Russian Visa: Requirements, Application, Cost

IMPORTANT NOTE! This article describes standard visa procedures. Covid-related restrictions may lead to temporary suspension of routine visa services and border closures. Please contact your local Russian visa center for the latest updates. 
Obtaining a visa is often the first thing to deal with when you are going to Russia no matter whether you are coming as a tourist, businessman or employee. In this article you will find the most relevant Russian visa requirements, information on who needs a visa to Russia, how to choose the right visa type, how and where to apply for a Russian visa and how much it costs.

Do I need a visa to Russia? 

Most visitors including US, UK and EU citizens need a Russian visa. However, citizens of 60 countries enjoy a visa-free regime with Russia. Below is the full list:
1. Abkhazia — for up to 90 days
2. Antigua and Barbuda — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
3. Argentina — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
4. Armenia — for up to 90 days
5. Azerbaijan — for up to 90 days
6. Belarus — for unlimited period
7. Bolivia — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
8. Bosnia and Herzegovina — for up to 30 days out of each 60-day period
9. Botswana — for up to 30 days out of each 60-day period
10. Brazil — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
11. Brunei — for up to 14 days
12. Chilie — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
13. Columbia — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
14. Costa Rica — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
15. Cuba — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
16. Dominica — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
17. Ecuador — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
18. El Salvador — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
19. Fiji — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
20. Grenada — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
21. Guatemala — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
22. Guyana — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
23. Honduras — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
24. Hong Kong — for up to 14 days
25. Israel — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
26. Jamaica — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
27. Kazakhstan — for up to 90 days
28. Korea, Republic of — for up to 60 days out of each 120-day period
29. Kyrgyzstan — for up to 90 days
30. Laos — for up to 30 days out of each 60-day period
31. Macao — for up to 30 days out of each 60-day period
32. Maldives — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
33. Mauritius — for up to 60 days out of each 120-day period
34. Moldova — for up to 90 days
35. Mongolia — for up to 30 days out of each 60-day period
36. Montenegro — for up to 30 days out of each 60-day period
37. Nauru — for up to 14 days
38. Nicaragua — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
39. North Macedonia — for up to 30 days out of each 60-day period
40. Palau — for up to 30 days out of each 60-day period
41. Panama — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
42. Paraguay — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
43. Peru — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
44. Qatar — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
45. Saint Kitts and Nevis — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
46. Saint Vincent and Grenadines — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
47. Samoa — for up to 60 days out of each 120-day period
48. Serbia — for up to 30 days out of each 60-day period
49. Seychelles — for up to 30 days out of each 60-day period
50. South Africa — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
51. South Ossetia — for unlimited period
52. Suriname — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
53. Tajikistan — for up to 90 days
54. Thailand — for up to 30 days out of each 60-day period
55. Ukraine — for up to 90 days
56. United Arab Emirates — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
57. Uruguay — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
58. Uzbekistan — for up to 90 days
59. Vanuatu — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
60. Venezuela — for up to 90 days out of each 180-day period
If you are a citizen of the country from this list you are eligible to come to Russia without a visa for a specified period. Your national travel passport is the only document you will need to cross a Russian border. Visa-free regime covers only non-commercial visits. If you are going to get employed, you must obtain a work visa and/or a work permit.

How to choose the right visa type

Choose the right visa type depending on the purpose of the visit and your needs:
Visa type Purpose of the visit Visa duration
E-visa  Tourism, attending a conference / exhibition, visiting relatives or friends (short-term), meeting business partners (short-term). Available for citizens of 50+ countries 16 days
Tourist visa Tourism, attending a conference / exhibition, visiting relatives or friends (short-term), meeting business partners (short-term) 30 days / 3 years (US citizens only)
Business visa Business (long-term or multiple-entry) 30-360 days
Guest visa Visiting relatives or friends (long-term) 90 days
Work visa Working 90 days, extension up to 3 years
Student visa Studying, working (part-time) Up to one academic year

Can I get a Russian e-visa (online)?

Starting from 1.01.2021 Russia will start issuing e-visas. E-visa is the simplest and cheapest short-term visa option: 
- e-visa will allow to visit any part of Russia and to stay here for up to 16 days;
- e-visa will be issued without any additional paperwork like invitations or reservations;
- e-visa applicants will enjoy reduced consular fees;
- e-visa is obtained without visiting Russian consulate or visa center. Applications can be submitted online.
Currently e-visas are available for applicants from Andorra, Austria, Bahrein, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuweit, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, the Netherlands, North Korea, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, the Vatican.
Currently e-visas are already available for visiting St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad and the Far East for up to 8 days.

How to get a Russian tourist visa

A tourist visa is the cheapest and easiest to obtain. It is the best option not only for tourists, but for everyone who is coming to Russia with a short-term visit. Here is a step-by-step plan on how to obtain a Russian tourist visa:
1. Obtain a tourist voucher and letter of invitation from an authorized travel company. It can be done online, and the voucher and invitation are usually sent in a PDF file. Make sure the supplier is registered with the Russian Tourism Office (Rosturism) and Foreign Ministry. A tourist voucher and invitation are required for a tourist visa even if you are coming to Russia to visit friends or attend a conference.
2. Fill in the visa application form at https://visa.kdmid.ru and choose the visa center closest to your location. Make sure you provide the same information as in your passport, tourist voucher and invitation.
3. Prepare the following documents:
a) Your national (travel) passport with at least two blank pages and valid for at least 6 months after the intended visa expiration
b) Tourist voucher and invitation (printed version)
c) Filled in visa application form (printed version in addition to the online submission)
d) Two passport-sized photos.
4. Submit these documents to your local Russian visa center or consulate. Also, you will be required to pay there the consular fee. The consular fee depends on your citizenship. For example, for US citizens the Russian tourist visa fee is 160 US Dollars; for EU citizens it is 35 Euro. If you submit documents through a visa center, they may charge a service fee.
5. The actual visa processing usually takes a few working days. If you carefully prepared all the documents and filled in the application form, your visa will be issued with no complications.

How to get a Russian business visa

Russian business visa can be issued for 30, 90, 180 or 360 days (the actual stay in Russia is limited to 90 days out of each 180-day period). Business visas are more expensive, and preparing the required paperwork often takes 1-3 weeks, but it is a perfect choice if you need a long-term multiple-entry visa. Here is a step-by-step plan on how to obtain a Russian business visa:
1. Obtain a letter of invitation from your Russian partners or from an authorized travel company. Depending on where you apply for a visa and the visa duration the invitation may be sent online or in a hard copy by mail. In certain cases the invitation should be processed through Russian Migration Service taking for up to 3 weeks.
2. Fill in the visa application form at https://visa.kdmid.ru and choose the visa center closest to your location. Make sure you provide the same information as in your passport and business visa invitation.
3. Prepare the following documents:
a) Your national (travel) passport with at least two blank pages and valid for at least 6 months after the intended visa expiration
b) Business visa invitation (except cases when it is sent by Telex directly to the consulate)
c) Filled in visa application form (printed version in addition to the online submission)
d) Two passport-sized photos
e) HIV certificate (for multiple-entry visas)
4. Submit these documents to your local Russian visa center or consulate. Also, you will be required to pay there the consular fee depending on your citizenship, visa type and duration. If you submit documents through a visa center, they may charge a service fee.
5. The actual visa processing usually takes a few working days. If you carefully prepared all the documents and filled in the application form, your visa will be issued with no complications.

Obtaining a Russian guest visa

A guest visa can be issued for up to 90 days. The procedure for the guest visa is almost the same as for the tourist visa. However, instead of an invitation from a travel company, you will need to present an invitation prepared by Russian Migration Service upon your friends' or relatives' request. This is the most time-consuming part of the application process. That is why if you are planning a short guest visit, applying for a tourist visa is almost always a better option.

Obtaining a Russian work visa

A work visa is usually issued for 90 days and can be extended for up to 3 years. It is the only visa type allowing working full-time. The procedure for the work visa is similar to the procedure for the business visa. However, instead of a business invitation you will need to present an invitation prepared by Russian Migration Service upon your employer's request. This is quite complicated and time-consuming procedure (mainly for your employer), but unfortunately there is no way to avoid it.

Obtaining a Russian student visa

A student visa is issued for the duration of the educational program or for one academic year. A student visa allows not only to study, but also in certain cases to work part-time. The visa is issued upon an invitation from a Russian school / college or university. The rest of the paperwork is the same as for the business visa.

Can I mail the paperwork?

Usually Russian visa centers and consulates do not accept documents sent by mail. However, most of them have authorized visa agents who can submit documents on your behalf. Thus, you mail documents to a visa agent, and they submit them to the visa center / consulate and send you back your passport with your visa when it is approved.
Please note that some Russian consulates may ask for additional documents or slightly change the procedure. It is always recommended to contact your local Russian consulate to double-check the procedure.
We will be glad to provide you Russian visa support as well as invitations for a tourist or a business visa. Feel free to email us your citizenship, purpose of the visit and intended travel dates, and we will assist you with choosing the right visa type, checking the cost and processing time.