Russian Visas from A to Z

Russian Visas from A to Z

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The first thing you should know is that getting a valid Russian visa is a rather complicated procedure and punishments for anyone not obeying Russian visa laws include arrest, fines, and deportation, so the best option is to let a professional handle the process for you.

Russian Visa for US Citizens & Other Countries

If you are planning your Russia travel with Firebird Tours, then you don't need to worry about where to get an official Russia visa invitation or find a sponsor, because all our tours go with included full visa processing and Russian visa support for our clients.

In this article, we've put together some useful information to help you better understand the process of getting a visa, your rights and obligations, and what to do in case of an emergency.

Who Needs a Russian Visa?

Citizens of the USA, Canada, Australia, the EU countries, as well as citizens of most of the world need to get a visa to be able to enter the territory of the Russian Federation. Only the passport holders of several countries are allowed into Russia visa-free. You can check do you need a Russian visa to enter the country or not here.

Izmailovo Kremlin

An exception to the rule

They say all rules have exceptions and the one above is not one either. There are two categories of people who can visit Russia visa-free.

The first one is children under 16, in case they are stated in their parents' passports with visas and are traveling with them.

And the second one covers passengers of the international cruise ships. One of such cases is the ferry from Finland's Helsinki to St. Petersburg. Travelers are permitted to visit Russian ports without a visa for no longer than 72 hours (arrival and departure days are counted within these hours) and will spend the nights onboard or in a place, envisaged in the tour program. In case travelers are going to stay for a longer period or are planning to go somewhere beyond the organized tour, they have to obtain a visa before the trip.

Where to Get a Russian Visa?

If you decided to try to obtain a Russian visa without professional help, you need to apply for it at the official Russian Embassy or Consulate in your country. For example, the citizens of the US can submit their application in Washington DC, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, and New York. Citizens of Canada in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal, the citizens of the UK in London, and the citizens of Australia can do it in Canberra.


Russian Visa Applications

One of the things necessary for a Russian visa application (apart from an obligatory official visa invitation) that you might have never encountered before is sponsorship. Any foreigner who wants to visit the Russian Federation needs a Russian-based sponsor, and it can be a travel agency, relative, employer, or even just a hotel.

Under Russian law, if you need to replace, extend, or to submit any changes to your visa, you can't apply for it yourself. Only your sponsor has the right to apply for changes on your behalf, so we strongly advise you to find out the valid sponsor's contact information before the trip if you want to handle getting a Russian visa on your own. You can read about all visa requirements and fill in a Russia visa application here.

Applying for a Russian Visa

Keep in mind that you won't be able to get a Russian visa upon arrival, so you have to apply for it in advance. The general rule is the sooner you apply the better, but you should do it not later than 2-3 months before the trip. Any person who enters the territory of the Russian Federation without a valid entry visa will have to immediately return to the departure point at his own expense.

Saint Petersburg

Also, make sure to check the dates indicated on your visa before your trip to Russia. Both of them are written in the European style (day/month/year) and the first one is the visa start day, indicating the earliest day you can be allowed into Russia, as opposed to the expiration date, telling by which day you must leave the territory of the country. If you have missed the visa's departure date, you won't be able to leave the country until the sponsor requests a visa extension and it might take up to 20 days to obtain an exit visa.

The only valid reason allowing the traveler to stay past the visa expiration date is a medical emergency. Be aware that travelers without a valid visa might face some difficulties checking in hotels/hostels, so it's better not to overstay your welcome.

Visa Registration

Travelers planning to spend more than 7 days in Russia have to register their visa. As with any visa alteration, it has to be done through the traveler's sponsor or an "acceptance agent" (tour agency, hotel, landlord, employer, and so on. The visa registration form consists of 2 parts. The first one is filled in by the sponsor/acceptance agent with the local Federal Migration Service. The traveler keeps the second part of the form and has to hand it over to the airport passport control officer when leaving the country.

Saint Petersburg

Emergency cases

In case you happen to lose your passport and your visa with it during your Russia stay, you must immediately replace your passport at the U.S. Embassy and ask your sponsor to apply for a new visa to be able to leave the country.

Dual Nationality

People with dual nationality, for example, Russian and American, might face several problems. If it's your case and you want to apply for a Russian visa using your U.S. passport, most likely that you will be asked to renounce your Russian citizenship or to get a Russian passport. The same applies if you currently have only one non-Russian citizenship but were born in Russia (or on the territory of the Soviet Union) and once had Russian citizenship long ago. Both cases can take up to several years to handle, so definitely consult a specialist if this is your situation.

Now you see that we weren't exaggerating in the beginning when we said that obtaining a Russian visa is a complicated process. We have years of experience in the field and can say that, unfortunately, most visa applications submitted without any professional help, get rejected. People spend their time and money applying for it, only to end up with the necessity to repeat the process all over again. We highly recommend not to risk it and let our team of qualified professional visa specialists help you right away. If you are interested in getting a Russian visa or have any additional questions left, don't hesitate to contact us.