Info about obtaining Russian Visas
Russian visas are issued based on official "invitations".
Since EMMCVPR is not a registered business in Russia, we can not provide
an official "invitation" for a business visa. Instead, we suggest
another very common route for attending academic conferences in Russia -
applying for a tourist visa for yourself (and for any family members).
In this case your hotel can send an official "invitation" to visit Russia (see 1 below).
If there is a Russian consulate near you
you can then apply for a visa in-person (see 3) or you can use a visa agency (see 2),
which could be an easier option in general.
DISCLAIMER: the information above is only our recommendation. Several other sources of
general information about Russian visas are here:
- Obtaining a hotel "voucher":
Whether you want to apply for a tourist visa in-person or via a visa agency, first of all
you should decide on a hotel you want to stay in Saint Petersburg. Most hotels
(including all recommended hotels)
can send you an official "invitation" required for a tourist visa. This is a special
Confirmation & Voucher form, two docs often printed on one page, as in this
sample. Upon request, your hotel can fax or email you
this "voucher" after you book a room. All recommended hotels have such ''visa support service''
included in the room rate (for other hotels, check before hand). The dates of your tourist visa
will be based exactly on the dates indicated by the hotel ''voucher''.
If you need to stay in 2 different hotels (e.g. if you decide to visit Moscow)
you should obtain 2 ''vouchers'' covering your trip. If you plan to visit more than 2 places or stay
in Russia for more than 2 weeks we recommend to use a visa agency (2). Otherwise,
it may be sufficinetly easy to apply in-person (3).
- Using a visa agency:
If you want to avoid the hustle of going to the Russian consulate in person,
there are many visa agencies (e.g. see here) that can help.
In this case you get everything done via mail (the agency's rep deals with the consulate for you).
The agency can also consult you about any details.
If you shop around a bit you can expect to pay for their help around 35 euros or 50 dollars
(possibly plus shipping) on top of the consulate visa fee.
The normal execusion time is around 2-3 weeks (expedited service could be twice expensive).
You may still need to get the "vouchers" (see above) from the hotels where you intend to stay.
If necessary, the agency can also help with the travellers medical insurance and/or book the hotels for you,
but this could be an extra charge. You should discuss all details directly with an agency.
- Applying in-person:
Take the ''voucher'' and other required documents (e.g. passport, photos, completed application form, bank check, etc)
to the nearest Russian consulate. Check its web site ahead of time as necessary documents,
fees, form of payment, and processing times may vary. Typically, you should apply at least 3 weeks ahead
of travellinig. It might be possible to get your visa in just 3 days, but the expedited service is more expensive.
In some countries it could be possible to apply for a visa via mail. Traveller medical insurance
(e.g. see here) could be required for the citizens
of Schengen agreement states and a few other countries (on the basis of reciprocity).
- Visa application form can be downloaded from a consulate's web page. It is easier to complete
and print it beforehand (some consulates require 2 copies). The form has "type of visa" line where you should
put "tourist". In addition, there is a "purpose of your visit" line where we strongly recommend to
put simply "tourism". In theory, "tourism and scientific conference" or only "scientific conference" can work too,
but that could require some extra arguments to convince a consul that you are not visiting
any business and that the conference is a purely scientific/academic event not affiliated
with an organization registed in Russia. The actual amount of effort may depend on the clerk's
level of enlightment or mood. There will be no discussion if you put "tourism". Note that
it is a very common practice for attendees of scientific academic conferences in Russia to arrive on tourist visas.
Yet, to keep it simple do not volunteer additional information. Let us know if any problems arise. We will try our best to help.
- At the consulate: In our experience, the process of filing the documents is fairly straightforward
and consuls try to be helpful. The waiting time (queue) is the main unknown and may depend a lot on a specific
consulate and on the time of the year.
For example, we observed very short lines in a visa section of the Russian consulate in Toronto in July,
but the line we saw in Paris in April was around 2 hours. Once your documents are veryfied and accepted
by a consul you receive a receipt with a date when your passport will be ready. Unless you pay for an expedited service,
it should take around two weeks or less. Typically, you do not need to stand in any line when you
come to pick your passport (show the receipt). In some consulates you can arrange shipping of your passport
when it is ready (check their website).
- Phone & Email: If necessary, with some patience it is possible to reach the consulate via a direct phone line.
In our experience, it is much easier to get through in the afternoon.
We also had positive experience with how some Russian consulates were answering their emails.
- Consulate visa fee varies a lot depending on your nationality (on the basis of reciprocity).
For example, the regular (non-expedited) fee for Shengen zone passports is only 35 euros,
but for US passports it is 140 dollars. The exact fee could be found on the consulates' web sites.