A foreigner who wants to visit Russia for the purpose of tourism or recreation will require a valid Russian tourist visa. A Russian tourist visa is granted for single or double entry. It is valid for a maximum of 30 days from the date of entry into Russia.
While in Russia, a visitor can neither change the status of his or her visa (e.g. from tourist to business visa, educational visa, etc.) nor extend the validity of the visa (except in cases of extreme emergency).
A Russian tourist visa process has three stages: invitation letter, visa application and visa registration
Stage 1: Invitation letter
The first stage to obtain a tourist visa to Russia is to acquire an invitation letter. It is also referred to as ‘visa support’ or ‘tourist confirmation.’ Typically, an invitation letter must be issued by the party that invites you to visit Russia.
The invitation can only be issued by a registered Russian travel agency or by an organization or company that is authorized by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Generally hotels and hostels issue an invitation letter to any visitor staying with them against payment of a small fee (usually ranging from EUR 20 to EUR 30). In case you do not plan to stay in a hotel or a hostel while on your trip to Russia, you will have to buy an invitation.
Normally the costs for such an invitation range from EUR 15 to EUR 35 for a tourist visa. You can avail an invitation through most travel agents and several online websites that issue invitations to tourists against a small fee.
Stage 2: Visa application
The second stage to obtain a tourist visa to Russia is to apply for the visa at a Russian embassy or consulate. Before applying for a tourist visa to Russia a visitor must check the rules of application and the required visa fees at the Russian embassy in his or her country.
Generally costs of application vary according to the type of visa applied for and how quickly the applicant requires the visa. Russian embassies are known to have visa application rules and fees that differ from one embassy to another.
Therefore, it is better that a tourist checks the rules specified at the Russian embassy in his or her home country and apply for the visa in that embassy.
Stage 3: Visa registration
The third and final stage to obtain a tourist visa to Russia is to register your visa upon arrival in Russia. After you arrive in Russia you must fill out an immigration card that is issued by passport control.
The immigration card is a form that you have to fill out either in English or in Russian language. You have to surrender one half of the form to the passport control immediately and retain the other half during the entire duration of your stay in Russia.
You have to return this other half only when you exit Russia. The immigration card is an important document that you must keep carefully; else you may face problems while exiting the country.
You have to register your visa within three working days after your arrival in Russia. Visitors who plan to spend less than three days in Russia do not need to register their visa. You can register your visa at the hotel where you will stay or through a travel agency or through a post office or through your friend or relative.
After you register your visa, you will receive a document that will specify the dates that you will be staying at a particular place or location. Though registration may seem like a hassle, you will have to bear it for a smooth tourism experience in Russia.
Eligibility criteria for Russian tourist visa
Your eligibility for a Russian tourist visa will depend on the condition that you fulfil the following criteria:
- You must have a valid and signed passport
- Your passport must have a validity that extends the duration of the visa you are applying for by at least 6 months
- Your passport must have at least two blank pages
- You must have a copy of your Russian visa application form, completed and signed by you
- You must have evidence of a valid letter of invitation or visa support
- If you plan to stay in a hotel, you must provide proof of your hotel reservation, showing reference number and confirmation number for the visa
- You must provide proof of your return air tickets
- You must provide proof of your financial ability so as to support yourself financially during your stay in Russia and for your return transportation
- You must provide a formal statement of your financial situation from your bank for the last three months, showing proof of sufficient funds
- You must have evidence of valid health insurance that covers the period of your proposed visit to Russia
- You intend to leave Russia at the end of your authorized stay
Steps to follow to apply for Russia tourist visa
Before you apply for Russian tourist visa, decide on the dates when you will be travelling to Russia and finalize which cities you will be visiting.
You will have to include this information in your tourist visa application. Once you have done that, you can go ahead with the application procedure mentioned below.
Step 1: Obtain invitation letter or visa support
As mentioned earlier, the first step towards obtaining a Russian Tourist Visa is to get an invitation letter. Remember that an invitation letter from your friends or relatives may not be regarded as valid visa support documentation.
As such, it is better to get an invitation issued by a registered Russian travel agency or by an organization or company that is authorized by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Step 2: Fill out the visa application form
Fill the Russian tourist visa application form online and print the completed visa application form. You can also download the application form and then fill it up. Remember to sign the completed visa application form.
Check with your nearest consular department regarding whether the form is valid with them before you submit your application. This is because citizens of some countries are required to fill in a longer and more detailed form than the one needed to be filled out by the citizens of other nationalities.
Step 3: Gather the required documents
Make a check list of the documents that you need to submit along with your application form. Gather all the documents and keep them ready for submission.
Step 4: Get the visa photograph taken
Provide your recent colour photograph for the visa application. Make sure that your photograph matches or corresponds to all the specifications required for visa photographs.
In most cases you will need to submit at least two passport photographs along with your visa application form. You will also need to sign the photographs on the reverse side.
Step 5: Keep the visa application fee ready
Keep ready the visa application fee that you will need to submit along with your application form. Check with the Russian embassy or consulate in your home country to find out the mode of payment accepted by them.
Step 6: Submit the visa application form
Submit your visa application at the Russian Embassy in your home country. You will have to submit the visa application and the required documents along with the required application fee in person.
Generally Russian embassies do not accept visa applications and documents from authorized persons, representatives or agents under any circumstance. You will be provided a receipt after you submit the visa application and the required fee.
Step 7: Wait for the visa decision
After submission, wait for a decision to be taken regarding your visa application. You will be provided a date on which you can get in touch with the embassy regarding the visa. Contact the embassy on that date to know if you have been granted the visa.
Step 8: Collect the tourist visa
Collect the visa on the specified date. To collect your visa you must carry the receipt given to you after the submission of your application form and visa fee.
Step 9: Obtain a migration card
You will need to obtain a migration card at the point of entry into Russia. It is a form that you must complete and submit at passport control. Half of the form will be kept at the passport control and half will be returned to you after being stamped. You must retain your half till you exit Russia.
Step 10: Register the tourist visa
You must get your visa registered by the party that will provide you with accommodation for your stay in Russia. You must get your visa registered within three days of your entry in Russia. You will be provided with a proof of your visa registration, which you must retain carefully till you exit the country.
Required Fees for Russian tourist visa
- Fees for Single Entry Tourist Visa –INR 2790.00
- Fees for Double Entry Tourist Visa –INR 5580.00
- Your application fee will not be refunded if your application for a tourist visa is refused or rejected for any reason.
- The visa application fee is subject to change at any time.
Dos and Don’ts of Russian tourist visa
You need to remember the following dos and don’ts while applying for Russian Tourist Visa.
- Apply for a tourist visa well in advance of your planned travel date to allow enough time for the application procedure to be completed on time
- Consult the Russian embassy or consulate in your country to check whether they accept copies of invitation letter that have seen sent through email or fax, or whether they accept only original documents
- Fill up your application form carefully with all accurate details
- Provide photos that are of matt finish and not glossy finish
- Bring original copies and photocopies of all supporting documents when you come to submit your visa application form at the application centre
- Consult the Russian embassy or consulate in your country to check whether any additional document is required
- Do not present false documents for your tourist Visa
- Do not hide or misrepresent facts in your application