For as long as anyone can remember, applying for a Russian visa has been the ultimate test of character. Over the years, it has resulted in hundreds of thousands of angry stares, slammed doors, profane rants and nervous breakdowns.
Patience you must have. Worth it will be.
Once you have the rotten thing in your passport and have passed border control, it will become immediately clear: Russia ≠ the Russian state. Overall, it’s much more friendly. Until you get there, though, you are going to have to suck it up.
What is not discussed here
Russia has a tremendous amount of visa policies, and we will not discuss all of them. If you are interested in:
- Group tour visas
- the 2020 Fan ID
- Border area permits for Latvian, Norwegian and Polish passports
- The (non-)existence of transit zones in certain Russian airports
- E-visas for short-term Far East visits
- Visiting Crimea
- Student, work, private, missionary, … visas
- Working holiday visa for French under 30
- Visa-free travel for
- Cruise ship and ferry passengers
- APEC business card holders
- Service and diplomatic passports
- Japanese and Alaskans traveling to resp. Kuril Islands and Chukotka
- Crew members
- Participants of selected cultural, sports and economic events
you should look elsewhere (Wikipedia is kept up to date by a team of dedicated visa geeks – it’s where we get our visa tables – a good place to start).
The following passports have visa-free travel to Russia. Except for citizens of Belarus and South Ossetia, all visa-free travel must not exceed 90 days within any 180-day period.
90 days for non-commercial purposes
60 days for non-commercial purposes
30 days for non-commercial purposes
14 days for non-commercial purposes
Visa-free entry will be available for foreigners who are holders of valid Belarusian visas. The agreement will be signed on 13 December 2018. However, if you are traveling visa-free to Belarus, you do not qualify for this rule; you will still need a Russian visa, provided you would need one otherwise.
The actual application process for a Russian visa is not too difficult. The harder part is finding an embassy that will accept your application if you are already on the road.
3 types of visas are relevant to most travelers: tourist, transit and business.
- Transit visas are the cheapest and easiest to obtain but limit you to 2-10 days.
- Tourist visas are issued for 1 month (sometimes more), and cost around 100$.
- Business visas are the most expensive and most flexible. You do not need to be on a business trip to get a business visa, you just need to be willing to pay for it.
Russian visas are date-specific. This means you cannot enter before the entry date on your visa, and cannot leave after the exit date, but you can enter after the entry date and leave before the exit date.
Eg.: a 30-day tourist visa valid from 1 January – 30 January. You can enter on January 1, or 2 or 3 or 4, etc. But you must in any case leave before or on 30 January.
Russian tourist visas are typically issued as single or double entry for 30 days. If you want to stay longer, you will need a business visa, unless you carry a USA passport, in which case you can get a multi-entry 3-year visa.
To get a tourist visa, you need to first get an invitation letter from a tourist agency in Russia. With this letter, and a bunch of other documents, you can apply at the consulate of your choice. See the chapters on application and invitation letters below for the lowdown.
3-year tourist visa for American passport holders
If you carry a USA passport, you can get a multi-entry 3-year visa. Americans with the 3 year visa can stay in Russia for a period of up to 6 months at a time and can re-enter immediately with a new stamp.
Procedure is the same as applying for a regular tourist visa. However, no one offers a 3-year visa invitation letter. Americans applying for a 3-year visa should get the regular 1-month invitation letter.
When filling in the actual visa application, they should write dates 3 years apart in the visa application. This strategy has worked for Americans so far.
The first date on your visa invitation letter should match the first date of your visa application. This will be the start date for your visa.
Visa fees typically depend on the number of entries, not the type of visa. Fees vary widely depending on your nationality and the consulate you apply at.
Some examples: EU consulates usually (meaning, not all of them) charge local citizens 35 EUR for single or double entry visa, but it can be over 250 EUR for other foreign nationals. Also be aware applying through a visa processing center can easily triple the price.
In the USA, fees are $90/144/270 for single/double/multi-entry visas.
Generally, standard visa processing takes 4-20 days and expedited processing in 1-3 days costs double. Call or visit the consulate to ask for a more exact time estimate.
We will assume you are a tourist, not someone actually interested in doing business in Russia. If you are in business, you can get an invitation through your contacts in Russia.
Business visas can be:
- single- or double-entry valid for up to 3 months
- multiple-entry valid for 6 months, 1, 2, 3 or 5 years. 1 year is standard, 3 and 5 years is available for some nationalities (could not find a list yet, but definitely EU and Indian citizens are eligible).
As with visa-free stays, travelers on a business visa must not stay longer than 90 days within a 180-day period.
In most cases, multi-entry visas are granted only to those who have obtained a Russian visa before, unless you are from the USA.
In addition to the general visa documents, you will need an invitation letter. Similar to a tourist invitation letter, but more expensive and a longer waiting time (see below).
Like other Russian visas, transit visas are date-specific, so be ready to use it. They are given for 1 to 10 days, depending on the distance and your mode of transport. The benefit: they are cheap and easy to obtain while traveling, while tourist visas are often more difficult or impossible to get depending on your nationality.
In addition to the general visa documents, you will need:
- Photocopies of visas for countries which you will enter and exit Russia through (if applicable)
- Transport tickets from country A, through Russia, to country B, or car documents and a printout of your planned route.
- No letter of invitation is needed, so you are saving money.
If you are traveling by airplane, you will get a transit visa until the day you have to catch your second plane (no more than 3 days).
By car, the consulate expects you to cover 500 km per day, so specify a route of 5000+ km to receive 10 days.
For cyclists – it is up to the whims of the consulate whether to grant you a visa to bike from Kazakhstan to Ukraine or Mongolia. It is entirely feasible to apply for the visa with car documents or train tickets and then, after you receive the visa, decide to use a bicycle, local bus or hitchhike instead. Your mode of transport is not printed on the visa.
By train, it depends on the length of your journey (eg. Moscow – Vyborg: 1 day, Moscow – Nakhodka: 8 days). Each embassy has slightly different rules. Some may say you can only have 1 connection, while others grant 2 or more. Some may deny the transit when the connection time between 2 trains is very long, while others will let you hang around for an extra day or 2.
Are transit visas location-specific? Sometimes, entry or exit locations are written on the visa, but most of the time they aren’t. Anecdotal evidence suggests that even with an exit point written in your visa, you can exit at a different crossing than you applied for, as long as you exit to a third country (so not hopping back into the same country you came from).
We do not know if this will work in all cases, but so far, we haven’t heard of travelers getting into trouble exiting at a different border crossing from the one they requested. YMMV.
If you choose to go this route, in order to maximize your visa, book train/bus tickets that will take 10 days to cross the country (i.e., Vladivostok to Murmansk, or 1 day stops in each city). Russian train tickets are refundable.
A big point of confusion for first-time visitors to Russia is the concept of an invitation letter.
It all starts with a lack of consistent naming. If you have read other guides, you might have encountered the terms visa invitation, visa support documents, tourist voucher, tourist confirmation, et cetera. We call it a letter of invitation or in short LOI. These are all the same thing – an invitation from a Russia-based company dealing with tourists.
All travel agencies offer this service. You send them a bit of money, and soon you will find an invitation letter in your e-mail inbox. Technically, the invitation letter consists of 2 documents (in Russian). You just need to print them and bring them to the consulate when you apply for your visa.
Each LOI has a number code which you will also need to fill in on your application.
The price for a tourist LOI tends to be around 20$, and it usually gets delivered the same day via e-mail.
Prices for a business LOI range from about $80-150 for 8-20 day processing and double that for faster processing, with multi-entry support documents being generally more expensive than single or double entry.
Where to get it?
Plenty of options. Some hotels or booking sites give you a free LOI when you book with them for a number of days. If you are booking a tour, the price for the LOI should also be included.
We currently do not recommend any agency specifically.
It is possible to apply for a Russian visa either directly through the consulate or via a visa processing service or travel agency.
Some consulates in the US, Canada, and Europe outsource their visa processing to another company, and they will make it much easier to apply through that company (for a fee), but it is still possible to apply directly at the consulate with some persistence. Note that applying in the consulate typically requires being there in person, whereas the processing services allow mail-in applications.
Expect to pay about double for your visa with the visa processing service. If you want to apply through the consulate directly, look far in advance to book an appointment: places are usually limited, and the consulate loves to send you back home because of a missing document.
If the consulate states that visas are processed through ILS/VFS/VHS but you do not want to use that service, be adamant and request to make an appointment to submit your documents in person in the consulate.
Updated information on required documents and visa processing for each consulate is usually available on their website, which tends to follow the formula city-name.mid.ru, city-name.kdmid.ru or country-name.mid.ru.
For all visas, required documents include:
Completed visa application and invitation letter
You will likely need to fill in the form online. On the application, you will be asked to write the dates of your visit to every country in the past 10 years. Don’t worry too much about this – just give a rough estimate if you cannot remember.
For tourist and business visas, you will need to purchase a letter of invitation before you can fill out the application.
A passport, copies and passport pictures
- A passport with 2 empty pages valid for 6 months after planned departure from Russia.
- The embassy tends to keep your passport while your application is being processed.
- A photocopy of your passport
- A 3,5 x 4,5 cm photo
Valid travel health insurance is required for EU/EEA citizens, though this may be overlooked at some embassies for the transit visa. Generally not required for citizens of other countries.
The travel insurance must often explicitly state Russia. Big insurance companies tend to know the Russian consulate’s idiosyncrasies, just call them up and ask for the standard letter, they will know what to do.
Depending on your nationality and the consulate, you may need to provide:
- A note from you or your employer stating the purpose of the visit
- Bank statements from the past 3 months
- A detailed day-by-day itinerary
- Hotel bookings
Longer-term visas will probably require HIV test results.
Russian visa application on the road
Things change quickly for Russian visas, so do double-check with the embassy in advance if someone bothers to pick up the phone.
Latest rule: long-term registration for some nationalities needed
The latest rule (since March 2017) seems to be this:
To apply for any category of visas except transit, one must have a long-term registration in the country you are applying in.
BUT: No long term registration is needed for citizens of the following states and territories, who can get any categories of visas during 4-7 working days at regular price or during 1-2 working days with extra fees paid: Argentina, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Central African Republic, Chili, Columbia, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Kinshasa), Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador ,El Salvador, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana , Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nicaragua, Panama, Philippines, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Maldives, Republic of Seychelles, Romania, San-Tome And Principe, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, Uruguay, Yemen, Zimbabwe.
Citizens of these states can get any category of visas at regular price, but the waiting period may vary from 10 up to 26 working days: Australia, France, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Turkmenistan, the USA.
If citizens of the states and territories that are not mentioned above, do not have a long term registration in the country of application, according to the principle of reciprocity they can apply for any category of visas except transit, ONLY in their country of origin.
We know Ulan Bator does not follow this rule and hands out tourist visas freely.
Where to apply in 2018
Many people affected by this rule can still get a tourist visa in Tbilisi, where the year-long visa-free regime for rich countries circumvents the registration problem. Almaty has also been reported to give out tourist visas to people without registration (August 2017), but it takes 30 days (September 2017). If you only need a transit visa, you have more options.
Updates collected here – Contact details and fees on their website
Zhandosov Street 4, near the corner with Manas Street – Google Maps – Printshop, Atm, Exchange around the consulate
Opening times: Tuesday morning 9.30 to 12.00 and Friday afternoon 15.00 to 17.00. Window 3.
May 2018: Transit visa 3-day turnaround for 70€. One week processing 35€.
April 2018: 10-day transit visas. Processing time: 1 week. Cost per person (pay with tenge in cash) £45.
September-October 2017: Still possible but it takes 30 days.
August 2017: Possible to get a tourist visa even if you are not supposed to get one according to the 90-day registration rule.
March 2017: And you need to have proof you will return to Kazakhstan.
February 2017: Depends on nationality now. Only transit visas for some countries, others can get tourist visas. Try calling in advance.
October 2016: Two British passport holders got single entry transit visas for Russia. 42,000 Tenge for the two of us with 7 day turnaround (drop-off and collection on Tuesday morning).
September 2016: Two British passports with 30-day, double-entry visas, gained successfully express visa for about 70,000 tenge each in Almaty.
August 2016: Transit visa, 3-day turnaround 70 eur, 7 days wait 35 eur. Easy.
July 2016: UK citizen got denied transit visa (by bicycle – ha!) and tourist visa (we don’t like UK this week).
June 2016: Easy transit visa. Note: We had to pay the fee in Tenge, not USD. The visa guy at window 3 is super friendly and helpful.
November 2015: Now asking for a proof of residence for the last 90 days and a return ticket.
September 2015: 3 days turnaround 27000 tenge for UK citizen.
August 2015: They need the original LOI, which you need to get sent from Moscow, or a very good copy, as seems to be the case with the July report.
May 2013: American citizen with Turkish residence permit. Of course as bureaucratic as I thought it would be; they wanted the original LOI, not just the copy that the tour operator had sent me by email. After getting that shipped in, they were only going to provide me with a single-entry 30-day visa instead of the new 3-year multiple entry issued to Americans, but after a detailed conversation I convinced the embassy staff that I wasn’t just trying to live in Moscow for 3 years. They did some checking, and 30 minutes later said they hadn’t known about the new visa before, I was right (!), and were ready to issue it. $450 (!) same day processing.
September 2018: Transit visa to Russia in Astana was very easy, 3 day turnaround.
August 2015: The Russian embassy in Astana can issue an “urgent” transit visa on the same day; the guy at the counter is quite friendly and speaks English relatively well. I did not apply for a tourist visa (although I had the necessary LOI also prepared), as the transit visa was easier to get. Costs seem to depend on nationality (for Germany/ France: 14.400 Tenge, i.e. ca 75 USD). A “standard” transit visa should cost about half of that, but will take about a week (according to the information of the embassy). Officially you can pay also with credit card, but in my case the terminal was broken, so it’s a good idea to have sufficient amount of money (Tenge, not USD!) with you.
June 2013: Same Day Service, 13900 Tenge. Waited around 3 hours in front of the Embassy. Very nerveracking, but rewarding in the end. There are rumors that the Russians are about to set new regulations: you’ll only get a Visa (Tourist or Transit) if you are staying a minimum of 90 days in Kazakhstan.
October 2017: Follows March 2017 rule explained above.
Opening hours: Tuesday and Thursday 14:30-15:30. Very busy. Updates on getting a Russian visa in Bishkek posted here.
August 2018: Express procedure for a transit visa, 82$ in 3 days.
July 2018: transit visa (German Passport), 41 USD, processing time: 8 days. Tourist visa for French tourist rejected.
October 2017: Possible, but consul is always dreaming up special rules (to get a bribe?)
August 2015: Not possible at all, not even transit visa. You need 3 months minimum residency in Kyrgyzstan to apply.
August 2016: Transit visa. Express processing available. 70 eur. 1 day turnaround.
June 2016: Transit visa: they will give me 6 days from 5-10 July in UK passport for $116 urgent processing 2 days
June 2016: The Russian embassy in Dushanbe does not issue tourist visas for non Tajik residents (you’d need to show an OVIR registration longer than 30 days). Fill the online form and print it, 2 pics, passport copy, 2 blank pages in your passport (that are facing each other!), and the visa fee. AU passport transit visa costs USD$70 7 days, or USD$105 express 2-3 days. EU transit visa costs EUR 35 in 5 days, or EUR 70 in 2 days. If you plan to transit from KAZ to Georgia the approval time is 10 days because of instability in that area, and “it takes more time to make sure you aren’t terrorists”.
June 2015: 1 week turnaround for a transit visa, 40$ for 4 days (traveling by car).
June 2013: Russian Tourist visa 46$ (but citizenship related) 7 days to issue with supporting papers; very crowded but can get past the locals and enter in front (just say that you need tourist visa)
November 2011: American passport holder obtained 30-day tourist visa with LOI.
Polish passport couple, with only a 30-day Tourist visa for Tajikistan, obtained 30-day Russian tourist visa, on same day, for USD 90 with visa support (LOI).
Canadian passport, 30-day Tajik tourist visa, could get 30-day Russia Tourist Visa by submitting visa support and 5,000 Tajik Som …. i think they meant 500 Tajik Som which is approx USD 113.00 which might be correct.
Ho Chi Minh embassy
The visa section is the small building to the right, behind a motorbike attendant stand…not the main consulate section, gated on the left. Open Monday, Tuesday and Friday – if you are applying on Friday, go early as the bank (5 min. walk from the consulate) they send you to pay closes early.
April 2017: Embassy seems to follow the “latest rule” of March 2017. Paid on the day applied, 1 week turnaround.
Hong Kong embassy
May 2016: For visitors without a HKID or a visa to stay more than 90 days it would take at least 10 business days to process our applications, with no express processing option.
August 2015: We were in and out of the empty, air conditioned Russian embassy within 10 minutes and got our visas in 3 days (including the day we applied and the day we picked them up). They also do the cheaper but longer 5 day turn around. They are open Monday to Friday and most of the staff spoke English.
May 2018: Germans could not apply, as per the rule.
Kuala Lumpur embassy
Address: Apply at the consulate at No. 263, Jalan Ampang, 50450 KL. Opening hours: 9.30am-1pm, Mon, Weds and Fri.
November 2016: British citizen on a (90 day) tourist visa in Malaysia got granted a Russian visa. Note – I was told by some agencies here in KL that it’s not possible for tourists to get a Russian visa, but it is!
To apply you’ll need to fill out and print the online form, handwritten copies aren’t accepted.
You’ll also need a letter of invitation, a passport photo, a copy of your travel insurance. I also attached a photocopy of my passport photo-page and a copy of the page with my current Malaysian visa/entry stamp.
After checking you will be given a receipt and told to go and pay the fee at a nearby bank – mine was 200RM for a British citizen, about $45 or £35. Present the bank receipt and you’ll then get another receipt with a pickup date – a week or so later – and that’s it.
August 2015: We were told you need more than 90 days on your Malaysian visa for them to issue russian visas. Not sure what nationalities this applies to but we have British passports.
April 2015: Both residents and non-residents of Malaysia can apply for their visas provided they can show a 90 days tourist entry stamp available for most nationalities. You can only apply 1 month in advance, it seems.
What is required:
-Duly compiled application form which can only be printed. No handwriting. Must be compiled online at visa.kdmid.ru
-Good copy of invitation letter and tourist voucher, possibly in color.
– Most European nationalities need original of travel insurance which covers the period of stay in Russia. No insurance no chance.
Normal processing time: 7 to 10 working days. Cost for Italian passport holder was 175RM
Visa office opens ONLY ON Monday- Wednesday – Friday from 9.30 am to 1 pm. Go early as queues are normal, place is small and cramped, and the lady in charge will go by the number of registration in their books when you enter the premises.
SUGGESTIONS: Don’t ask for 30 days or you might be rejected. I have been instructed to ask for less than 20 days, asked for 18 and had no problems. Met a French couple who signed up for 25 days, and were instead allowed that time frame. It’s a bit of a hit or miss, and the lady, a Malaysian, can get a bit grumpy when under stress. The better shape your documents are in, the best chance you stand to get exactly what you apply for.
Once documents are accepted, you must go to the RHB bank close to Ampang Park (catch a bus from outside the embassy and get off about 3 stops after, direction KL city centre) and pay your consular fees. Use the slips provided by the bank and write clearly. Return to the embassy, go directly to the consular window bypassing the Malaysian lady, and deal with the more accommodating Russian staff.
All in all, not too bad, but be prepared to deal with the Malaysian lady and stand your ground She is very polite if you show her all the right documents, but loses her temper when under stress.
October 2018: Not granted even with all conditions fulfilled. Reports welcome in the Osaka embassy forum thread.
The consulate is open Monday- Friday 14-17.30, phone +7 7232262959
September 2018: An appointment was needed but granted the next day. 3 days turnaround for a transit visa.
October 2018: 2 Swiss travelers were refused.
June 2016: We got our Russian tourist visa easily through the VFS Global Russian Visa Application Centre today in Seoul. You can apply between 9am and 3pm Mon to Fri. We took our printed application form with passport photo attached, passports, and LOI and tourist voucher. Copies are fine. We paid the visa fee and processing fee in cash (in South Korean Won). You are given a receipt which you need to keep to collect your passports. Our application took 10 working days, but if you have an Alien Registration Card it is much quicker. If you don’t have an ARC there is no express processing option.
You collect your passports between 11am and 4pm. All very easy and the staff are very friendly! Staff are responsive to emails too if you have questions. Location and contact details of VFS.
November 2018: There’s a Russian visa centre now. It’s open 8:30-15:30 Mon-Fri. Nice women are working there, but partially they didn’t have some information (that the transit visa is 10 days if you go by train). They explicitly find some random “mistakes” on your visa application form so they can correct it for you for 60RMB. 240RMB service fee. No residency requirement was mentioned, but appointment was needed.
At the embassy, you may or may not need to make an appointment online. Germans needed a LONO for a tourist visa, German embassy was not forthcoming. Ended up with transit visa.
April 2017: First, if your Chinese visa is not valid for at least 90 consecutive days, the processing time of getting a visa will be 10 working days. The price of tourist visa is 250/500 yuans (5/3 working days) + 200 yuans fees. The paper they give you after your submission enables you to stay in hotels and to travel by train (no plane though).
There is a russian woman speaking English, just need the usual documents for Russian visa (LOI, medical insurance for some countries…). If you cross the border by train, it has to be written on the letter of invitation.
March 2017: seems to follow the “latest rule” outlined at the start of the article.
November 2016: 224 000 sum for express service. Original LOI is needed but has been faked with good quality print on heavy paper (might be refused by some print shops because copying documents with stamps is illegal in Uzbekistan). CV was asked for from Australian.
June 2016: Very easy place to get your Russian Tourist visa…and way cheaper than in Georgia thanks to the fact that you can pay in sums (read about the unofficial exhange rate). Same process as described. We had to pay 160,000 sums each for the 30 day tourist visa. It was ready in 4 days and we also asked them not to keep the passports (so we can process another visa at the same time and use the metro without issues). We brought our booking.com confirmations printed from the emails in black and white, no issues.
As an advice, bring your itinerary with the names and addresses of the hotels in a separate sheet of paper to serve you as a guidance to fill in a questionnaire they provide. We had to be asking back and forth for the paperwork we had handed in already. The lady was super nice to do it gladly… but just in case.
You can’t bring in your phones or bags. Bring your stash of cash in a separate little bag or in your pockets to go inside. When you arrive go straight to the door and say tourist visa. Very little English spoken…if any.
June 2016: It took 4 days and 128000 som for 30 day tourist visa (we have to ask the entry/exit dates). Needed passport, photocopy of the ID page, Letter of invitation. Insurance. One picture. Regular size, to stick in the form.
The online filled and printed form. You will find it here : http://visa.kdmid.ru. 128000 som for regular (4 days) the double for express (2 days). Strangely, they didn’t accepted USD.
A lot of people wait, just go to the entrance line and say you come for visa, you should pass quickly. Take your money because you must pay when you ask the visa.
No refund if visa is denied. You will keep your passport during the waiting time, not like before. So they will make you write a letter to ask the right to keep your passport during the process. An ambassy guy speaking english may come to help a little, sometime…
It’s 4 days waiting but you must take an appointment for the visa recovery. If you are not free four day after, you can ask another day, after. The appointment will be at 12:00.
June 2016: We got Visa in 3 days for 80$! (Two persons 16 days). You have to pay in Sum cash.
Don´t wait in the front of embassy – say only “Visa” to police and you can enter soon.
Don´t go to the office in front of embassy, it´s a “money catcher” with making copies and filling up online application. You can do everything by your own.
Visas are issued from the Russian Interests Section at the Swiss Embassy in Tbilisi (53 Chavchavadze Avenue – N41.71121 E044.74305, map). Not the actual Swiss Embassy, the Russian Interests Section is a different building on the other side of the city near the Russian embassy. The embassy is open 9am – 2pm for applications, but best to come early as it gets really busy. Updates collected here for transit visas – here for tourist visas.
In September 2018, a visa centre opened up to process Russian visas. This is more expensive obviously, but it seems to be almost the only way for foreigners to get a visa, as the embassy is determined to do everything they can to frustrate tourists. On the other hand, no guarantee is given that it will be easier with the visa centre – we are looking for more reports.
Appointments at the visa centre need to made minimum a week in advance, but a more expensive express service is also available.
March 2017: several successes for tourist visas, American and Swiss. 5 to 9 days wait.
September 2016: 10 days processing time, 100$ for Australian.
June 2016: We also applied for a transit visa in Tbilisi and was ready on the 5th day.
June 2016: As noted before in the visa section, all papers listed were necessary. We arrived at 09hrs opening time but were told to return at 1130hrs when the Consul would be present. We had a pleasant chat (in English) with the Consul, he said “no problem”. Deposited our papers on 10 June and told to return on 24 June to receive our passports. French passport (5 working days normally) and $75 USD, Canadian passport (10 working days) $135USD. We paid by VISA card, no problem. Paid inside the embassy. Inside embassy are photocopy machines and photo machines. Outside the embassy are a collection of Ford Transit vans that do printing and photocopying (and prepare visa online).
April 2015: there were two very helpful young guys who spoke English who ushered us through into a waiting room and asked us to wait 20 minutes for the Diplomat to arrive. Dimitri arrived exactly 20 minutes later, perfect English, very helpful, said a transit visa would be no problem and take 10-days to process and gave us a list of what we needed. You need to know the exact entry and exit dates into and out of Russia and they will look at your route and decide how many days your transit visa can be; we only had 3 days. They are very strict on this so plan your route and time carefully. As a rule we read that they expect you to travel between 400-500km a day.
For a transit visa application you need;
- Completed application form, in English, online from the website https://visa.kdmid.ru/PetitionChoice.aspx save as a PDF, print and sign
- Original passport
- Copy of passport
- Copy of visa for onward travel from Russia (Kazakhstan for us)
- Copy of Georgia entry stamp in passport
- Copy of personal insurance certificate
- 1 x passport photo
- $60 cash only (costs may differ for other nationalities)
We also took (but didn’t need to show)
- Hotel booking confirmations (if you use www.booking.com you can always cancel afterwards without paying anything). We also used these hotel bookings (name, address, telephone number) as our ‘contacts in Russia’ in the application form.
- Car registration documents and driving licenses
On our return the next day we arrived at 10am, went straight to an application window, submitted our documents and paid the $60. We were given a receipt (keep safe – you need this to collect your passports) and told to come back at 2pm 10-days later to collect our passports and visa. All done in 15 minutes.
We collected our passports and visa at exactly 2pm 10-days later, absolutely no problem – the guys let us in early to wait and all embassy staff were very friendly and helpful throughout.
August 2014: Come very early, get help from the sharks standing outside. 10 days turnaround for transit visa, 50$. Germans will have a very hard time/don’t stand a chance.
Consulate is located @ 35.697376, 51.414698 (the embassy, which is across the street, does not handle visa applications). Updates collected here.
June 2016: Only open to Iranians.
Ulan Bator embassy
Opening hours: 9-12 (not 14-15 anymore) Monday – Wednesday – Thursday. Pay at TDB Bank (GPS: 47.920134, 106.910285). Transit visa updates – Tourist visa updates. Tourist visas are also possible for those not supposed to get it on the 90-day registration rule.
September 2018: With express service 3-day turnaround to Kazakhstan for 7 days transit visa using “motorcycle maintenance in Barnaul” as a reason for extra days. This was accepted.
July 2018: Tourist visa for Dutch couple no problem. 3 day turnaround.
March-July 2018: Success with transit visa application, express option 3 day turnaround.
August 2017: tourist visas also possible for those not supposed to get it on the 90-day registration rule.
June-July 2017: transit visas still possible.
September 2016: transit visas was simple and the young guy serving us was welcoming and even gave us options for our varied purposes. You are expected to pay in USD cash on application. But, as they only have a 1hr window for all foreigners it’s impossible to go get the cash if you don’t have it – so they let it slide and we went back the next day at 9am. We had old passport photos and just the basic supporting documents, they barely checked them nor question the photos which were not to the exact measurements.
2015: Russian visas are impossible to get in Ulan Bator for many nationalities, however for some countries it’s quite easy.
2014: For transit visa (self-drive) only car documents are necessary. For public transport transit visa, it is complicated (pronounce: impossible) – September 2014. Tourist visas are possible through a tourist agency.
October 2018: Easy process, but can only pay in tenge. If you apply for an express visa, you can obtain your visa in your passport in an hour or so, but you will have to wait anyway 3 days before actually entering Russia and you need to ask an entry date to Russia at least 3 days after your application.
July 2014: I tried to apply for a Tourist visa. I was sent home because the consulate only issues tourist visas for Armenian passport holders OR for foreigners with an Armenian residence card. Bad luck, I had to cancel the trip to Russia. There is another Russian consulate in Gyumri, but I don’t know about the rules there. Also I don’t know if it’s possible to get at least a transit visa at both places.