How to apply for a Russian tourist visa? If you are a citizen of the European Union, there are a few steps to follow and everything will be fine – If you do it right from the beginning. This is my impressions from the Russian visa process.
I had for a long time been dreaming of visiting cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg. And this spring I took the final decision – I wanted to go to Russia!
But where to start? For me as an EU citizen, it’s not only to buy a flight ticket and go to Russia. No, a lot of paperwork needed to be done, and I did it all by myself. Forget about flashy websites that tell you they can help with Russian visa for a fee, it’s fully possible to do it by yourself.
First of all, applying for a visa may be like gambling. You must pre-book and pay for everything, but still, your visa can be denied without explanation. Sounds risky? Yes, but if you do it right, the chance for it is very low.
So, if you are not a very spontaneous person, doing everything in the right order and it won’t cause you any problems.
Get a Russian visa simplified
Find your closest Russian visa center, consulate, embassy, so you know where you can apply for your visa. Do you need to go there in person or do they offer postal service? For me, I had some big issues to get in contact with them, but in the end, I found out that they recently changed the company that issuing the visa application, so don’t trust Google. Look at your country’s Russian embassy webpage 😉
Think very carefully about what dates and the number of days you want to spend in Russia. Remember that 30 days are maximum with a tourists visa. Even if you are going to meet someone, I would recommend starting with a tourist visa, because it’s much more easy for both of you if you go for the tourist visa.
Now it’s time to start booking. I recommend booking your stay at well-known hotels. They have the experience to help you with the next step. Read on… 🙂
Once you have booked accommodation for all your dates in Russia, you need to start contacting the hotels. If you book via sites like Booking.com or Hotels.com, easily use the contact form and ask for a “tourist voucher/invite” (for applying for a visa). A serious hotel will know what information is required on the voucher. You will need to pay at least one night of your stay in advance, so no cancelation protection is recommended.
Paying in advance outside the official booking site, can seems to be a little tricky. The hotel will ask for all your credit card details and also a signed paper where you give them the right to withdraw the money. Once you have signed their papers and given them all the information, they will send the voucher to you by e-mail within a few days. Make sure the invite has a stamp. In Russia, they love stamps on all papers.
If you don’t receive your invite within a few days, call the front desk. In Russia in some cases, you still need to assign a task to a certain person to get it done.
You now might already have booked flights. Otherwise, it’s time for it now. But you usually don’t need to show flight tickets in your visa application.
You should now book an appointment at your visa application center.
Before the day you are going to the application center, you need to do what most people think is the hardest part; Fill in the application form. Nowadays you do it online, and you can pay at the application center for assistance but I don’t think it’s necessary.
All the information you will need can be found in your passport or your tourist vouchers from the hotels (most important is the number in field “Подтверждение”). The form might also require you to answer additional questions like where you work if it is the first time you are visiting Russia and so on.
The only tricky part, what I think, is when you have several places you will stay at. Because the form only allows one hotel to be typed in. There isn’t space for other accommodations. How to solve this?
First time I had to Google a lot about this step, but the answers were very few. I one place I read that during the time with paper forms, if you were smart, you could fit up to three hotels in the form, but was this the proper way?
When I filled in my application, which finally was approved, the right way is to fill in the place of your first stay in the form, and attach the rest of the invites when you hand over your application.
When all steps above are fulfilled it’s time to hand over or send by post (if available in your country) to the Russian visa application center. When you do your application, you will get two pieces of papers. Once is a recipe for handing over your passport. The second is an invoice for paying the application fee. Keep those in a safe place because they are very important.
Collecting your Russian visa
When you apply for your visa you will get a date when it will be ready. If not sent by post you need to go en collect the visa and your passport by yourself or someone else with a power of attorney. For this action, you don’t need to book an appointment at the visa center. I had 3 hours to drive to my visa center, so I called them in advance to check if my visa was ready or not and approved, but the woman on the line didn’t want to answer that, even if she only was a few meters from my passport. “We don’t offer that kind of service” was her answer.
I gambled and drove to collect it. At the visa center, the process took around two minutes. Show the receipt of the payment for your visa, and your receipt you got when applied. When you get your visa, check that all information is corrected typed in the visa, and sign that you have received it.
Good luck and enjoy your trip to Russia!