The thought of applying for a Russian visa may seem like a daunting task, especially when you hear the words “biometric data scan” and “tourist confirmation voucher”, and I’m not gonna lie, it kind of is. But once you figure out the important parts it’s actually quite straightforward!
Here’s an easy to follow, step by step guide to getting your Russian visa, without going through an expensive travel agency or tour group. This information is valid as of August 2018 and applies to UK citizens only.
How to get your Russian Visa
- Spend hours looking at onion-domed churches, icy landscapes and bottles of vodka to give you endless inspiration for visiting the world’s largest country.
- Commit. If you’re serious about travelling through Russia then it’s a long, slow and expensive process to get the visa, especially when you’re used to so much visa-free travel.
- Get a rough idea of your itinerary, because you’ll need it for your tourist voucher. You’ll also need to choose your entry and exit dates carefully because you cannot enter before or exit after your chosen dates.
- Check out the Foreign Travel Advice website for up-to-date information on entry requirements.
- Pretend like you’re going to read all the information on the Russian Federation Embassy website, but skip it because it’s long, boring and unnecessary.
- Instead, go to the VFS Global website because they are the ones who will process your visa application, and their website is much easier to use and understand.
- First of all, you need to find out which type of visa you’ll need. Most people will need a tourist visa, but it’s important to check that’s the right one for you!
- On the Visa Overview page, you can find out all the important information, like fees, documents required and processing times.
- You’ll need to download the correct application form, which will send you to another website to start your application.
- It’s a long form, asking everything from your education and employment to your bank accounts and social media. It allows you to save your application, so make a note of your application ID and password.
- You also need to acquire a tourist voucher. You can get this from tour companies or hotels in Russia if you pre-book with them, or you can order one online with companies like Stress Free Visas, who ask for a few details of your trip and a one-off payment of £20, well worth it to avoid the hassle of doing it yourself.
- Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months and has at least two free pages. You’ll also need one recent passport photo.
- Now here’s the real pain in the ass; you need to print and sign your application form, gather all the supporting documents and head to the Visa Application Centre in London, Edinburgh or Manchester, IN PERSON to have your fingerprints taken.
- Get to the Visa Application Center asap. If you live in civilization it’s no problem. I live in Cornwall so it’s a £20 9-hour bus ride ONE WAY, not to mention the cost of getting around and staying in London, on top of the already expensive visa. Luckily, you can have it posted back to you for a small fee.
- Arrive as early as possible. I used the Visa Application Centre in London, it opens at 8:30am but I would recommend arriving at 8am as a queue will start to form by then. I was second in line (thanks to my 6am arrival on the night bus) and got in and out of there in 10 minutes with no problem.
- Be prepared to wait. It can take up to 20 working days for them to process your visa if you use the standard service, only 3 when using the express service. They will give you an estimated date when you apply.
- They allow you to track your visa application by using the 18-digit reference number that can be found on the receipt you received while handing in your application, it should look like this: RULN/DDMMYYYY/00XX/0X.
I’m still waiting for mine, so I’ll have to update this post when it arrives! *fingers crossed*
Update 07/08/2018: The tracking system doesn’t seem to work, either that or they’ve lost my passport and application. It’s been stuck on “Visa application has been forwarded from London to the Embassy of the Russian Federation on 18-Jul-2018” for three weeks now.
Update 14/08/2018: I checked the tracking system again and the message has finally changed to say that my passport and visa had arrived back to the VFS office, ready to post back to me! Now I need to wait and see if it’s been approved…
Update 15/08/2018: My visa has been approved and my passport arrived back today! The estimated dates they gave me for its return were 25/07 to today, so they really like to make you wait, but now that it’s here I can book my flights!
- one passport photo
- visa application form
- a tourist voucher and tourist confirmation
- Single Entry (standard) – £108.40 (£70 visa fee, £38.40 processing fee)
- Single Entry (urgent) – £186.60 (£141 visa fee, £45.60 processing fee)
- Double Entry (standard) – £151.40 (£113 visa fee, £38.40 processing fee)
- Double Entry (urgent) – £270.60 (£225 visa fee, £45.60 processing fee)
- Postal return – £9.80
Express service: 1 to 3 working day
Standard service: 5 to 20 working days
Let me know if you have any questions about the Russian visa application and I’ll do my best to help!