The arduous process to get a Russian tourist visa

The process to get a Russian tourist visa is a complicated one.  Even more so if you are an American.  Here is what we had to go through in order to get tourist visas for our long weekend trip to Moscow and St Petersburg.

Step 1) Get a tourist voucher from the hotel.  This is an official document that needs to be issued by a hotel or travel agency inviting you to visit Russia.  It’s pretty easy to get but did take a couple days for the hotel to issue it.  There wasn’t any cost as long as you stayed at the hotel.  Travel agencies will also issue it free of charge as long as you do a tour with them.

Step 2)  Download the visa application forms.  Visa form for US, UK, and Canadians here.  Everyone else can download the one here.

Step 3) The form for US citizens asks for an extraordinary amount of detail.  Some of the things they ask for are:

  • List EVERY educational institution you have EVER attended.
  • List EVERY professional, civil and charity organization which you are / were a member of or cooperated with.  Really?  I asked for clarification on this one and the visa officer said that even if I donated money to a charity that needed to be listed.
  • And my personal favorite, list ALL the countries you have visited in the last ten years and indicate the year of visit.  I’ve been to about 50 countries and the visa officer made me list them all out on a separate piece of paper with the year of visit.

How many people would actually remember of all these things and what would happen if it wasn’t accurate?

If you aren’t a US, UK or Canadian citizen then the form is very simple.  It’s the standard stuff like name, address, trip duration, etc.  None of the details that were required for americans.

Step 4)  Take all these forms and a passport sized photo to the Russia immigration office and wait for a week for them to issue your visa.  Americans need to pay about $150 USD and others need to pay about $50 for the standard processing time for a single entry tourist visa.

Ok… so maybe it wasn’t all that arduous but I did spend more time getting a visa to get into russia than any other country I visited.  It was worth the trouble.  A trip review for our long weekend in St Petersburg and Moscow will be posted shortly.


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