To move to Russia you are likely to need to complete a Russian visa application form. This guide will provide you with advice on which Russian visa to apply for, how to complete the application form and the costs you can expect to pay.
Russian visa policy is quite complicated and has changed in recent years, with stricter controls being brought in to combat issues such as illegal employment and criminality. There are different regulations depending on where you are travelling from, certain procedures that foreigners entering Russia must carry out, and some areas that visitors will not be able to travel to.
This guide to Russian visas and permits includes:
- Who needs a Russian visa or permit?
- Types of Russian entry visas
- Applying for a Russian entry visa
- Russian visa costs
- Rules to remember regarding your Russia visa
- Applying for a Russian residence permit
- Work in Russia
- Study in Russia
- Joining a relative or partner in Russia
- Applying for Russian citizenship or permanent residence
Citizens of most countries will need a visa to travel to Russia, which will need to be obtained before arriving in Russia. Although a European country, Russia is not part of the EU/EFTA so does not grant visa-free travel to countries within the EU/EFTA other than Croatia and Iceland for stays of up to 90 days.
Russia allows visa-free travel to member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States (several countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union) plus Cuba. Citizens of the following countries can travel to Russia without a visa – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.
Citizens of the following countries can enter Russia without a Russian visa but can only stay for periods of between 14-90 days and for certain purposes – Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Macedonia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Peru, Panama, Paraguay, Serbia, South Africa, Thailand, Uruguay and Venezuela.
Further details on the length of stay and conditions are available here.
Citizens of all other countries will require a Russian visa in order to enter Russia.
All Russian visas are issued by the General Directorate for Migration Affairs (GUVM) which replaced the Federal Migration Service in 2016. There are various types of Russian visa issued, depending on the purpose and length of visit. The visa length is usually between 30-90 days although many can be extended. The below types of visa are refered to as ‘Russian entry visas’.
Russian visa: Tourist
- This is the standard visa that allows entry as a tourist. It is valid for 30 days and cannot be renewed. To obtain a tourist visa, you must have confirmed accommodation for the duration of your stay in Russia.
Russian visa: Business
- This is a visa for those visiting the country on official or private business. The standard business visa is valid for 90 days. There is also a Multi Russian Business visa which is valid for a year and allows multiple entries into Russia. Unlike the Russian tourist visa, this can be renewed upon expiration but this has to be via the organisation that provided the invitation for your business visa. Business visas can also be used for commercial visits such as attending events such as auctions.
Russian visa: Private
- This is a Russian visa valid for up to 90 days based on a private invitation from friends or relatives who are residents in Russia.
Russian visa: Humanitarian
- This is a visa valid for up to a year with multiple entries for those entering Russia for any of the following purposes:
- Cultural purposes
- Purposes related to science
- Political purposes
- Sporting purposes
- Religious purposes
- Charitable purposes
- Delivery of humanitarian aid
Russian visa: Work/Employment
- This is a Russian visa valid for 90 days with the possibility of extension, based only on a work invitation from a Russian company
Russian visa: Student
- This is a Russian visa valid for 90 days with the possibility of extension, based only on a student invitation from a Russian college or university.
Russian Highly Skilled Migrant Visa
- This is a special visa for those in skilled professions who gain employment with a salary of over R1 million (reduced from R2 million in 2015). This visa is valid for three years, enables the holder to bypass the temporary residence permit requirement and entitles relatives including spouses, children and parents to a visa.
Family Member of Russian Citizen Visa
- This is a Russian visa for spouses, children under 18 and incapacitated children who are family members of Russian citizens are entitled to a Family Member visa if the relative who is a Russian citizen signs a visa request form. This visa is valid for 3 months.
Russian Transit Visa
- A Russian transit visa is required if you are travelling to somewhere via a Russian airport(s) or through Russia by train. Transit visas are normally valid for a maximum of 3 days for air travel and 10 days for train travel.
- A Russian transit visa is not usually required if you are remaining within an airport transit zone in order to board a connecting flight within 24 hours of arrival. You will need to check with your airline or travel agent to see if you will need to get a transit visa if you are travelling through or via Russia.
Russian Special Purpose Visa
- This is a visa valid for up to 30 days allowing you to attend special events taking place inside Russia.
Areas with restricted access in Russia
There are currently 18 regions in Russia that contain areas with limited entry for foreign nationals. These are:
- Kamchatka region
- Krasnoryarsk region
- Orenburg region
- Nizhny Novgorod region (permission to travel in transit)
- Republic of Mordovia
- Murmansk region and Karelia
- Arkhangelsk and Komi Republic
- Sverdlovsk region
- Chelyabinsk region
- Leningrad region
- Moscow region
- Kaliningrad region
- Volgograd region
- Astrakhan region
- Chukotka Autonomous District
- Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Area
- Republic of North Ossetia
See here for more detailed information.
Once you have worked out whether or not you need a Russian visa and have decided which type of visa you require, you will need to apply for a visa through the Russian embassy or consulate in your home country. A list of embassies and consulates worldwide is available here. It is not possible to apply for a visa inside Russia or at the Russian border, so you will need to apply through the embassy or consulate in advance.
Excluding the Tourist Visa and the Transit Visa, all visa types require an invitation from the GUVM branch in the area where you are staying, which can be obtained via your visa sponsor (resident organisation or individual who is inviting you to Russia). Your sponsor will probably be best placed to sort this out, but a list of local GUVM offices can be found here.
For a tourist visa, you will need to provide a stamped ‘tourist confirmation’ document (from your travel agent or hotel) to confirm that you have accommodation for the duration of your trip.
To apply for your visa, you will need to fill out a visa application form which can be done online or at the Russian embassy or consulate. An English version of the form is available here.
You will also be required to submit the following:
- copy of your passport
- a recent passport-size photograph not older than 6 months
- payment of visa fees
- invitation from the appropriate GUVM branch (if applicable)
- medical insurance
- a certificate confirming absence of HIV infection (if staying longer than 90 days)
- you may also be asked to provide bank statements to show proof of funds for the duration of the visit
You can find out full details of visa requirements from different countries, along with further information on how to get a visa here.
Some countries now require applicants to attend the Russian embassy or consulate in person for biometric scanning procedures. You will need to check with the Russian embassy or consulate in your country to see if this is the case.
The processing time for a Russian visa is not long and can be as short as two days, although it is wise to apply a few weeks in advance.
Visa costs vary from country to country and depending on what visa type you opt for. In the UK, you can choose between a standard service (7 days) or a more expensive express service (2 days). Russian visa costs in the UK start at £165.
- All foreign visitors to Russia are required to register their stay at the local GUVM branch within 7 days of arrival. This will often be done by the organisation or individual who is sponsoring/inviting the visitor but it’s worth checking to ensure this is done. Failure to register with the GUVM can result in a fine and in some cases expulsion from Russia.
- The migration card is the identity document issued to all foreign nationals in Russia at the border and must be presented along with the passport whenever an identity check is required by Russian officials. If you lose your migration card, you need to report it to the nearest GUVM office and you will have to pay for a replacement.
- In addition to allowing entry into the country, your entry visa also serves as your exit visa. You need to specify the exact day that you will be leaving the country and if you miss this date, leaving Russia could be problematic.
- Visitors who overstay their visa by more than three days will need to apply for an exit visa to leave Russia, which can take up to 20 days to be issued. This can only be overturned if a valid reason (e.g. illness, stolen visa) is presented.
If you are moving to Russia, you will need to apply for a Russian residence permit at the local GUVM office either when you arrive in Russia or before your visa expires. All foreigners wanting to live in Russia, other than those from Belarus, refugees arriving from Turkmenistan and those arriving on a Highly Skilled Migrant visa, need to initially apply for a temporary residence permit, which is valid for three years (although it needs to be re-stamped by the GUVM every year).
Anyone who has legally entered Russia is entitled to apply for a temporary Russian residence permit. The Russian government operates on migration quotas and will prioritise applicants who meet at least one of the following criteria:
- born in Russia
- citizens of a former USSR country
- have a family member or partner who is a Russian citizen
- made a certain amount of investments in Russia (determined by federal law)
- served in the Russian military
- have had a child born in Russia
If you are working or studying in Russia for longer than three months, you will also have a strong case for being granted a temporary residence permit if you can present a letter of support from your employer/college to the GUVM.
Holders of a temporary residence permit cannot be absent from Russia for longer than three months and have to apply for an exit visa and a re-entry visa to travel away from the country.
Documents that need to be provided in order to obtain a Russian residence permit include:
- criminal record certificate
- 2 passport photos
- valid entry visa (if required)
- health certificate confirming absence of infectious diseases
- document confirming basic knowledge of Russian language, history and culture
It is possible to work in Russia if you have obtained a work permit through a Russian employer along with a valid work visa. This is valid for 90 days although it is possible to extend it for up to 3 years and get a temporary residence permit. See our article on Russian Work Visas and Permits for more information.
You can come to Russia to study if you have obtained a study placement offer from a Russian college or university along with a Russian study visa. This is valid for 90 days although it is possible to extend it and get a temporary residence permit. See our guide to Studying in Russia for more information.
You can apply to join family or a partner in Russia on a Russian Private Visa if the family member invites you. Certain family members are eligible to apply for long-term residence under Russia’s family reunion laws. See our guide on Joining a relative or partner in Russia for more information.
You can apply for permanent residence in Russia after one year of temporary residence and for full citizenship after five years. See our guide to Russian citizenship and permanent residence for more information.