We are going to Moscow in 2014. We are able to get a free visa support letter from the hotel we are planning to stay at only for the first few nights. We are then planning to move to another hotel, but don't know which one. We will be in Russia for about 1 week. Does anyone know if the visa support letter from our first hotel will work for the whole week? We would like to travel without a totally fixed itineray. Will this be problem when registering at other hotels or when trying to leave Russia? Any information on this would be appreciated. Thank you.
Don't quote me but I believe that the invite is needed to issue the visa. I seem to recall this from what I was reading when my son got a visa year ago for semester abroad, and we saw this at Travisa. You can find out better by checking with a consulate or querying one of the visa services online, their FAQs should answer this.
When I went to Russia in 2001 (I was actually there on 9/11!), the St. Petersburg hostel I stayed at was willing to give us a visa support letter for our whole Russia stay, even though we were also spending time in Moscow. At the time, this was standard; as long as you were paying them for the visa support paperwork, one place would "certify" you for your whole stay.
However, I have no idea of rules or customary policies now; these change all the time. So, ask your Moscow hotel if they will give you a visa support letter for the whole time you are in Russia (try giving them your dates without further details of where you be when, and see if they can do this).
I definitely know that (unless there have been drastic changes in Russian policy), the dates your are asking for on your visa must be the same ones as on your visa support letter. You cannot get a visa for longer than the dates on your supporting documents. When I went (both in 2001 and 2010) there was no problem entering after your visa started, or leaving before it ended, so it's prudent to ask for a visa duration of at least 1 day after you are due to leave, and of course your visa support letter will have to reflect these dates (as I said, when I did it this request was not a problem).
You're under no obligation to stay at the hotel where the invitation originated from. It won't be a problem.
Thank you all for your responses?
I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, or even disagree with the previous responses, but I will say your stop at immigration when entering Russia will be one of the least accommodating experiences of your life.
When I went through, I had exactly what I needed to the letter. I got the feeling they wouldn't cut you a break if you deviated even slightly from their requirements, like it would make their day to refuse your entry for even the tiniest reason. Their serious attitude was intimidating.
I would never encourage someone to enter Russia with a feeling of "I'm sure it'll be alright." I would advise to make sure what you have conforms with their laws precisely and say nothing, or at least as little as possible. They won't smile or say "Welcome to Russia" - all you really want/need is for them to stamp your passport and hand it back to you.
I was tempted to say "Yellow Blue Vas", it's supposed to get a Russian woman to smile - but wasn't sure if I'd end up in prison instead.
We spend a lot of time in Budapest and one of the advantages is cheap airfare to "exotic" places. We went to Moscow a year ago for orthodox Christmas on a RT ticket from Budapest that was less than $300. I used CIBT Visa Services to secure the Visa for me. No letters no hotels no nothing. Took them about a week to do it and the only issue was printing the application in a manner that the Russians would accept. Seems if you don't have your PDF print set just right the box on the form will be 1mm too short and they will reject it. Silly. Entering the country at the airport in Moscow as fast and easy with no hassles at all. Since it was winter we could afford one the nicest hotels facing Red Square and play in the snow. I hired a guide named Daniel Petrov who was excellent: http://www.waytomoscow.com/