For US citizens, it’s not necessarily difficult to get a visa to Russia, but it comes as part of a complicated application process that will most likely make you relieved you’re finally boarding your flight to Moscow. Although independent travel through the former Soviet Empire isn’t impossible, there are certain roadblocks you may face encouraging visitors to stay on the beaten path. If you will have any questions, you can always contact us!
Getting Russian visa support is likewise a challenge, with all the bureaucratic hurdles one faces before even approaching an embassy or consulate. As a result, it’s important to do your research and plan exactly how long it will take you to get a Russian visa depending on how prepared you are and for what reason your travels are taking you over there.
There’s this misconception amongst first-time travelers to Russia that everyone needs an invitation letter – also known as a visa support letter – requiring the bearer to have every step of their trip planned, from the incoming and departing flights, to the hotel each night, down to the meals you’ll be eating (not really, but you get the idea). In actuality, the main purpose of this letter is to show the Russian government your plans, whether they include business or leisure travel, and where you intend on going – it is a big country, after all!
Letter for tourists
Believe it or not, US citizens qualify for multiple-entry visas to Russia valid for up to three years. Russia may be stringent about its visa requirements, but even they know it would be difficult to demand a tourist plan his accommodations for over a thousand days. How long does it take to get this invitation letter for your Russian visa? Anywhere from 1 to 24 hours, at a cost of $30.
Letter for business travelers
Business travelers to Russia may apply for an invitation letter specifying a single, double, or multiple entry visa allowing them to conduct meeting, conferences, research, or anything related to their business abroad or in Russia. This invitation would allow for a visa up to a year processed between 3 and 18 business days for up to $300.
As you may have guessed, the application process is not over once you have this application letter in hand. Getting it requires applying online or in person at a registered Russian tourist agency or, in the case of a private invitation, receiving a properly formatted letter from a Russian citizen; the latter can take almost a month to process.
Gather your documents
After this waiting period – anywhere from 1 to 30 days depending on the reason for your trip, you’ll need to gather all your visa paperwork. As always, your US passport should be valid for at least six months and have two blank pages for the visa and migration card. You’ll need two passport-sized photos taken recently, and the official Russian visa application form. Requirements at different embassies and consulates vary, but it wouldn’t hurt to bring proof of employment if you’re traveling for business, and travel insurance if you’re planning on a long stay. Almost all embassies and consulates require medical certification you are not HIV positive if you are planning to travel to Russia on a business visa. Separately, all these documents can significantly increase the wait time between application and departure, so be sure to apply well in advance.
Apply for the visa at an agency, embassy, or consulate
Once all your documents are in hand and you’re ready to actually apply for the visa, the difficult part may be over. We recommend applying through a travel agency like Travel Visa Pro if you’re looking for additional Russian visa support, including double checking your existing documents to ensure there are no costly mistakes. Agencies like TVP can save you time in what was already a lengthy visa application process by placing your application ahead of the pack and helping you get your documents sooner.
So, how long does it take to get a Russian visa?
If you have a valid passport, recent photographs, and apply through an agency like Travel Visa Pro, it’s possible to get your Russian visa in as little as 2-3 business days. If your application is sent back, you delay getting the invitation letter, or you have to apply through the mail, it can potentially take weeks. No matter which method you choose, it never hurts to ask for help from travel experts.
Remember to register your visa once you arrive in Russia. Safe travels!