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Do I need to plan my trip before I apply for a visa?
Unlike many countries, it is hard to have a spontaneous trip to Russia – The whole trip will need to be planned out before you can even apply for the visa.
That’s because in order to apply for the visa, you must have an invitation letter or a tourist confirmation and voucher. This is a declaration that there is a local travel agency or hotel in Russia that will be responsible for you during your stay, and states where you will be staying while you are in Russia and the dates of your travel. The dates that are stated on your application form must match what is stated on your tourist voucher or invitation letter. If there are any discrepancies your application could be rejected.
Your visa will be granted for this period of time and no longer, so you will be unable to change or extend your travel period once you have the Russian visa. For a tourist visa, this period can be no longer than 30 days.
Why can’t I apply and decided where to stay later on?
Even though there will be a hotel stated on the tourist voucher, which must match what is written on your application form, there is no law forbidding you changing where you are staying when you are in Russia. If you decide to stay with friends or change the hotel, you are able to do this without issues. You will be required to state the towns and cities you are intending on visiting, but again this does not have to be adhered to once you arrive.
The tourist invitation consists of two parts, which are often issued on the same document. This is the Tourist Confirmation Letter and the Travel (tourist) Voucher. The confirmation will be in Russian. The tourist invitation normally looks like the document below, though keep in mind that yours may look different and be equally valid, as long as it includes all of the same information.
The business invitation must be issued by General Directorate for Migration for the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia. It must contain an official seal and legal address of the host institution, document registration number and date of registration, signature and name of the official authorized to invite foreigners to Russia, purpose of visit, dates of stay, names of persons invited.
For a multiple entry visa you are required to submit the original invitation; for single and double entry visas copies of invitations in particular cases may be accepted, though the Embassy’s immigration officer may ask you to present the original invitation.
The document is often in Russian and an example is below:
Invitations can only by issued by an official tour operator which has a license in accordance with 132 Russian Federal law. When obtaining the invitation, ensure you ask to see the license of the Ministry of Tourism of Russian Federation (Rostourism) to ensure that company can issue you with a valid invitation letter.
I’m staying with a friend or family. How do I prove my accommodation?
If you are visiting friends or family in Russia, you would need a letter of invitation, which must be processed in Russia by your friends or relative. They can do this in person at one of the General Directorate of Immigration of the Russian Ministry of the Interior offices or online on the Russian Government website.
This can be time consuming however, and in most cases it’s quicker and easier to apply for a letter and voucher from an official agency, as the invitation letter can take at least 3 weeks to process after submission. As mentioned earlier, if you want to stay with relatives once you arrive rather than a hotel, you will be able to do so without issues.
I need a visa for Russia, how can I get one?
If you’d like to know more about the process of obtaining a Russian visa for UK citizens, check out Part 1 in our series on this subject here.
In order to apply for your Russian Tourist or Business visa, you will need to have certain plans in place. This is because you will need to obtain supporting documents which will either be a Tourist Voucher or Invitation Letter, dependent on your reason for visiting Russia. If you are staying with a friend or family, you can obtain a letter from them, but this avenue can take a while to be approved. Therefore it may be a better option to obtain a Tourist Voucher from an agent instead if you need to apply for your visa quickly.