Ever since I was a kid, reading Lev Tolstoi’s ‘Anna Karenina’ and ‘War and Peace’ I wanted to visit Saint Petersburg. Not Moscow, but Saint Petersburg.
I have postponed this trip for a while now and this year I have finally got the chance to visit.
Before getting all excited about my trip to Saint Petersburg, I started doing my research (research is one of the essential travel habits I have mentioned here) on the country, the city, the customs and on whether or not will I need a visa and what type of visa will I have to apply for.
Now, with some countries getting a visa is more of a formality while with others there is an elaborate process in place, that you have to go through. Applying for a Russian visa was not a walk in the park but it was not the most difficult visa process that I ever went through.
As I have said, the process of applying for a visa for Russia is not that stuffy, but there are some things you must have and do, prior to filling in the online visa application form.
Mention: Do not buy plane tickets in advance. I have seen so many people recommending this. Don’t do it.
Here are the steps that I went through, applying for a Russian tourist visa:
1. Get an invitation/tourist voucher.
There are plenty of travel agencies online that can provide you with that and the prices start from 15£. The invitation must also feature your travel dates. Always check and double check travel dates during the application process as your visa will be valid for those dates only.
You can also go for a personal invitation if you know someone there, but I can’t tell you more about that process as I have used a tourist voucher to apply for the visa.
2. Take passport size visa photos
The photos should be color photographs, 4.5×3.5cm and not older than six months. Also, make sure that your photos are taken against a light background, that your face is in focus. No happy smiling, no sunglasses, glasses, or hair covering your face (I’m not talking about facial hair here).
Once you have your photos printed, use one of them on the visa application form that you will print, after completing it.
I took my photos at a photo booth at Sainsbury’s (7£). I had to crop it a bit myself, once printed in order for it to fit the placeholder on the visa form and everything went well.
3. Get travel insurance
When you will fill in the visa application, they will ask you for your travel insurance details – usually company and reference number. When choosing your travel insurance, make sure it covers Russia or is for Russia. I understood that if you are registered with the NHS you will not need travel insurance for Russia but nevertheless, I opted for spending an extra 20£ on travel insurance for Russia, just to make sure that I have everything in check.
4. Letter from employer
While this is not required for everyone (it depends on the country you are a citizen of) some people need to provide that as well. You can check whether you need a letter from employer here, under ‘documents required’. Just select your nationality.
The letter must simply state that you are employed, your start date and it can be signed by HR, finance or a manager.
5. Fill in the online application form
When starting to fill in your visa application form make sure you have: your passport (valid for a minimum of six months), your tourist voucher, your travel insurance, your itinerary and get ready to answer some questions.
6. Print the application and get all you documents together, in a paper or plastic folder.
7. Decide to which embassy/visa application centre you want to go.
I have decided to go to Edinburgh, which is a visa application centre. there was no appointment needed as it is more of a walk in centre. Even so, I suggest to make a call before (just to make sure), I called too and all my questions were cleared in 3 minutes.
I was there at 9.30AM and 10 minutes later I have finished with everything.
When you go to the application centre make sure that you have with you the following:
- Your folder (travel insurance, visa application form, with the photo glued on it, your tourist voucher, your letter from employer)
- Your passport ( valid for at least six months)
- About 90£ for fees
You will have to leave your passport there. You can opt to have it sent to the address that you will specify or you can collect it. The mailing of the passport is somewhere around 10£ as well. If you have any other visas that have a longer validity period, make sure that you take a photo of them or have some copies stored. This has nothing to do with the Russian visa, it’s more of a best practice and in case of anything, anytime, you will always have a backup and everything will be much easier.
Don’t forget: the Russian visa will only be valid for the period specified by you in your application. If you plan to fly out on the 21st and be back in the 27th, it might be a good idea to request your visa from the 20th until the 28th.
If you have any questions related to the Russian visa application process and you think my advice could help, just leave a comment.
Which city in Russia would you like to visit?