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Updates to Visa Policy?

I just looked at a list of articles on "Russian Visa" on this site and most have post dates of 6 years and older. We want to just visit St. Petersburg for a few days (in and out) and are aware of the high price of a Russian Visa. Has anyone on the forum visited recently enough to pass along their experiences (good and bad) so that we can decide how best to approach this? Seems like so much red tape and hassle, but we really would like to see what the city has to offer. No, we are not going on a cruise... this is a fly in and fly out quick trip, probably hooked on to a few days in the UK in September.

Posted by
5306 posts

There are short Visa-free cruises from Stockholm and Tallinn that give you 1-3 days in St Petersburg if that is an option.

They have introduced an e-visa for short visits to certain regions. Those are free, but I'm not sure if US citizens qualify for them.

Posted by
6 posts

US and Canadian tourist are not eligible for a short stay visa per local guides in St Petersburg that I have spoken with in the last month.

Posted by
54 posts

Are there different lengths of stay Visas that US can apply for, or is this a politically motivated block?

Posted by
643 posts

There is a way to visit St. Petersburg without going through the extensive visa application or e-visa which is not available to US citizens.
You can take the St. Pete’s line/Moby ferry from Helsinki. You are allowed to stay in St. Petersburg for 48-72 hours. The pass is gotten through the ferry line. You can only stay in St. Petersburg and the ferry ticket is round trip. The ferry leaves at night from Helsinki and reaches St. Petersburg the next morning. Check out their website for details.
We are planning on doing this in April.

Posted by
444 posts

I've gone through the process around last April, which is recently enough, but right before they changed their approved visa provider from ILS to VFS, so mileage may vary.

The three-year visa, all in (letter of invitation, visa fee, ILS fee and, strangely enough, VFS fee), was 217 dollars and took 3 hours of paperwork, 2 visits to the visa center in DC, and 10 days of waiting.

As to political motivation - well, yes, it largely is: the Russians are kind of crazy about this concept of reciprocity. If a country does not require a visa from Russian citizens, Russia will also waive their requirements. What's even weirder, the visa procedure will also mirror that of the other party; sometimes the questions in the visa form will be direct translations from the other party's questionnaire. So if you see the Russian form intrusively ask you if you have recently participated in human trafficking - rest assured, the Russians visiting the States have to answer the same question :-)

Posted by
15448 posts

Perils has explained it well. After 9/11, the US greatly increased the cost of tourist visas for many countries, saying it was due to the added costs of increased scrutiny/security checks. Some countries subsequently increased the cost of tourist visas for US passport holders. To a great extent it depends on how much they rely on US tourism.

Oddly, there is a free on-the-spot visa agreement between Israel and Russia. Turns out there are more Russians who want to visit Israel than Israelis who want to visit Russia, so the Russians were ready to waive fees.

I visited St Petersburg for 2 days on a Baltic cruise. I only managed a few highlights and loved it ALL, my friends and I wished we'd had much more time there.

Posted by
17 posts

As I understand it, there is a special agreement that allows citizens of some countries to come to St. Petersburg without a visa. Whether you need to apply for a visa or not will depend on your passport. I saw a long list of countries that are covered by the new e-visa regulations, like 40 or something countries? Check out this blog, and this article it has a ton of info (one is about how to apply for the e-visa while the second one is about countries that qualify). Me and my husband went to Russia on a cruise, so I'm not 100% sure though.