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If you are planning a dream trip to fascinating Russia, know that entry to Soviet soil is not as obvious as it might be in other European territories. To enter Russia it is necessary to present a series of documents certifying the reasons for your stay in the land that gave birth to director Sergej Michajlovič Ėjzenštejn and former tennis player Anna Kurnikova.
This is a fairly complex bureaucratic procedure, in which there may be delays or problems in the validity of the documents to be presented but from which, however, it is possible to extricate oneself by playing cunning and anticipation.
How long does it take to request and get it?
The entry visa for Russia is nothing more than a document that authorizes the foreign visitor to be able to move freely on Soviet soil. Requesting it in advance is the secret to avoiding the risk of having to postpone or cancel a hypothetical holiday in Moscow or St. Petersburg. The advice is to start the visa application procedure at least 30 days before departure (or even from 5 to 6 weeks before the scheduled departure: better to play well in advance).
The delivery times of the document by the Consulate or the agencies in charge are generally around 10 days from the presentation of the documentation; however, complications can occur that can lengthen the release times.
Where to request it: consulates or agencies?
It is possible to apply for an entry visa directly at the Russian Consulates in Italy, or by using agencies (private or authorized by the Consulates themselves). Let’s break down the pros and cons of both options.
Option 1: Consulates
There are four Consulates of the Russian Federation on Italian soil – they are located in Rome, Genoa, Milan, and Palermo – to which one can contact to obtain a visa for entry into Soviet territory.
- Pros: the costs of obtaining the visa are significantly reduced. It takes € 35.00 to apply for a normal visa and € 70.00 for an urgent application, at no additional cost.
- Cons: you need to make an appointment, hoping not to get it too long; you have to show up with all the documentation, or you risk being sent home and having to request another appointment; not all consulates set appointments for obtaining a visa.
Option 2: Agencies
Currently, the agency officially authorized by the Consulates to issue the visa for residence on Russian soil is only one: the Visa Center for Russia, an organization managed by the private company Visa Handling Services S.r.l.
On the web, however, it will be possible to come across other agencies, which offer the same service at sometimes exorbitant figures.
- Pros: The request can be made both in-person and remotely, via the website; office hours are flexible and very extended (the center is closed only on Saturdays and Sundays); the times for obtaining an appointment at the center are significantly halved compared to the Consulate; additional services are available (for a fee), such as filling out a form or photocopying service.
- Cons: Costs rise considerably (€ 30.00 of additional management cost must be added to the above-mentioned prices for obtaining the visa, plus the ancillary costs of any additional services).
The mandatory documents to be able to obtain the issuance of the residence visa in Russia are the following:
- Visa application form, electronically filled in, printed, and accompanied by a passport photo;
- Passport with at least 6 months of validity beyond the expected end of the trip and two free pages;
- Invitation letter or Visa Support: this is a confirmation letter of welcome from the tourist, issued by the hotel where you will be staying, by the institution that will host you, by a relative, or by the university where you will study. You can get it online;
- Health care insurance stipulated with an Italian or Russian company recognized by the Consulate (insurance can also be requested at the Visa Center, upon payment of a higher amount);
- Form filled out on the website of the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, printed and brought on the day of the request. The dates given in this document and on the invitation letter must coincide perfectly;
- 2 copies of the Russian visa questionnaire, completed and signed.
For independent travel (without tour operator):
If the planned trip should be undertaken without the help of a tour operator, the tourist must attach, in addition to the aforementioned documentation, the confirmation of the hotel reservation (with dates of arrival and departure reported), the reference number (i.e. the code alphanumeric consisting of six characters, shown on the electronic ticket at the time of online booking of any airline ticket and more) and the number of the visa confirmation.
For trips over 15 days
Tourist visas issued for a stay in Russia are generally valid for 30 days. However, at the time of submitting the visa application, if the trip lasts more than two weeks, it is mandatory to bring with you the receipts certifying the hotel (or hotels, if there are more than one) reservations.
For the Trans-Siberian
Crossing and “leaving” Russia aboard the legendary Trans-Siberian (the railway line that connects the Russian nation with Asia) requires the possession of precise documentation:
- The aforementioned documents;
- Hotel booking receipts (with precise dates of entry and exit from the country and coinciding with those of the visa);
- Your credit card statements;
- Proof of payment for hotels and the Trans-Siberian ticket
In addition to being quite complicated, the procedure for issuing a visa to reach Russia has its cost.
- Normal visa: costs € 35.00, while an urgent visa costs € 70.00; in case of recourse to the agency, € 30.00 of management costs must be added;
- Visa Support or invitation letter: should be provided free of charge, but it is customary to ask for around € 15.00 to get it;
- Compulsory health insurance: costs are around € 19.00