All foreigners except citizens of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) require a valid visa to enter Russia.
Overview of Visa Types
To visit and/or to look for a job
To visit Russia for familiarization and orientation for a new job, most people choose the tourist visa.
If your work assignment is temporary, or if your job requires you to spend a substantial amount of time in other countries then the business visa may be the best option for you. If you expect to be in Russia for a longer period of time you will need a work visa.
Business visas do not permit employment, so you cannot be officially hired by a Russian company or a Russian branch of a foreign company, but they do permit you to spend up to 90 days at a time in Russia to conduct business activities. See: You have a job and need to relocate > Temporary
A work visa is initially issued for one entry with a validity of three months. After you arrive, you can obtain a one-year, multiple-entry visa in Russia. With the exception of citizens of the Commonwealth of Independent States, individuals cannot apply for a work permit on their own. You will require a company to sponsor you. See: You have a job and need to relocate > Permanent.
If you wish to stay and work in Russia long-term, with freedom to change jobs, you may want to apply for residency. Residents do not require a work permit to work but the paperwork required to get residency is extensive. See: You have a job and need to relocate > Long-term.
The only way to retire in Russia is to obtain residency – first temporary, and then permanent. See: You want to retire.
Short-term study in Russia is often conducted on tourist or business visas. Your school will let you know if you should apply for one of these visas. See: You want to go on reconnaissance.
To study in Russia long-term, you need a student visa. See: You want to study.
To complete an internship
Ideally, a formally approved internship should be arranged through a university, with a student visa. If this is not possible, many would apply for a business visa. This is, however, in the gray zone of visa regulations at best, especially in the case of a paid internship. See: You are going for an internship
Obtaining a Visa
In general, business, tourist, and student visas are easy to obtain, providing you have no negative immigration history in Russia and are patient enough to go through the proper invitation process. Work visas are rarely declined once you obtain a work permit; however, getting a work permit is no easy feat and requires a significant investment on the part of your employer. Work permits may also be declined.
Except for cases of urgent necessity, such as participating in international, governmental, official, scientific, sport and cultural events, visas can only be obtained from a Russian Consulate in your home country, or a country in which you have the right of residence for more than 90 days. You cannot change your visa status inside Russia (with the exception of applying for temporary or permanent residency).
The application process for a visa consists of two major steps: obtaining the appropriate invitation, and then applying for and receiving the visa itself. Many agencies and sites that promise fast Russian visas are actually delivering fast Russian visa invitations. The additional processing time and fees for the visa itself vary by Consulate, but plan on a minimum of three additional business days. There are some agencies that do deliver actual Russian visas. Your Consulate web site may recommend some. An easy test is whether or not the agency required you to submit your original passport – if it doesn’t, then it will not be providing you a visa, but an invitation only.
- Intel Service – http://www.visatorussia.com
Invitation and Visa:
- Red Star Travel – http://www.travel2russia.com (for the Seattle, WA, Consulate)
- Travisa – https://russiavisa.travisaoutsourcing.com (for residents of the United States)
- Visafix – http://www.visafix.de (for residents of Germany)
- RealRussia – http://www.realrussia.co.uk/ (for residents of the United Kingdom)
- Iris Tours – http://www.russianvisa.com.au/ (for residents of Australia)
- Beyond Tours – http://www.beyondtours.co.nz/ (for residents of New Zealand)
For a tourist visa, the fastest and most cost-efficient way to get an invitation is through a travel agency or visa invitation service. You should be able to get the invitation within one or two business days. A normal price point is $30-60.
For a business visa, your employer can apply for an invitation at the Passport and Visa Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs. The normal processing time is 14-21 business days, and delays are frequent. Therefore, many choose to get this invitation through a travel agency as well. Rush processing (as fast as one business day) is available in this case. Expect to pay at least $80 for 18-business day processing and up to $700 for same-day processing. The fees go up with the length of visa validity and the number of entries. Same-day processing may not be available for one-year visas.
For a work visa, your employer must obtain the invitation for you. You employer will usually use the services of a specialized agency to do so. Because of the complexities involved in the work permit process, this will likely take several months.
For a student visa, your university or school must obtain the invitation for you. The process is usually only initiated after you’ve been admitted. It officially takes 14 to 21 business days, but delays are common.
Russian Consular Fees for issuing Visas vary according to the citizenship of the applicant and the speed with which visa processing is requested.
The availability of rush processing options, and options to apply by mail or in person, vary by country.
For citizens of the European Union (except UK, Denmark, and Ireland), the Consular fee for standard 6-10 business day processing of a single-entry visa is $50.
For all other citizens, the Consular fee for standard 4-20 business day processing of a single-entry visa is $131.
Exact fees and processing options should be verified with your local Consulate.