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VISA for USA residents

Hey all,

i have a few questions for any of you-all (USA residents) that have been to Russia in the last year and that bought a VISA.

  1. Did you buy the VISA yourself?
  2. Did you have reservations for a tour or hotel to get the VISA?
  3. Which company did you use to get the VISA?
  4. Were there any issues using it once you arrived or departed Russia?
  5. Were there any other issues?

Thank any and all for any input.

Happy trails.

Posted by
2 posts

Hey Ray,

We have used a company called Same Day Visa in New York City. The cost depends on how quickly you need the visa. You can get it in 2 days, but it's much cheaper if you have two weeks. It is very easy to have a visa company do it for you and well worth the money you pay them for the hassle. Yes, we have reservations in a hotel. You send the hotel a form and they fill it out and email it back for you to give the visa company. I cannot stress enough how easy it is to have professionals handle getting your visa. They do it for a living and know how to get things pushed through the system. The most complicated thing is filling out the form online for Same Day and having to list all of your travel over the last ten years. All of it! And the dates you went need to match up to the stamps in your passport, so be sure to double check your dates. We have been to Russia before and had no problems when we arrived in Russia. We are going again in the near future to visit our son who lives there.

Posted by
13559 posts

We used CIBT to get our visas. It was a snap. We were emailed some forms to fill out. We did, we packaged the forms, the payment and our passports in a FEDEX envelope and sent it off. About 4 days later the passports arrived with the visas. CIBT took care of absolutely everything. As I remember it was about $180.

We flew into Moscow on the now defunct Malev Airlines from Budapest; we returned on the same. Round trip from Budapest to places like Moscow or Istanbul or Israel can be had for about $350 which makes it an interesting hub for exploring the unusual places. Immigration and passport control was smooth and easy. We spent Orthodox Christmas in Moscow. Other than the vomit in the subways it was an excellent trip. We had this incredible five star hotel room with a view of Red Square; but because it was the dead of winter (near 0F most of the time) the rates were very reasonable. Moscow covered in snow was well worth a little cold. Fantastic experience for an old Cold War survivor.

Posted by
2081 posts

James/Tracey,

Many thanks for the info.

I was hoping that more people would have been there within the last year, but i will wait n see too.

Again, many thanks for the info.

happy trails.

Posted by
13559 posts

Our trip was almost exactly 2 years ago. Fantastic experience, but something I wouldn't do twice. (the Russian visa in the passport still gets second looks at some border crossings).

Posted by
14 posts

If you live in a city like Seattle that has a consulate or embassy it's very easy to get a visa. You need to fill out all the paperwork online, get your passport photos and then you stop by the local ILS (InVisa) office. At least in Seattle they were friendly helpful and fast. I don't think I spent more than 10 minutes there.

BTW if you think you will return to Russia again in the near future you can get a three-year visa for a small added cost.

I used an online service to get an invitation for $20 but your hotel should be able to supply you with one too.

The only issue I had with my visa was departing by train in Dec 2012 with a then-new 3-year visa which the train people had never seen before. They were friendly about it and got things figured out in 10 minutes or so. You should have no problems now however.

Posted by
2081 posts

@ Alan,

thank you for the info. I do believe i will return but not within the 3 year window.

since i hate to drive, im going to do the mail route on my visa.

thanks again and happy trails.

Posted by
4 posts

Unfortunately, the price of Russian visas (and the hassle) has soared with the price of hotels and services there. In recent years I have confined my Russia visits to quick cruise ship stops. (I had a great time there in the Gorbachev days with little money and even less Russian language, just a few months in college).

I was then delighted to see the new St. Petersburg guide (along with last year's northern cruise ports guide) from Rick. I thought this summer I would get a 3-year Russian visa and use it for the first time on my Baltics cruise in July, then re-visit Russia on my own a few times.

Ha! The three year Russian visa is for business travel only, and it requires an official invitation from a Russian trade group. So I went back to square one and purchased a visa-free St. Petersburg tour (with a minder) as usual. Such a disappointment.

A few months ago I rented an apartment for a few weeks in Beijing to see what it was like to live like a local. Last month I escaped winter by enjoying the beaches and backwaters of Viet Nam. I hope some day travel to Russia will be as easy as it is to get visas and to travel in China and Viet Nam. (I picked up those visas in a day while passing through Chicago and Washington DC respectively.)

In the meantime it is package tours (ouch!) and minders for Russian travel (who needs a guidebook when one cannot wander on one's own as one used to do?)

Posted by
1068 posts

I was in St. Petersburg and Moscow in July. I bought the VISA through the tour company RS recommends, but can't remember the name right now. The hotel in St. Petersburg (my point of entry into the country) supplied the invitation. While cruising from St. Petersburg to Moscow I talked to someone who got his own VISA without using a company. His experience was that it was a royal pain and he had to take it back to the embassy 3 times (but he is the only person I've talk with in person about doing it that way.) Once I had the VISA there were no problems using it to enter or depart Russia.

Posted by
7205 posts

We at first tried to do it ourselves via the Russian consulate in DC. Waste of time. They must absolutely avoid all phone calls by just not answering. I must have called 25-30 times. Only one time did anybody answer, and i think it must have been a mistake because as soon as i started talking they told me to hold and NEVER came back to the phone. We thought about actually going to the office, but as it is such a far drive for us and seeing already the lack of helpfulness via the phone we decided just to not waste anymore of our time and just used CIBT.

We applied for just a single entry but ended up with a multiple entry pass. Maybe they saw all of our many passport stamps including a China Visa and just assumed we would be back multiple times.

Posted by
27 posts

We used PassportVisasExpress.com. It was suggested in the Rick Steves Tour packet. We got the invitation through Rick Steves. RS included an invitation good for 30 days from when we enter Russia to go to St. Petersburg on the tour. It took about two weeks using standard processing. We were very pleased with the service.

Posted by
988 posts

We used TravelAllRussia.com. They were the travel agency for our trip but will do visas for the general public. I filled out all information online. They created the visa application and emailed a .pdf copy that I printed, signed and fedexed back to them with my passport. My passport and visa was fedexed back to me about 10 days later. Easy...peasy.

Going thru passport control in Moscow wasn't quite as much fun as going thru passport control in the EU. No smiles, no greeting, a lot of staring at the passport and visa and the computer screen. I did start to feel a little uncomfortable wondering what he was studying so intently. You will be asked to sign a small form, about the size of a passport page before you are admitted. Keep it......in your passport. You will need it to get out of the country, as I learned today when I exited Russia at the Estonian border. It took longer to get cleared to get out of Russia that it did to get thru immigration into the EU in Estonia.

Russians are very serious about this!!!