Going to Russia? Here’s what you need to do to get a visa. There are three stages when it comes to Russian tourist visas.
You’ll need to:
1. Obtain an invitation letter
2. Submit the visa application
3. Register your visa.
1. Get your invitation letter (Do this a month before departing)
You will need an ‘invitation letter’, which is essentially a document from a Russian organisation or company stating that you’ll be entering Russia on their invitation. You can obtain invitation letters from a Russian travel company or the hotel you’re staying at.
If your hotel, for whatever reason, cannot issue an invitation letter, ask your local travel agent if they can help, otherwise go here. That’s the visa link for Real Russia, the same company which I used for my Trans-Siberian trip. Their office is in London so they speak English, but they have good contacts in major cities in Russia. Click on the service that you require- ‘Single Entry’ or ‘Double Entry’. Fill up the form, send them the money (it’s a trustworthy company and very efficient), and they will email you a document within minutes. This is your invitation letter, so print it out and keep it.
2. Submit your visa application
First of all, you’ll need the visa application form. For those applying for the visa in Malaysia, this is the link to the Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. All the info about office hours and the documents they need are all there. The visa application form isn’t available online, so you’ll need to drop by the Embassy to pick up the form. I would suggest you bring your invitation letter and flight ticket when you collect the form to show the people at the embassy.
When you pick up the form, the lady at the counter will tell you when to submit the application. In Kuala Lumpur, visa applications take about 10 working days, so a date will be given based on your departure date. If you come with the completed form and documents too early before you leave for Russia, you will be asked come back on another day.
For those who won’t be applying for the visa in Malaysia, you’ll need to locate the Russian Embassy for the country you’re in.
3. Visa registration
This final stage is completed after you arrive in Russia and can be done by your hotel. Make sure you read all about visa registration here.
If you’re going to be travelling for several weeks in Russia like I was, you may not need or be able to register your visa immediately upon arrival. Remember that visa registration costs differ from city to city; in fact, registration is cheaper the farther east you go. Registering your visa on Olkhon Island or in Ulan-Ude, for example, is cheaper than in Moscow and St Petersburg. As there was no way for me to register my visa while I was on board the train, I was only able to to do so in Irkutsk, days after I arrived in St Petersburg.
Once you’ve registered your visa, nothing else is required of you; end of story.
The visa process is a little tedious but when you get to Russia, you’ll see that it’s a beautiful and fascinating country, and that the hassle was worth it.