Russian Visa – How to Get a Russian Visa for U.S. Citizens


The process of getting a Russian visa is complicated and can take a long time. So, if you have a trip plan it is best you start the process well in advance. You can get a visa at a Russian Embassy or Consulate. When you do get one, pay close attention to the entry date and departure date. You cannot enter the country before or leave after the visa expiration day.

A Russian entry/exit visa has two written dates in the European style (day/month/year) as compared to the American style (month/day/year). Be very careful not to mix it up. The first day is when you can enter, and the next is when you must leave the country. If your visa expires, you will not be allowed to go and can be held up to 20 days, until local authorities grant you an exit visa. The permit is only valid for the assigned days.

Russian Visa Types

There are seven basic Russian Visa types: Commercial, Tourist, Student, Guest, Diplomatic, Transit, and Asylum. All visas must have a sponsor who will take full responsibility for the welfare and actions of the visa holder. Every visa comes with its restrictions and guidelines.

Student Visas: A student visa is obtained from the Federal Migration Service (FMS) when the institution applies on behalf of the student. The visa is valid for three months and can only be extended by the institution. If the student plans to leave before the visa expires, notice must be given otherwise the student cannot go.

Work Visas: This type of visa is unique and is based on quotas. The quotas are set up by regional agencies and seek government approval annually. The need for foreign workers must be significantly shown as priority is given to domestic workers. The prospective employer must apply for the worker at the FMS. A person with a work visa may be asked by the authorities to be tested for drugs and infectious diseases.

Temporary Resident Visa: A temporary residence is for three years and is subject to a quota established by the government annually. It does not apply to foreign citizens of the USSR; a foreigner married to a Russian residing in Russia, and investors. The following documents are necessary to get a temporary resident permit:

  •         Application form
  •         Four photos
  •         Passport
  •         Police certificate
  •         Applicant’s income
  •         HIV certificate
  •         Documents to prove the applicant is not a drug addict and do not have any infectious diseases

Russia Visa Policy

By Russian law, every visa holder must have a Russian based sponsor. A sponsor can be a hotel, tour company, relative, employer, or university where you are going. Regardless of where you got your visa, a name on the visa will represent your sponsor. Russian law requires that the sponsor applies on the traveler’s behalf for replacement, extension, or changes to the visa.

Each visa type has some limitations on the amount of time that the visa holder can stay. A visa issued for three years can allow up to 6 consecutive months of stay. For visas with shorter periods of validity, the holder can stay up to 90 days. Unless the visa was given for employment or study, the holder might stay for that given duration.

Permanent Residence: Temporary residence permit holder can apply six months before the expiration of the residence permit for a permanent residence. The permanent residence is valid for five years and is renewable numerous times. After becoming a permanent residence, you can live and work anywhere in the country. You also can issue visa invitations to others who would like to visit Russia.

If you are visiting on a cruise ship, passengers do not need to get a visa as long as they stay with the tour organizers while on land. The Russian authorities must license the tour guide. A no visa requirement only applies if the stay is within 72 hours. If it is beyond that time, then you must get a visa.