Getting a Russian Visa, Including a 3 Year Visa, can be an ordeal if you don't pay careful attention to the documents you need. On the other hand, you don't have to drive yourself crazy with the “list all the countries you've been to in the last 10 years” question. I listed them in order of the passport stamps in my passport, but accidentally missing a few countries is unlikely to be a showstopper.
Is it worth it? Absolutely–we're in Russia every year, in St. Petersburg, and love going back. We're carefully avoiding the World Cup craziness this year, as we don't love crowds. And the nice thing about Russia during the summer is that, while warm, it's rarely as oppressively hot as Southern Italy or Greece during the summer. It's also a great destination to combine with Scandinavia, since there are nonstop flights to Stockholm and Helsinki, and it's easy to jump from there to Copenhagen or Oslo.
Here are my tips, based on our recent experience applying for a new 3 year Russian visa:
1. Make Sure Your Passport is Valid at Least 6 Months After the Visa Expiry Date
Per Russian Visa requirements, your passport must be valid at least 6 months after your visa expiration date. So if you're applying for a 3 year Russian Visa from September 1, 2018 to August 31, 2021, your passport must be valid at least through the end of February 2022. This is also why we renewed my son's passport right before applying for his 3 year Russian Visa, because U.S. passports for minors are only for 5 years, and it wouldn't work to apply for a 3 year Russian Visa with a passport that expired before the Visa expires.
2. Apply for Your Russian Visa ~2 Months Before Your Departure
Regular processing time is 10 calendar days (so ~2 weeks) from when the documents are submitted to the Russian Consulate for review, but in case you've made any errors, it's good to leave additional time to fix them and if needed, resubmit your visa application. You can submit your documents in person at an ILS Russian Visa Center in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco and Houston, or by mail.
3. When Applying for a 3 Year Russian Visa, You Need at Minimum 3 Night Hotel Stay or Invitation
As I discovered this time, you cannot apply for a 3 year Russian Visa based on a single night hotel stay at the beginning of your stay. You must have an invitation that at least covers the first 3 nights of the dates for which you're seeking a Russian Visa.
For example, if you want your 3 year Russian Visa to start September 1, 2018, you must have an invitation that covers at least the nights of September 1, 2 and 3, 2018, in order to apply for a 3 year Russian Visa.
4. For Single Entry Visas Your Invitation Must Cover ALL Nights of Your Stay
For a single entry visa, your invitation must cover all nights of your stay. If you don't yet know where you'll be staying, don't worry; you can get an invitation from a number of entities for ~$20, for example Real Russia and others. Just make sure that whichever city/hotel you identify in the invitation is also reflected on the online visa application form you fill in, and that the dates are the same.
5. When Completing Your Application, Ensure You Have ~20 Minutes to Fully Complete It
You fill out the online visa application at visa.kdmid.ru. You'll be given an application number at the beginning; be sure to copy and paste it or write it down, so that you can access the application later. You will need to complete the ENTIRE application at one sitting, as it's not possible to complete a partially complete application. If you don't complete the entire thing at one sitting you'll have to start again from scratch.
You can, however, go into a completed application and use it to generate a new application, with a new number, that you can edit.
6. When Applying for a Minor, You'll Need Copies of Parents' Passports and a Copy of the Birth Certificate
It's easy to miss this rule: for minors, you'll need to bring to ILS not only a copy of the child's visa application, invitation letter and passport, but also copies of both parents' passports and a copy of the birth certificate with the child's name and the parents' names.
7. Avoid Having to Expedite: It Will Cost You
The regular cost of a 3 year Russian Visa, plus ILS processing fee, is $303. If you need expedited service (3 business days from when the Russian Consulate receives the documents) add $270 to the cost, for a total of $573.
For a single entry Russian Visa, the price for regular processing is $123, and for expedited, it's $213.
If you've recently applied for a Russian Visa, what was your experience?
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