Visas to Russia is a confusing topic for first time visitors because there is so much misinformation given by well meaning travel agents, friends and non-travlers. Hopefully we can lessen the confusion by explaining the visa rules and normal practices.
Every visitor arriving in Russia is required to have a visa in their passport with the special exception for cruise ship or ferry passengers arriving in St Petersburg for less than 72 hours and hosted by an authorized tour operator such as V J Services. Visas are issued by Russian consulates in your home country and application for a visa should be submitted to the Russian consulate before you leave home. You will probably not be able to get a visa if you apply in a country for which you are not a legal resident or citizen so be sure to apply for your before you leave home.
There are a numnber of different types of visas and they are for specific types of visits. A student visa for example is intended only for students who will be studying at a sponsoring Russian school and a Tourist Visa is for those who are visiting as a tourist and is the easiest to qualify for. There are also Business Visas which can be for longer validity lengths and multiple entry is possible.
The only two visas of interest to the tourist visting Russia are the Tourist visa, which is valid up to 30 days, or the Business Visa which has options up to 1 year, or for American citizens only, 3 years multiple entry. We will focus our discussion on Tourist and Business Visas. A traveler who wishes to visit Russia has several requirements to fulfill when applying for the visa.
They will need to submit:
- A passport style photo,
- Completed vias application form
- Passport into which the visa is pasted. The passport has to have 6 months remaining in validity after the last date in Russia,
- Payment for Consular fee for processing the visa
- A two part Visa Support document from an inviting hotel or tour operator in Russia.
- An itinerary briefly decribing which cities to visit and entry exit cities.
This last requirement is the most confusing, since there is a lot of misinformation about it. Normally this invitation is in two parts and is called Visa Support. The two parts are on one sheet of paper or fax that confirms that the tour operator or hotel is sponsoring the visit and the other describes the tourist and travel plan. The first one is in Russian and the second is in your national language.
Visa Support usually is charged for by hotels and is required from each hotel if the stay is split between multiple hotels and destination cities because each hotel will only sponsor their client for the time they are residing in their hotel. If staying in one city and one hotel, this does not present a problem but when visiting various cities or traveling without prior detailed planning, coordinating the times and dates in each city with the visa application can be a problem. The solution, traditionally is to buy a blanket Visa Support document from a tour operator who will sponsor the visitor up to the maximum allowed number of day for the type of visa applied for.
VJ Services can supply low cost 30 day Visa Support for Tourist visas and up to 1 year for those applying for Business Visas and 3 years Tourist Visa for American citizens. We waive the Visa Support fee for visitors who have booked their Russian tour with VJ Services and charge a reasonable fee for those who have not booked with us and want the freedom to travel as they wish round Russia for up to 30 days.