Applying for a Russian visa can be a daunting task, given that any visit to Russia requires a formal invitation to visit the country – usually by way of a visa invitation letter or visa support letter – which you’ll need to submit alongside your visa application to be successful.
The same rules apply to business travellers and tourists alike, but the process of being ‘invited’ to visit Russia is easier than you think: here’s how it’s done!
Requesting a Russian visa invitation letter for business travellers
Travelling to Russia on business? You’ll need to ask the company or person you’re visiting to arrange an ‘electronic invitation’ via the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Russia, and to have that invitation forwarded to your local Russian Consulate before you can apply for your visa.
It’s recommended that you confirm that your local Consulate has received your electronic invitation from the Russian Foreign Ministry before you submit your visa application paperwork, otherwise your visa will be rejected.
Alternatively, your counterpart in Russia should request a physical letter of invitation for you from their local Russian Federal Migration Service branch or Regional Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which they can mail to you and which you can attach to your visa application in lieu of an electronic invite.
In any case, you’ll also need to complete a visa application form and provide a passport-style photograph of a specific size and style – the details of which you can find on the Russian Consulate General’s Sydney website.
Requesting a Russian visa invitation letter for tourists
Unlike business travellers, tourists visiting Russia can arrange for their own invitation letters through the tour company they’ll be exploring with, or through the hotels they’ll be staying at if travelling independently.
Your invitation letter will show the dates of your planned Russian visit and must cover your entire time there. Alternatively, you may submit a maximum of two invitation letters as part of a single visa application, which collectively must also cover that entire trip.
(For example, if you’re planning to visit both Moscow and Saint Petersburg, your Moscow hotel may provide an invitation letter to cover your dates in that city, and your hotel in Saint Petersburg can issue a separate invitation to cover your dates there. Provided that both invitations cover your entire stay in Russia – including the dates you enter and leave the country – you’re all set.)
Note that some travel providers may charge a fee for this service, so it pays to enquire about this before making any firm bookings.
For instance, the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya will happily provide visa invitation letters by request for guests with confirmed reservations at the hotel, but charges a fee of 3,540 rubles (around A$84) per invitation letter issued if the guest subsequently cancels their reservation.
If your hotel or tour company is proving difficult – or if your trip calls for visits to multiple cities – you can also obtain the required invitation letter through third-party providers like Hotels Pro, which allow you to enter the details of your bookings in up to seven cities to be covered on a single invitation letter.
Hotels Pro charges a fee of 1,200 rubles (A$28.50) per letter issued, which will arrive in your inbox within minutes: perfect if your application is rushed and needs to be submitted ASAP.
Further Russian tourist visa requirements can be found on the Russian Consulate General’s Sydney website, including details on visa exemptions for cruise passengers visiting Saint Petersburg for 72 hours or less: the only way an Australian citizen can visit Russia visa-free.