitation for a multi-entry visa, but neither of the two services you linked in the article provide multi-entry letters for tourist visas (only single and double). Should I apply for a business visa, or what’s my best option?
I’m applying for a Russian visa next month at the Washington, DC Consulate Section.
Already made an appointment.
My question is about Health Insurance.
You mentioned it’s optional, however
I can’t find any specific information about it.
Can they ask to present it as a mandatory document? What should I say if they do?
Is possible to obtain visa without it?
You can not find information because no insurance is required for US citizens. Insurance is required for EU citizens.
List of Documents Required: http://www.ils-usa.com/page…
I’d like to say thanks for all this information!! It made me confident to apply for the Russian tourist visa via mail. I did mail my application more than 90 days before the requested date of entry.(about 4 months in advance), and I got an email from [email protected]-usa.com saying that the visa can’t be applied for more than 90 days in advance.
After significant back and forth, I emailed them a plane ticket showing I was leaving USA in 40 days (to Japan) and said “I will be traveling to other countries before I stop in Russia so I can’t have my passport tied up in your office at that time.” Therefore they made an exception and mailed me back my passport and my visa. (Maybe I got lucky)
My question is, does anyone have experience staying for the full 3 years in Russia? At the end of 183 days, do I just need to cross the border, then immediately re-enter to reset the 183 days? If so, what questions were asked and what are the correct answers?
EDIT: I found here, you must be out of the country for 1 full day: https://www.russianvisaguid…
but I’m still curious if anyone has experience doing that and getting asked difficult questions like why you are staying in Russia so long.
Thank you for all of this information which has been so helpful in starting to plan a trip to Russia! I just want to make sure I correctly answer the question on the electronic visa application form, “Have you ever been issued a Russian visa?” If was issued a Soviet Union visa back in the day, but never a Russian one, I should indicate “no,” right?
Whew! Thanks! Now, under “Last visit details” for the question “Have you ever visited other countries in the past ten years?” The limit was 30 trips but if that is less than 10 years, do I need to add the remaining visits in another way?
No, but include at least the countries in your current passport
Ok, thank you!
Thanks for this very helpful info. I was a little confused on the added cost of applying via mail. It says “In exchange for better service, the price of the visa is greater since
applying requires additional management and a cost of 33 dollars per
visa is added ($103 if applying through the mail).”
Then it says “At the Russian Visa Center the cost will include the additional $33
dollars in administrative fees (+$85 if completed by postal mail).”
So if we are applying by mail, do we need to add $70 or $85 to the enclosed money order?
It has changed (now $ 85): http://www.ils-usa.com/page…
Thank you for all this information. This is a very comprehensive review.
I am traveling to Russia from NYC with my family this summer, which includes a few minors. I’m trying to make it more efficient and less costly so would you answer these questions?
1) Can just 1 person bring all of the traveling parties’ documents to the Russian Visa Center or do all applicants need to be present?
2) Does each applicant need to be present to pick up the visa/passport? Or can 1 person pick them all up?
3) If I choose to apply by mail, can I send all applications with supporting documents in 1 mailing? How will this affect the cost?
Yes, you can: http://ils-usa.com/page/94?… (questions 3 and 4)
Mail service: http://ils-usa.com/page/83?…
Thank you for fantastic review, so helpful. I am actually a Russian citizen, but found this info so helpful applying for visas for my husband and son. It’s much more helpful than Russian website and even ILS website. One curious note – my husband and son have different passports (New Zealand and USA) and the USA application had a LOT more details (travel history, planned hotels stay, parents names etc). New Zealand application just wanted very basic information, that’s all. Seems that not all foreign countries are equal!. Anyway, thank you again.
Thank you very much Nadya 🙂
Great info – thank you so much!
I just booked my two week trip to Russia in September. I understand from an earlier discussion that you were saying that we can’t apply visa 3 month prior to the arrival date, correct?
Shall I get the Visa Supporting documents now or shall I wait to the 3 month mark? Will those Visa Supporting documents expire?
Appreciate your help,
My friend and I have a 10 hr layover in Moscow in September (we have US passports), in which we would like to see Red Square and grab a bite to eat. Can you please tell me all the steps required to obtain a transit visa? Also, do transit visa’s for less than 24 hrs get denied often? Thank you!
The steps are basically the same. The main difference regarding the tourist visa is that in the transit visa you do not need a letter of invitation but instead you need entry visa to the destination country, a passport of the destination country, or a reasoned request and the documents proving the necessity of stopping. More info: http://ils-usa.com/page/76?…
Best information available on the internet! Thank you Irena!
Hi Irena, What if date of entry in Russia changed and delay for couple of days after I received visa?
For instance , I stated I am going to enter in Russia March/13/2017 but It delay two days so I will arrive in Russia March/15/2017. As long as I have one month visa Can I visit in Russia within a month ?
Hi Irena, There will be 3 family members traveling together to Russia. Do we need a Letter of Invitation for each person, or can we each use the information from one Letter of Invitation on our separate Visa applications? Thanks.
You need a Letter of Invitation for each person, but you can acquire them all at once in a single form
Why does the Consulate want Bank Statements and Plane Ticket information?
The Consulate wants to know that you have enough money to travel to Russia and for the whole stay.
That makes sense, but would I be denied a visa for not having a Plane Ticket Purchased.
Ok Thank you anyway for your help.
Honestly, I do not know.
Hello Irena! Thank you so much for such a detailed article. A couple questions: if we are planning to go to multiple cities within Russia for two weeks do we need to register there at the post only in the first one or each of them? Also, if I am Russia but travelling with my American husband there and the first city we will be is my home town for a week, do you think it’s ok if we put in invitation letter that we are staying in the hotel but in reality we will be in my family’s apartment – I guess in that case, we would need to register at the post with my home address instead of hotel? would not they ask at the passport control in Russia documents supporting payment for the hotel in my home town as we will only have for Moscow and Petersburg?
So many thanks in advance
– Registration is explained in this article: http://russiable.com/regist…
– If you are applying for a tourist visa you can include random hotels and then stay in private apartments.
Hello, do I have to apply in person to obtain a private visa? How does this work for 1 entry versus 3-year multi-entry? I would be apply in the Houston office, however I live in Dallas. I would like to avoid the trip. This would be my third private visa, but it’s been 4 years since my last and both visas were through the NY offices.
You can mail your documents to the Visa Center of your choosing: http://www.ils-usa.com/page…
Hi . . Merry Christmas !
Can you get a longer “tourist” visa or would
one apply for a different version of the available
visas . . . I might be inclined for a 2 month stay
next spring ?
Thank you ! Peace !
You can get a three-year multiple entry tourist visa or a business visa (many agencies sell invitation letters for business, even if you do not have business in Russia)
Merry Christmas !
I am planning on travelling to Moscow in late January to visit someone I met online 2 years ago. I have two DUI (alcohol) convictions that occurred 23 years ago. Would I be refused because of this? Do they have access to my criminal record?
I don’t think so
My total application fee, with the 99$ service fee from VisaHQ, and $50 dollars for the invitation letter, was roughly $470 cdn. ($52 each way for courier service for a total of $104 for mailing fees).
The process through VisaHQ was really quite easy. This is for a single entry Visa. It was Passed to the Consulate on the 9th of December and was told it should be ready by the 14th.
One other question. Since applying for my Visa, I was now considering taking the high speed train to St.Petersburg, but I did not state that on my Visa application. What happens if I am checked in St. Petersburg but my Visa stated that I would stay in Moscow only?
I would also like to say thanks for this page Irena, it was a real help. 🙂
I read all this info and was thinking of visiting Russia and have now changed my mind.I will NOT VISIT Russia, too many steps, expensive Visa and too much work.The visa fee is even more expensive than my one way flight ticket to Europe from Canada.This is a waste.Not going to russia, better go to Ukraine
I am 22 and my girlfriend and I are applying for the 3-year multi-entry visa. We both study Russian, have studied in Russia and plan to return multiple times these next few years. I am reviewing the ILS-USA website and see:
“Additional Information for Tourist Visas
3-Year Multiple-entry Tourist visa
-Statement from employer regarding applicant’s wages;
-Copy of health insurance valid in Russia, including Americans;
-Documents regarding applicant’s ownership of property in the country of his citizenship;
-A certificate on the makeup of the applicant’s family”
The issue is I’m a student – I do not own property, and I am not employed. Is this information really needed? Anything I can do in my application to avoid these requirements? I am planning a vacation for Christmas in Russia, and will return in the Summer so I really hope to get this 3-year visa!
I think it’s unusual, but the Consulate has the right to call the applicants for an interview and request, if needed, this documentation.
I just wanted to let you know, and everyone else in the Southern United States know – this additional information is REQUIRED to apply for the 3-year multi entry tourist visa through the Russian Consulate in Houston, Texas.
I drove there today (a 2 hours drive), had an appointment and was turned away.
The first question they asked is if I have all these specific documents. I live with parents and I was told I would need to write a letter explaining this, provide the address AND have proof by providing a copy of my parents mortgage information.
Because I am currently working – I must provide my bank statement.. even if parents are helping pay for the trip. I was given a list that includes all the listed documents in my original post that I also had to provide for my application to be processed.
I called the Washington D.C. consulate and they will allow me to apply there and they do not require these documents upfront. So, I will be sending my application there.
I do not know which other consulates have this requirement or are that strict, but the Houston visa center WILL NOT accept your application for 3-year multi if it is not all presented upfront. I hope this helps other in the region applying or wondering about this information.
Thank our for the article Irena!
Thank you very much for the feedback!
Hello! Thank you so very much! Do you know if I can save on shipping to the ILS by combining three applications — my own, husband’s and my my son’s — into one envelope? Seems like that should be ok, but maybe not!!
Yes, of course you can.
Wow, what a helpful page! Thanks so much for laying this out. I am a US citizen and planning on traveling in South American and Europe before Russia. I have seen other sites state that the earliest you can apply for a Russian visa is 90 days before travel. Therefore I would need to mail my passport to someone in the US to mail to the consulate, and then have them mail the completed visa and passport back to me– a SCARY prospect. Can this be done earlier than 90 days before travel?
Hi Sarah, thanks. You cannot apply for a Russian visa earlier than 3 months before your trip
This was the most helpful walk-through I think I’ve ever seen on any process – thank you so much! It was perfect! Quick note, as a US citizen, I just applied completed the online visa application (Aug 10, 2016) and it no longer asks you to list every country you’ve been in the last 10 years. It actually doesn’t ask anything about where you’ve been. I had already spent two hours compiling my 60+ international trips over the past 10 years, so might be handy to update the notes so especially those of us that travel a TON don’t waste time on it 🙂 Thanks again – this was awesome!
Thank you very much for the feedback!
Sadly I was wrong… I did learn that a typical US Passport is a “Tourist” passport. That “Official” passports are those of diplomats and the government. After my application got rejected and switched to “Tourist” it did require all sorts of things… last two jobs with bosses names… all my colleges… all my charity organization memberships… all the countries visited in the last 10 years (BTW they only let you enter 30, I had 62, so I had to limit to just current passport and only first entry per country, which was exactly 30, fingers crossed it works!!)… makes the China Visa seem easy.
Thank you so much for this information – we just received our visas for our trip to Russia in August. One question – we put our entry date as August 12 – because we arrive to Moscow that morning. However, we get on the plane (in the United States) to go to Moscow the afternoon of August 11 – that won’t be a problem, right?
1) My current passport was issued in 2009. and expires in 2 years 8 months. Will they issue a 3 year visa for my current passport or do I need to get a new passport first?
2) I was previously in Russia 2 or 3 times between 1998 and 2001 … But I don’t know the dates or have my old passport. So I have no idea about the visas that I used at that time … So I do not know what to put in the online visa application form. What should I do?
– Yes, you need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the visa expiry date.
– You can include approximate dates
thanks for the reply.
Since my passport expires in 2 years and 8 months. Can I apply for a visa that is 2 years and 2 months? This way, I have 6 months remaining validity and would not need to get a new US passport first.
Sorry if this was posted already but I’ve been having some technical difficulties with my computer.
First off, wow! Great site and info! I’ll be sure to use it for my upcoming Russian adventure!
I had a visa question, though, and I was hoping to get some guidance. I am an America passport holder and thus will apply for the three-year multiple entry tourist visa.
I plan on entering Moscow and staying there for five days. I will then leave Russia and reenter Russia about two weeks later in St. Petersburg for another five days or so. My hotel in Moscow is willing to write me an invitation letter for free. My question is, would that invitation letter, that would clearly just be for the initial few days’ stay in Moscow, would it be sufficient for obtaining the three-year multiple entry visa? Or do I need an invitation letter from the second hotel in St. Petersburg where I will be for my second trip to Russia (a few weeks after Moscow) or possibly a tourist agency issuing me an invitation for the full three-year period of the visa?
The easiest way is to obtain a standard visa support letter for 30 days from one of the hotels (or from HotelsPro), but then specify a 3 year long period in your visa application form. The starting date of your visa would be on the day your visa support starts, but the end date would be not in 30 days, but in 3 years.
I have a “five-day, single-entry” invitation letter from my hotel. If I turn that in to the Russian visa center in the United States, will they convert that letter into a three-year, multiple-entry visa? Or do would I need another letter (for a longer time)?
If I apply in person at a Visa Center (3 1/2 hr drive) do I receive the Visa that day or do I have to drive back to pick it up?
Hi Donna, you have to drive back to pick it up (processing time: 10 calendar days). Note that you can use mail service (http://www.ils-usa.com/main.php?id=postal-service&lang=en).
I am having problems accessing the Russian visa application form . . . . is there a problem with the link/with the embassy website?
I have no problem accessing
Thanks – I think the computer I was using had a bunch of firewalls that was making things difficult for me. I tried on another computer and was able to access the form!
Before reaching this website, I was sooooo lost.
Thank you so much for putting up this information.
VERY HELPFUL !!!!
Thanks a million !
Thank you very much !
Hi Irena, Great web site! Very useful. The one question I have is regarding registering our Visas. We will be staying at Airbnbs so its not as easy as if we were staying at a hotel to have our visas registered. We will spending about 5 days in St. Petersburg and 4 days in Moscow. Do you have an agency you can recommend who can help with the registration? We land at SVO, fly to St. Petersburg the same day, then take a train to Moscow and fly out. Ideally if there is an agency at the SVO airport that would work great as we have a long layover. Thanks!
I suggest you contact the host to do the registration since it is the host who is obliged to do so. The host can do so at any post office.
I used http://travelrussia.su/en/ to obtain the letter of invitation for RUB 1000. Easy and smooth process.
Nice job on your post. You made a confusing (and expensive) process much easier! Thanks for you effort.
Thank you very much Tim 🙂
Hi Irena, great post! I think Russian Embassy should hire you! I think you would be able to replace a bunch of people there and make many customers much happier.. and the process more clear and straight forward. One scenario is not included and I wanted to see if you can provide any feedback on it based on your experience. We are coming to Saint Petersburg only for two days while on a cruise by Baltic countries. However, it seems that we still have to get a “Confirmation of hosting a foreign tourist”, which to me sounds very silly. I would expect some sort of an exemption for these kind of tourists, but I can’f find any. Do you know anything about it? The second question, we are planning on getting together with our friends there, that is why we need a visa, so do you think a personal invitation from them would suffice?
Thanks Gary. Have a look at this link: https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g298507-i707-k5493639-Visa_free_trip_to_St_Petersburg_with_private_lodging-St_Petersburg_Northwestern_District.html
Thank you for the link. The problem with that ‘visa-free’ option is that there is no guarantee that for whatever reasons the Russian authorities will let us out of our cruise ship with that document, and I really don’t want to take any chances, as we have very limited time in Piter. On the other hand, the private lodging is really not any different from what you recommended with HotelsPro.
You can arrange a tourist visa with a letter of invitation of HotelsPro (including a random hotel) and then stay with your friends.
Hello Irena, I was just wondering if it will be a problem if I will be leaving and exiting the same day? I have an 8 hour layover and wanted to take the train to the center for a couple hours and then return to catch my flight? Does it matter if the entry and exit date are the same?
No problem. Note that you can handle a transit visa: http://ils-usa.com/main.php?id=transit&idd=required&lang=en
Thank you so much. Your answers and web are very helpful.
Thanks for the detailed information. The Hotels Pro site you listed does not offer Invitation Letters to Indian citizens. Do you have any suggestions for reliable websites I can use? I also read that Indian citizens are categorized as ‘high risk’ for immigration and the visa invitation letter charge is higher and that we need an original copy to submit with the visa application.
(I’m an Indian citizen but a US permanent resident and will be applying to the Washington DC embassy for my tourist visa – traveling for a friends wedding in July)
You’re right. Try with ivisaonline.com ($ 37,75 each visa support for Indian citizens).
Thank you. I’ll try them and let you know how it goes. I think for Indians we need the original hard copy of the letter, right?
I think so, but you better ask at the visa center
Hi Abhishek and Irena,
I am an Indian citizen and US permanent resident looking to apply for a Russian Tourist visa as well. Do you know what the consulate fee for the visa application is? The ILS website (http://ils-usa.com/main.php… shows $160 but states that the rates are applicable only to US citizens. I am looking for the consulate fees for non-US citizens.
Do you know if I can apply for a tourist visa more than 90 days before my trip? I see no reference to time frame on the ILS site.
Yes, you can apply more than 90 days before your trip (I think a maximum of 180 days before).
Thank you for the detailed information.
I’m retired. So the answer to question 40 – “Place of work or study, present position” would be NONE.
Should I answer NONE to question 27 – “List your last two places of work, excluding the current one”, given there is no “current one”?
Hi Chang, you can answer NO to both questions
Hello Irena: This is just to point out that there is a mistake on Step 5. You list the size of color photo as 2″x 2″ to be attached to completed form. The form gives the size in centimeters and its much smaller than 2″x 2″ photo size you list.
Hi Bob, according to official information (http://www.ils-usa.com/) is 2″x 2″, but you’re right, correct measures would be 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm (have a look at this official link: http://www.ils-usa.com/data/files/docs/fotoservice.pdf)
Irena: So which photo size is right or are both sizes acceptable? I originally got the 2×2 size photo and when I saw the form I cut the photo done to 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm. This size seemed to be acceptable at ils NY office, but have not got the visa back yet. So I’m hoping this will be okay!
I think 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm is OK. Let me know if you have any problem. Thanks for the feedback
Kindly advise if printed application has been changed since last week , today i filled application form , saved, but when i printed that it looks completely different from your example, at the left upper corner it is written ” ON-LINE VISA APPLICATION FORM” not VISA APPLICATION and also without picture in left upper corner .
Thanks for the warning. You’re right. The form must fill in the same way but the final PDF file you get is a little different though comes with the same data as the previous form.
Thank you for your answer!
Hello Irena. Thank you so much for this tutorial. This is the best instruction in the whole internet. I followed step by step and after 20 minutes I completed all my documentation. Today I sent all the documentation to the Russian Visa Center in New York.
Hello Mariusz. Thank you very much. I hope everything goes well.
You made things very clear, thank you. i do have one question about listing the countries visited in the last 10 years. Do i have to list all the countries that i had connecting flights or just the destinations? Thank you again, i will do this myself.
Just in case, it is preferable to list all countries, including countries with connecting flights (especially if countries are specified in your passport)
That’s exactly why i was asking, because my passport is stamped from the countries with connecting flights……thanks again
Hi. This makes the most sense. I am going to visit a friend and was told she could notarize a letter for me, but this is all too complicated. Much easier to pay the $20 (fee went up I guess). Also the fees are dated, the new ILS fee is $118 and the cost of the actual visa is $160. This is by far the most expensive visa I have ever had to obtain, the total is $298. It would be a cheaper if I lived in San Francisco and could go to the office, but the cheapest mail in fee is $118. Thanks so much for this very clear outline on how to obtain the invite. I hope I get it in the next 24 hours. If you don’t hear from me again, means I was successful.
Thank you very much for your comment David. I have to update the article with the new fees. Let me know if you have any problem.
Hi Irena, thank you for your help. The only concern I have now is the lack of contact by Russian Visa Center in SFO. I called them before applying and spoke to a human being. Then I submitted my application by mail and I have called 10 times to confirm they received it and now no-one picks up the phone. I do have proof of receipt by post office but no contact from them. I tried emailing also but they don’t reply to that either. Secondly, I asked for a 3 year multiple entry even though I am only going for 3 days to Moscow right now. I think this is correct but saw some conflicting info on website.
Just to let you know. I had difficult time since they failed to communicate with me for a week after they received my paperwork. But I did finally get the visa. One point to know. My passport expires in 2 years and 11 months. So they did not give me a 3 year multi entry visa. Instead they gave me a 2 year and 5 month visa. I guess they did this because my max stay is 6 months so they want to make sure my passport does not expire when visa expires. But other countries give you the full time on visa because then when you get new passport you can travel with old and new passport to show your visas are still good. Russia does not do this. It’s unfair how expensive this visa is for 3 year or less. But thanks for this useful website. Hope this comment helps others.
You’re right David. Thanks for the feedback.
Thank you very much Irena for this tutorial. I followed step by step. Yesterday I submitted all the documentation in the Russian Visa Center in San Francisco and everything was correct. In about 10 days the visa will be ready. Some agencies asked $ 300 !!
Hello Michael. I’m glad to hear that. Thank you very much Michael for your comment.