Russia Visa Experience

I was Saint Petersburg, Russia for 4 days this year. I started trip-planning in January and just wanted to share my Russian visa experience, since it has become a hot topic and rules have changed. I am a U.S. citizen and went directly to http://www.russianembassy.net/ for basic information. I also read the forums (tripadvisor, Rick Steves), asked my hotel and travel agency any questions that came to mind... via email, and have a friend who has visited Russia twice, so you might call me a bit proactive. Russian visas are a two step process: 1) obtain invitations/vouchers from hotel/travel agency 2) submit invitations/passport/photo to 3rd party visa company. I live in San Diego and decided not to visit my local Russian consulate in San Francisco to handle this. The Russian consulate will process your paperwork only if you deliver in person, so you will normally need to work through a third party. cost: $268 total 1 person includes: $140 consulate fee, $50 processing fee, $30 additional consulate fee, $18 mailing fee, $10 STEP 1 I booked my hotel and tours in February. I don't remember why but I didn't do step 1 until March. Both hotel (Nevsky Inn) and travel agency (Palladium Travel) were very responsive by email, spoke excellent English, and answered all of my detailed questions about how the visa process works. Nevsky cost 30 EUR, paid in cash at theend of stat. Palladium was free and I emailed my requests. You will need to provide: full name as it appears in your passport - passport No / citizenship – date of birth –
dates of travel – arrival/departure dates Turnaround was only 1 day for both companies. The invitations were in Russian but the voucher was in English. You can use translate.google.com to find out what it all means but its pretty straightforward and nothing alarming or even interesting.

Posted by andrea
san diego, ca, USA
44 posts

STEP 2 Express Travel services is located in San Diego. http://www.myvisapassport.com/Visa-Russian-Federation.htm. They require standard 2x2 passport size photos; and offer photo services for $15. You can apply in person by appointment ~1 month before the trip. Cost is $190 plus $20 Fedex and the turnaround is about 3 week. You can pay more for faster service. Hours of operation are 10am – 5pm Monday-Friday. I decided to go with this company, as I felt more comfortable handing over my passport than risking it getting lost in the mail. I'll call Express Travel services ET from this point forward. I called in March to make an appointment for April (my trip is in May). Applications must be filled out electronically in advance - their website provides all the links - http://evisa.kdmid.ru/. A log in is given when you create your application and you must provide this login information to ET in order for them to process your order. The Consulate only accepts money orders, ET takes care of this for an extra charge. I called one week before my appointment to confirm appointment date. On the day of my appointment, ET informed me that the Consulate will be closed 5 days in May and this will delay my processing. Here is a link for Russian Public Holidays: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_holidays_in_Russia. Keep this in mind when getting your visa. I took down my login information incorrectly and went to http://evisa.kdmid.ru/ to fill out a request to resend. They replied within a day and the email went to my junk email box.

Posted by andrea
san diego, ca, USA
44 posts

ET mailed my visa to their courier in San Francisco the day of my appointment but I didn't get my visa back until 3 weeks later because of all the closures and because, here's the kicker, the Russian Consulate doesn't do visas anymore – they outsource. This new rule only went into effect in April so the 3 week total turnaround could change. ET answered all my inquiries same day and sent me an email as soon as the visa was ready for pick up. In Russia, I carried the invitations and vouchers in my luggage but not on my person. We were given migration cards on the train from Finland and our passports were stamped but Russian border control. There is a part a and part b. Part a was taken on the train, part b we had to hold on to to submit on the return trip. At the hotel, we handed our passports in overnight and they registered us into the database. I did keep my passport on me at all times.