Visa Application for Russia

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Feb 13th, 2018, 01:45 PM
  #1
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Visa Application for Russia

I have been wading my way through lots of sites regarding the requirements for a Visa to travel to Russia, but I have yet to find a site with an application (other than ones who want to do it for me). I have generally applied for Visas to other countries on my own (Brazil for example), but I am wondering if with Russia I will have to go through an agent. Any recommendations? We are traveling to Russia in June 2018.
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Feb 17th, 2018, 05:53 PM
  #3
 
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If you live in one of these cities (Wash Dc, NY, SF, Houston or Seattle), your best bet is to apply directly at one of the ILS offices. This is the least expensive and fastest option but you must complete the online form by yourself and obtain an "invitation" from an online source, hotel or tour operator. They are very picky about how you complete the online form - make sure to complete all fields. Otherwise, I would use one of the online agencies that take care of it for you. They are more expensive but less of a hassle.

FYI, Russia is hosting the World Cup for soccer this summer and you may be able to take advantage of the visa free entry available for the World Cup. The visa free entry applies if you buy a ticket for a World Cup event and get a Fan ID. You do not actually have to go the event and you can travel anywhere during the time period. Visa free travel applies for the period that starts 10 before the first match (June 14) and ends ten days after the last match (Jul 15) - so roughly June 4 - Jul 25. I think the cheapest tickets are around $100 but they obviate the visa hassle. I think the tickets may sell out early if you are interested in this approach. Of course, the hotels may be difficult to get during this time in the match cities but outside of that it should not be a problem. There is an extensive forum on FIFA 18 travel on Tripadvisor if you want more information.
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Feb 17th, 2018, 06:16 PM
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Thanks for the info on the visa free travel. We found out after we had booked our flights that we were going to be there at the same time as the World Cup. Oops! We managed to find a hotel a bit out of town, but at least we have a place to sleep. I will check into the idea of getting a ticket to an event. Sounds like if it is $100, it may be a bit of a wash, but less of a hassle. We don't need a visa for our cruise stop in St. Petersburg, so maybe we can avoid it all together. If not, I will have to do the online application. I can get the invitation easily enough from our guide in St. Petersburg. Always fun wading through all of the details.
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Feb 18th, 2018, 12:55 AM
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You keep saying your hotel is a bit out of town making it sound like itís outside Moscow city limits. Itís not out of town at all, itís just off Prospekt Mira which is one of the main boulevards of Moscow. Itís not the city centre but itís not exactly out of town either.

Iím quite fond of getting visas for the correct purpose of travel, especially for Russia. If you are going as a tourist get a tourist visa. If you are going on business get a business visa. Russia is not the sort of country to enter or worse still try to exit with false reasons for being there. Even with a visa you get scrutinised at immigration. Have you seen the prices of World Cup tickets in comparison to the cost of a tourist visa that will give you entry to Moscow & St Petersburg?

The links provided are the ones you need to apply for the visa yourself.
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Feb 19th, 2018, 09:21 AM
  #6
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Thanks so much Odin. I couldn't tell how close or far the hotel was based on the map I had. Glad to hear it is located well. And I have decided against trying to finagle things to travel without a visa. For one thing, I don't want to get a pass to an event and then not show up preventing someone else from being there. Just need to figure out the best way to get the invitation right now. I may have to try calling the hotel. We're using Tours By Locals and they can't do the invitation. Although they did give me a source that could do it for $10 each, so that's not too bad I guess. I am working on the visa application now - what a lot of questions! Much different than getting the visa from Brazil several years ago. All part of the experience of travel!
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Mar 16th, 2018, 02:26 AM
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Any legitimate tour operator will send the invitation for free if you book something from them. Most hotels will also if they are legally about to invite foreign guests.
The application process is a lot simpler than most assume and the visa agencies don't want you to know it is easy because they are an unnecessary expense and delay.
All you need is:
Printed copy of the two-part invitation, usually sent by email as a printable PDF
Your passport, (needs to have at least 6 months validity past the last day of your stay and have one unused page for the visa to be applied to)
Consular fee, Cost from $15 to $160 depending on how much your country
Passport style photo (I used to get mine at Walgreens for $6 for two)
Visa application form that you filled out online and printed a copy to add to your envelope
And send that all to the Visa application center for your country. In 7-10 days it is returned with one page in the passport taken up with a full page sticker visa.

If in the US, you can apply for the 3 year multiple re-entry visa if you have a desire to return....which you will.
The only reason I have seen for a denial is filling out the form and leaving empty questions. If some question does not apply, don't leave it empty, type "N/A" or "Does not apply"
The Visa application center will usually catch those problems and contact you before they submit it to the Russian Consulate. Visa services are a waste of time and money which do not add any value.
44 counties now have visa waiver agreements with Russia so do not need visas. EU member state citizens need to include their health insurance id number because there is a reciprocal cross-coverage agreement so they are covered while in Russia. Americans have no national health care system so the question about health insurance does not apply, even if you have commercial policies. Many US health insurance companies have certified hospitals and clinics in Russia for covered services(it is a bargain for the insurance company since health services are good and ridiculously cheap.
Good luck and have fun, it is a GREAT country and culture, 100% opposite the western media and political claims. Once you return, you will know far more that is true than any of the pundit "Russia Experts" on TV. None of them have even been here.
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Mar 16th, 2018, 05:35 AM
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you seriously want to visit a country who kill opposition politicians, cyber attack nations, put nerve agents on the streets of allied countries, attack your political systems and attack your electrcial power systems?

note the date of entry of "spbstan" to this site, another new troll, part of social media based in Moscow perhaps
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Mar 16th, 2018, 10:08 AM
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I think the one-eyed Norseman gave good advice (although the price for drinking from Mimir's well was high) - do not MESS AROUND with your visa purposes when entering a country that requires you to obtain a visa. This is especially true if you're an American entering Russia due to all the diplomatic fencing the countries will be doing between now and your visit.
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Mar 17th, 2018, 04:27 AM
  #10
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I agree that one should always follow the rules when visiting another country. We are definitely looking forward to our visit. Although I have to say it has turned out to be a bit more complicated/expensive to get our visas. Turns out unless you live near one of the 5 embassies that process visas you HAVE to go through a service that charges as much for processing as the visa cost. Oh well. They caught some errors in my application, so maybe it's just as well. But it was a bit disconcerting to send off all of the documents and then get an e-mail from a company claiming to have our passports and applications. Turns out they are not only legit - they are one of the cheaper options (and one that had been recommended by our local guide in Moscow). So we will fix the errors, send more money, and be all set to go.

For anyone else needing Russian visa information, they are Invisa Logistics Services: ILS USA - Main. We have been dealing with Natalia who has been very helpful.
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Mar 17th, 2018, 06:05 AM
  #11
 
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ILS is the only company that is needed but they do charge a lot for the mail service. The total cost, however, is less than Russians pay for fees plus traveling thousands of miles for an interview, then wait at home and travel back to get it, assuming they are the lucky 50% who get it. For a long time, it was held down to about 33% approval but around 2008 approvals got up to 75%. Just recently, since the russiagate hoax, they cut it way back again. So Russian tourism is very little now to the US, and they are spending their money in Asia, Europe and more and more in South America.
Costs are on a reciprocal basis, whatever the correspondent country charges is what Russia charges. Some are only $15 one stop or on entry for free, but fees for the US citizens are so high because of the US fees being high. There were high level talks about visa free entry during Obama's first term but relations got worse. Russia still offers the 3-year multiple re-entry which was the $120, the same price as transit and 30-day touriist visa but they raised the price for 3 year and dropped the price of the 30 day tourist visa. I was the very first person in the San Francisco consulate to get a 3-year visa when they first became available and before the requirements were decided on. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not tell the consulates until the day of availability what the requirements would be so each consulate made up their own for a while. Washington DC wanted all sorts of documents like Russians had to provide like deeds to property, several years of tax returns and bank records. San Francisco Consulate was much more reasonable, and no additional information was required. One good thing for visitors to Russia is the policy does not change with politics, if you fill out the form, pay your fee you get the visa.
A million more Chinese nationals came to St Petersburg last summer and that is expected to increase 18% this year. They can come visa free if on an organized tour. Hong Kong had a separate visa agreement that was visa-free for a long time but did not require booking a tour.. 44 countries have such a visa-free agreement with Russia, double the number 2 years ago. Overall, international tourism to Russia has increased a lot over the last 5 years, with most coming to St Petersburg and Moscow, meaning in the summer some of the key museums are pretty darn crowded.up to 30,000 cruise ship passengers a day on peak arrival days visited the Hermitage last summer,with more ships arriving and larger ships replacing the old ones. The season keeps getting longer as the weather keeps getting milder. This winter really only lasted 6 weeks and never really got very cold. For about 11 years winter weather has receded in duration from traditionally Oct through March to late Jan to mid-March. I miss the snow, not much this winter, not last winter, but it sure made walking around the city as I do often, a lot easier and less dangerous without the ice on sidewalks or icicles falling.
Have a great visit, a fun destination,with friendly people, safe and very social atmosphere. It is almost nothing like reported by rumors in the western press. They haven't been here so you will know much more then them.
.
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Mar 17th, 2018, 08:24 AM
  #12
 
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Originally Posted by spbstan View Post
One good thing for visitors to Russia is the policy does not change with politics, if you fill out the form, pay your fee you get the visa.

44 countries have such a visa-free agreement with Russia.
.
The policy does change with politics and visa services can be suspended. And filling a form and paying money is no guarantee of issuance of a visa just as having a visa is no guarantee of being let into the country.

Most nationalities need a visa with exceptions for some former Soviet republics, Israel, few other countries too and for special circumstances such as 72hour visa free travel in St Petersburg arriving by specific ferry or cruise and events such as the World Cup.
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Mar 17th, 2018, 10:39 AM
  #13
 
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Originally Posted by Odin View Post
filling a form and paying money is no guarantee of issuance of a visa just as having a visa is no guarantee of being let into the country.
This is true, in the most general sense, but the chances of such a thing happening are minuscule.
I don't have any official data handy on visa refusals for US citizens, but over the years I must have met about a thousand Americans that applied for Russian visas. I know of 3 cases of visa refusal, two of them involved dual citizens that should not have applied for a visa in the first place. The third one was a guy who applied for a business visa through a "respectable" third-party visa service - unbeknownst to him, the company was deep in trouble with the Russian authorities at the time.

On the Russian side of things, it was never so rosey. 50% refusals, like spbstan said, were a stark reality.
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Mar 17th, 2018, 01:55 PM
  #14
 
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No matter how you would like to spin this, Russian visas are more consistent in application and approval than most other countries, far more than US or UK, which use political mood to dominate approval process. Saying having a visa is no guarantee of entry, is a strange comment, ALL countries on earth have the acceptance of entry determined as a final arbiter, the passport control officer. People with visas are turned away every day often in fact for reasons never explained at both the UK and US border. I have never seen that happen to Russian entering foreign nationals. Maybe you do not understand the visa process and how it is conditional with every country. Russia is willing to waive visa requirements with any country which offers to do the same for Russian visitors to those countries, currently, 44 countries have done so. If the visa application process seems complex or expensive there is a simple cure, lobby your own state department/Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have a more reasonable visa policy and the problem will be solved overnight, literally overnight or less. When Hong Kong agreed to a visa waiver agreement, it took Russia less than 24 hours to change its policy toward Hong Kong citizens and mutual trade and tourism greatly expanded for both. Overall Russia's policy toward US citizens is much more flexible than the policy the US uses for Russian applicants. The 3 year visa is far more flexible for Americans than any US visa for Russians.
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