How to apply for a tourist visa to Russia
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 either a Russian travel company or your hotel, provided that they are officially accredited and recognised by the Russian Ministry of Tourism (you will need to ask them if they are authorised to issue you an official tourist invitation).
If your hotel cannot issue invitation letters, ask your local travel agent if they can help, otherwise visit the Real Russia website here, the same company I used for my Trans-Siberian trip. Their office is in London so they speak English, but they have 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.
**Malaysian applicants who would rather not deal with an overseas-based company like I did can contact the KL-based Russian Visa Centre via their website here. The Russian Visa Centre can provide you with visa invitation letters as well as assist with your visa application with the Russian Embassy. Note that this is merely a suggestion, not a recommendation, because I’ve never dealt with the company before. All the information on fees and types of visas are in the link.
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. An updated list on the necessary documents for tourist visas can be viewed here, while information on current visa fees for Malaysians are here.
**Important: The Russian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur has introduced a new rule (effective February 9, 2015) with regard to visa applications: the embassy will now only accept electronic versions of visa application forms completed and printed from this link. Handwritten forms will no longer be accepted.
For Malaysians who won’t be applying for the visa in Malaysia, you’ll need to locate the Russian Embassy for the country you’re in.
**Malaysians who are using the services of the Russian Visa Centre (above) for both the visa invitation letters and the visa application need not get in touch with the Russian Embassy.
3. Visa registration
This final stage is completed after you arrive in Russia and can be done by your hotel. Your Russian visa must be registered within seven working days of your arrival (excluding weekends and official holidays). 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. Visa registration costs differ from city to city; for some reason, I found that registration was cheaper the farther east I went. During the time of my visit, registering a visa on Olkhon Island or in Ulan-Ude, was cheaper than in Moscow or 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 on a Saturday.
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.
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