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How to get a Russian visa

Hello everybody,

I'm considering visiting Russia next summer, but I'm a little bit concerned with the visa process. It said on the visa website that you have to apply at the Russian embassy of your country of citizenship. I'm Canadian but I live in the UK right now. Does anybody know if the embassy in Britain would accept my visa application or if I would have to send something to Canada? Thank you!

Posted by
21157 posts

Call the Russia embassy and ask. No one here knows the precise answer. Anyone would be guessing.

Posted by
6375 posts

What Frank said. Only the Russian authorities can answer your question.

Posted by
5188 posts

While "call the embassy" is sort of a stock answer, it may not help much. Russia maintains a weird system where you can not just independently travel there, you need an invitation or a voucher...then go through the Visa process.

Most people go through an agency to handle it all.

Maybe start here...

https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/russia/how-to-get-a-russian-visa

I hear that Rick Steves guy has some useful travel information once and a while.

Posted by
4283 posts

For what it is worth, I am a US Citizen with Austrian residency. I applied for and received my Russian visa in Austria.

Posted by
12317 posts

If i remember correctly I had to list my parents and grand parents and their occupations and the final pdf had to be printed with precise 2mm border. I failed that part, but the agency caught it before it was submitted. And yes, they took my passport but the whole thing took less than 2 weeks as they hand carried it and returned it FEDEX overnight.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks! If anybody has the answer to this as well, I remember hearing something about being able to visit Russia without a visa if you're coming to Russia to watch an international event (I think they had something like that when the World Cup was there). Is that still a thing? Where could I find out about that? I just want to see what all my options are.

Posted by
18721 posts

I read about the event-based option, too, but don't remember any details.

The easiest way to visit Russia at any time is to take advantage of the visa-free option for passengers on international ferries to St. Petersburg. That gets you up to 72 hours, I think, but you are limited to St. Petersburg. If Moscow or other cities are a must, you'll need a visa. The visa-free ferry option has been discussed several times on this forum. Skimming through the list of older threads will reveal several that may be helpful to you.

You can find some information on this ferry-company website: https://stpeterline.com/en/-/visa-free-rule

Posted by
416 posts

Pre-covid, the options for US/Canadian citizens would've been:

  1. Regular visa, with or without an agency (in my experience, the agency is totally unnecessary). Must apply at the country of "residence" - i.e. if you have a UK residence card, you apply in the UK.

  2. Visa replacement scheme for international events (worked for Commonwealth Cup in 2017, the World Cup in 2018, and should've worked for two UEFA matches in 2020, but they have been postponed to June 11 and July 11, 2021). Need to have tickets to the event, apply for a visa-replacement FAN-ID (FAN-ID.ru), visit within a certain time window (two weeks before and after the event).

  3. Visa waiver. Must visit by sea via a port from a restrictive list (SPB is one of them), stay for under 72 hours, and be "accompanied" by an official guide at all times. The only two meaningful options here are a Baltic cruise and a Stpeterline ferry (cheaper, better, and used a loophole in regulations to allow passengers to stay on shore and move around freely without the guide).

Posted by
4822 posts

We are from the USA and visited Russia for three weeks in 2011. Great trip, included a river cruise, Moscow and St. Pete.

The visa is a bit of a pain in the butt, so we paid a visa company to help us. Cost was about $200.

Posted by
18721 posts

The current visa fee is $160 if the applicant does all the work himself. Using a visa service will certainly drive the cost up significantly.

Posted by
416 posts

Realistically, though, the amount of "work" to be done by applicant himself is exactly the same across all scenarios, be it application via the embassy directly ($160), via an approved visa center ($198), via an approved visa center by mail ($283), or via "a reputable agency" (the above-mentioned $283 plus whatever fee the agency feels like slapping on top of that).

Only the applicant knows for sure whether they are coming to Russia to "solely, principally, or incidentally engage in prostitution", whether they "have been involved in human trafficking", or "seek to engage in espionage, sabotage, export control violations or other illegal activities". No matter how fancy and/or reputable the visa agency is, they won't be able to give you a list of countries you visited over the past 10 years or give you the maiden name of your maternal grandmother.

Finding and providing all that information is the responsibility of the applicant. The best an agency can do is advise you on making sure the margins are 2mm on the nose (and even then they would be less than truthful, as the application is actually done online, and nobody gives a hoot about margins anyway).

Posted by
12317 posts

My application was about 6 years ago, and my memory may be failing me or maybe things have changed, but my I seem to remember having to mail my passport along with a printed application with a wet signature. The agency also, somehow, took care of the then required invitation. Good that its all online now.

Posted by
416 posts

Good catch!
I stand corrected - forgot about the invitation/voucher (free if you book a hotel, $15 to $20 from online sources otherwise).

Given how persistent the Russians are in doggedly mirroring the US visa requirements, the invitation comes as a strange atavism: the US dropped it about 10 years ago.

But then again, the Russians don't insist on an actual visa interview with the consulate, so I guess it all sort of evens out.

Posted by
12317 posts

So they don't paste the visa in your passport any longer ... that convienient, but lacks the charm of a one page holographic image.

Posted by
416 posts

No, no, there must've been some misunderstanding: US citizens, along with Canadians, Australians, and the Brits, still enjoy the right to have a full-page hologram right in their passport.

It is the citizens of China, India, and European countries that have to settle for an e-visa. Yes, it's free and instant - but it's just not the same thing...
On the bright side, it's still more tangible than what all those South Americans get - they don't get to have a Russian visa at all :-(

Posted by
12317 posts

Sooooooooooooooooo..... what I liked about the Visa company that I hired is that they hand carried my passport to the Russian consulate, took care of the visa work, then hand carried the passport/visa out. Turn around with FEDEX was about 10 days. The visa company at least, if not the Russians, wanted a hard copy of the application with the 2mm margins and a wet signature. It was worth the peace of mind for me. Essential? No.

Posted by
12317 posts

I may not have looked hard enough, but the list of e-visa countries i found did not include the US or UK.

Posted by
3789 posts

I am a Canadian planning on doing a port call of 2 days in St. Petersburg Sept 2021, so was interested to learn more about the e-visa, however, I read this on another web source. Not sure what my option is though I would prefer to get my own visa if we are able to take independent port visits by then.

U.S., British and Canadian passport holders are not yet eligible for
Russian e-visas due to geopolitical friction, Deputy Foreign Minister
Yevgeny Ivanov told the Kommersant business daily. He pointed to cases
of Russian diplomats waiting up to two years to get visas to the U.S.
as a particular grievance. …

Posted by
416 posts

Unfortunately, that source is correct: Canadian citizens are not eligible for e-visa. The most logical option would be to go ashore with an authorized local tourist co.
Personally, I don't think the two days of no strings attached are worth the hassle or the additional expenses of the visa, unless you have a very specific and developed itinerary that is very different from tourist agencies' typical offering.