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If you are a US citizen who’s planning a trip to Russia, chances are you’re going to need a visa. And if you’re heading to Moscow or St Petersburg to go enjoy the sights, you’ll specifically need a Russian tourist visa.
If this is the case, we’ve got good news and we’ve got bad news…
Applying for, and receiving, a Russian tourist visa is downright strenuous.
The good news is, we’ve created this extensive article to help you with your upcoming Russian odyssey.
In this article we’ll take you through the steps of applying for a Tourist visa, we’ll look at the different types of tourist visas available for US citizens, and we’ll answer some of the most common questions people ask when applying for a Russian tourist visa.
We also have a Mega Guide on Russian Visas, in which we cover all of the types of visas available to US citizens traveling to Russia, as well as some cool tips and insights. But on to the article at hand and one of the most frequently asked questions:
The easiest and fastest way to get a Russian visa is through Atlys.
"How easy?" you ask.
Just download the Atlys app, create an account, and start your application. The future of visa applications is officially here.
There are currently 4 types of Tourist visas available To US citizens traveling to Russia.
Perfect for travelers who do not intend on staying in Russia for more than 30 days. The “Single Entry” designation means that the traveler will enter Russia, travel only within the borders of the Russian Federation, and leave Russia again. If the tourist needs to enter Russia again after leaving the Federation, they’ll have to do so with a newly issued Visa.
This Visa is suited to travelers who are only going to stay in Russia for 30 days but also want to leave and return to Russia within that period.
For instance, let’s say a tourist travels to Russia and they spend a couple of days exploring St Petersburg, before popping over to Helsinki, for a quick jaunt. After they finish their Finnish adventure (absolutely intended btw), they return to Russia for the remainder of their time. They’re allowed to do this because they have a double-entry Russian Tourist Visa.
This is a doozy of a visa, and it allows US Citizens entry into Russia for three years. This is due to an agreement signed between Russian and the USA in 2012. It makes it hard to believe the cold war was ever actually a thing…
The only catch to the visa is that only 180 days may be spent in Russia at a time. After the 180 days are over the traveler needs to leave Russia.
But the good news is that they may return immediately after they’ve left. This effectively means that the holder of this visa may stay in Russia for the entire 3 years, but they’ll have to exit and re-enter the country every 180 days.
It is worth remembering that a holder of a Russian Tourist visa, be it for a period of 30 days or 3 years, is not allowed to work in Russia. Only someone with a valid Russian work visa is allowed to work.
This visa allows for a 90-day stay in the Russian Federation. It’s issued exclusively to people visiting friends or family in Russia. The person(s) visited must be Russian citizens, or foreigners with residency permits.
The visa application process is tedious, to say the least. The friend or family member has to petition their local Federal Migration Service office in order to obtain an invitation letter that will be used during the application. This process alone can take up to 90 days. Not really worth all the trouble for a visa that only lasts 90 days...
Most US tourists who are traveling to Russia and plan to visit their friends and family are advised to opt for the 3 Year multi-entry tourist visa, as the process is much simpler and shorter.
Unfortunately, Russia has not yet extended its e-visa initiative to include the United States. However, they are continuously adding new countries to this initiative, so who knows, maybe an e-visa for US citizens is just around the corner.
Assuming that you have decided against the complicated Private Visa option, the documentation required for your Russian Visa application will be the same, regardless of the type of visa you choose. These documents are:
For your passport to be deemed valid, it needs to have at least two blank pages available, and it needs to be valid for a minimum of six months after your visa expires. If you are applying for a 3-year multiple-entry tourist visa, your passport must be valid for an extra six months after your visa ends. So if you plan on applying for a 3-year visa from 1 January 2022, until 31 December 2025, your passport needs to be valid until 30 June 2026.
This is probably the document that causes the most stress and head-scratching when it comes to the Russian visa process. This is partly due to it also being called a tourist voucher or an introductory letter. These are all the same documents, and they exist because Russia works on a sponsorship principle when processing visas. What this basically means is that a natural or legal person in Russia needs to extend an invitation to the prospective traveler, in order for their visa application to be processed.
A hotel reservation does not count as an introductory/invitation letter, neither does a travel itinerary. If you want to find out more about Russian invitation letters, our extensive guide.
This is the official form in which you apply for your visa. You can find it here, and it’s pretty straightforward to fill out. Simply answer the questions as truthfully as possible. If you need any help filling in the document, you can check out our quick step-step guide on it here.
After it’s all filled out, print it out, sign it, and paste a photo onto it. This application, accompanied by your letter of invitation, makes up your official application for a Russian tourist Visa. You can almost hear those balalaikas strumming… But first...
Atlys can help by gathering all your required documents. All you need to do is scan your passport's barcode, confirm your information, and pay the application fee.
The short answer is no. US Citizens need neither travel nor medical insurance to be granted a Russian tourist visa. However, in some individual cases, the authorities might request that a traveler provide proof of medical insurance.
That being said, both medical and travel insurance is a good idea when traveling abroad and it can save you loads of headaches later on.
Great, so you’ve determined which Russian tourist visa suits your needs, you’ve received your invitation letter, filled out your application form, and now you’re wondering: “What now?”
Now it’s time to get down and dirty with the submission process. With this process you basically have 2 options: 1.) Submit your documents directly to the Consulate nearest to you; 2.) Process your submission through a Russian Visa Center;
Currently, there are four Russian consulates in the US:
In order for you to submit your application to any one of them, you’ll need to book an appointment at the relevant facility. To book an appointment simply click on the relevant link above and follow the on-page instructions. If you need help filling out the booking page simply follow the steps as indicated in our quick guide.
It is important to note that you will not be helped without an appointment.
Unfortunately, an online submission portal is not available for US citizens yet, and while the appointment for submission can be made online, the submission to the consulate can only be done in person.
You can use Atly's free visa appointment tool to make your visa appointment online. Or rather just apply
Russian Visa Centers are facilities mandated by the Russian government to help with visa processing. If you choose to submit your visa application through one of these centers, you have one of two options available to you: submission in person, or submitting your documents via the US postal service.
To submit your application to a Russian Visa Centre in person you simply need to show up and walk in. No appointment is needed.
You can either submit the documents in person or send someone to do it in your stead, provided that you issue them with a power of attorney.
For the mail-in option, you need to visit the Russian Visa Centre website and choose the mail-in option.