With the 2018 FIFA World Cup quickly approaching, citizens of multiple countries will soon find themselves facing an immigration agent in Moscow before venturing across Russia to watch the games. International sporting events have a tendency to pressure foreign governments into temporarily relaxing their entry requirements.
In Russia’s case, visitors do not have to apply for a visa at an embassy or consulate provided they have a valid passport and tickets to at least one match which can be used to obtain a Fan ID. However, under normal circumstances, US citizens need to go over a number of bureaucratic hurdles before arriving in Russia.
Step 1: Accommodation and Flights
Russia is not the best country to visit if you want to keep your travel plans flexible. Though there are tourist agencies that will assist with visas for more independent travel, those considering applying at an embassy or consulate on their own or through a local agency like Travel Visa Pro should be thoroughly prepared.
In this case, that means booking a flight, paying for accommodation, and receiving an invitation letter from your hotel or host. Once you have a confirmation number from the airline and this letter, you’re ready for the next step.
Step 2: Apply for Travel Insurance
Travel Visa Pro can help you with this if you don’t have a regular company. Even if you’re insured in the US, this protection doesn’t extend to accidents or injuries incurred abroad.
Step 3: Apply Online
For Americans, there actually is no way to obtain a tourist or business visa to Russia online. However, applicants are still required to fill out an Electronic Visa Application Form prior to their visit to a Russian consulate and print out the form for when they apply in person.
Step 4: Write a Cover Letter
Travel Visa Pro can also assist any travelers unfamiliar with the application process, but a simple letter detailing the purpose of your visit to Russia, the dates of your stay, and the contact information for your accommodation are all that’s required.
Step 5: Send in the Application
There are some Russian embassies and consulates that accept applications by mail, but none of the five in the United States do this. If you happen to live too far to both hand over your application and receive it days later, it’s best to entrust the procedure to a company like Travel Visa Pro. The consulate hours vary according to the branch, with some only accepting visa applications in the morning, while others might be willing to accommodate you in the afternoon.
How much will it cost?
The price of a tourist or business visa varies according to the processing time and company you use, but in general you should expect over $100 for standard processing – more if you need your application mailed back to you or expedited.
How long will it take?
The latest we recommend applying for a visa to Russia is 30 days prior to arrival, with applications accepted up to 90 days in advance. Once at the consulate or embassy, your application may take several days to process.
Once in Russia, what should you do?
If you plan on staying in Russia longer than a week, you must register your visa through your hotel or host before this seven-day window closes. Other guests can simply check in and depart for the airport when ready (immigration will check visa registration when leaving).
Should you need to extend your stay once in the country, you may have to accept the fact this is not possible. Even prior to your arrival in Russia, your visa cannot be amended; those with difficult arrival or departure dates must apply for an entirely new visa.
Are there other ways to legally enter Russia?
Fortunately, yes! Even when the crowds from the World Cup have left, US citizens have opportunities to enter Russia without a visa. Cruise ships departing from Finland, Sweden, and Estonia offer short stays in St. Petersburg. In this situation, tourists can legally stay in the city without a visa for up to three days.
Do you have any questions about visiting Russia as a US citizen?