As you probably remember, my second attempt to get to Russia ended prematurely once again (sadface). I’ll get there one day – but that’s another tale. This time around, however, I did have a Russian visa to show for it. It still sits unused in my passport and is probably the coolest looking thing in there.
Quite a few people have asked how the process of obtaining a Russian visa went down because there isn’t a whole lot of information out there. A lot of the information is confusing, and the process is a little different to what we may be used to in Australia. So I’ll quickly run through the steps I took to obtain a visa.
As always, this is just speaking about my personal experience and should not replace consular advice. Always make sure you check the Russian government/embassy website for your country before going forth with applying for a visa.
A few things to start
Just before we begin, there are a few things to consider before you start your Russian visa process:
- Dates: you need to decide how long you want to be in Russia and the precise dates. Your Russian visa will only be valid for particular dates. For Australians the tourist visa lasts 30 days and is single-entry.
- Purpose of travel: if you’re going for tourism purposes then you can get a regular travel visa, for other reasons you may need to apply for a different visa. This article discusses travel visas.
- Itinerary: the application requires details of precisely where you will go in Russia and on what dates.
- Accommodation: the application will require the details of exactly which hotels/hostels you will stay in at each destination in Russia
- Tourist: if you’re visiting for tourism purposes for a maximum of 30 days
- Business: if your trip is for professional or commercial purposes
- Student: if you are going to Russia to study
- Work: if you wish to work during your time in Russia
- Humanitarianism: if you are going to Russia for sport, socio-political reasons, religious reasons, cultural exchange, or humanitarian work
- Private: if you are a guest of Russian Nationals
- Transit: if you have to pass through Russia to get between two separate nations; not necessary for transiting through an airport
Different visa types require different documentation and proof to be provided to the consular offices. For the purposes of the rest of this article I will be talking about tourist visas, as they are the most common and the ones I have experience in.
Booking a Hotel
To apply for a visa and get a letter of support, you need to have a hotel booked. Once you’re in the country these hotels confirm that you have arrived and report it to the government, so it is advisable to book a hotel you will actually stay in when you get to Russia. Switching hotels and dates is not advisable.
Letter of Support/Invitation
To apply for a Russian visa you need a letter of support. This is by far the most confusing part of the process and is pretty dodgy. You have a couple of options:
- Your hotel: many hotels themselves provide letters of support for your Russian visa. These tend to be the more high-end accommodation. But many, many hotels and hostels refuse to do this, which you won’t know until you’ve already booked. You will pay a different fee depending on the hotel.
- Online service: this felt so incredibly dodgy but it worked. You plug in your details, including accommodation details, and pay your fee (of course) and this dodgy looking form comes back to your email in minutes. The sites many people use are: Hotels Pro, Way To Russia and iVisa Online. The prices vary between sites (usually around $25-30AUD) and there are many more out companies there than I have listed.
Once your letter of support has arrived back to your inbox, you can continue on with the process of applying for the visa.
Visa Application Form
This is the part where you use the official consular website. For Australians this can be found here. Once you have located the application form, fill it out in completeness and be sure to have your letter of invitation handy.
Once the application is finished and printed you need to pay and post the documents with your passport and passport photo. A passport photo needs to be glued onto the application itself.
Remember to read through the application and make sure all the details are correct and all required signatures are there.
Alternatively, if you live in Sydney you can apply in person at 7-9 Fullerton Street, Woollahra, NSW. This may also be possible in Canberra, Brisbane, and Melbourne consular offices.
Paying for the Visa
A single entry tourist visa will cost $135AUD or a double-entry for $216 and takes about 10 days to process. The invitation/support letter is an additional cost to this which is paid to a third party rather than the
The visa cannot be paid for by direct deposit or credit card online, so needs to be done by bank cheque or money order.
Sending off your Passport
You will also need to include a return envelope. I would recommend getting tracked postage so you don’t lose your passports. In your package you need to include the application form with the attached passport photo, your passport itself, a return envelope, and the payment if applicable.
The address to send the package to is 7-9 Fullerton Street, Woollahra, NSW, 2025. The visas normally take 10 business days to be processed and one day you will receive your passport back in the mail. They don’t really tell you when to expect it back or when it has been sent, so you just have to keep an eye on your mailbox.
If this is too complicated or sketchy for you then a travel agent should be able to arrange it for you. Travel agents are able to work with you solely for the visa help so don’t worry if you don’t use agents for other things. I contacted both Flight Centre and STA Travel and they offered services, but obviously it is more expensive than doing it yourself.
An awesome website for more information on the visa application process is Russia Au – I would recommend you check them out!
As always, these are just my experiences and should not be a substitute for legal and consular advice. Be sure to check with official Russian governmental websites for your country before using this advice. This experience is from an Australian perspective.
Do you have experiences with a Russian visa, or have questions? Leave a comment below – would love to hear from you [icon color=”#efe937″ icon=”icon-heart2″ size=”24px”]
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