How to get a visa invitation letter to visit Russia

By Chris C., June 7 2017
How to get a visa invitation letter to visit Russia

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.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 231

And be sure to allow 10 working days for it to be processed, unless you pay for it to be expedited.
And also be prepared to spend some serious time filling in the application form. Russia's visa policy is simple - we'll do to you what you do to us. So the application form is a mirror of the Australian eVisa application system and it asks questions such as 'list all the countries you have travelled to in the past 10 years, including dates' and 'list your past two employers, including your manager's details'. That last one really had me scratching since I have been with the same employer for the past 12 years. I'm not sure my old boss would even be working any more at my previous employer.

But it's worth it. We had a great time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Aug 2013

Total posts 11

One other thing to note, as of 1st May 2017 if you wish to attend the Sydney Consulate personally to lodge your Visa application, an appointment must be made online prior to your visit.  

When I tried, there were none for at least a week.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 231


I'm not surprised. Every time I have been there the place has been bursting at the seams (same at the Japanese consulate).
Hopefully it spurs them to move to an online system like ours.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2012

Total posts 580

It's also possible to visit St Petersburg as a tourist on a strict 72-hour visa-free programme provided you arrive and depart by ferry (and have a hop-on-hop-off tour booked, which you don't actually need to use).


03 May 2013

Total posts 668

Don't waste more than 2 days in Moscow. Go to St Petersburg before Moscow if you only have limited time or one choice. A third world country with first world camouflage I found. 

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 156

Having arranged a dozen Russian visas over the years, you're making a mountain out of a molehill - the invitation is the easiest part.  Simply Google "Russian visa invitation" and pick any one of the agencies which promise to issue an invitation for around about US$20.  They will even generate an itinerary for you if you don't have your own details.  90% of the time a PDF arrives within the hour and is fine for all purposes.  

A business visa costs a little more but is a similar process.  The agency my work uses has them issued - at least officially - via the regional government of one of the Siberian Oblasts or some sporting organisation...  Always accepted without question.

More painful are the arbitrary documents required such as - for an Aussie passport holders,  a CV translated into Russian.  Work had a 2 pager translated for me but they look at it in such a cursory fashion that a Google translation would probably suffice.

BTW - good shout on the Hilton Leningradskaya - nothing beats the Ararat Park Hyatt in terms of location, but the Leningradskaya is in one of the Seven Sisters and makes you feel like you've just arrived in Gotham City.  And right next to Leningradskiy Station if you get the train to or from St Petersburg. 

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 156

Oh, and as for the countries visited and past employers - just fill in something to complete the blanks.  They don't check.  For countries visited, just include what's obvious from the stamps in your passport.  Even then, I've missed a bunch of them and it has never been questioned.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 231

I agree. They are asking those questions because Australia asks those questions of visitors to here.
To explain, my wife who is not Australian had a visa form that only had 12 questions compared to my 30 or so.
It was one of those very few times her visa process was simpler than mine.
But as you say, I doubt they check any of the details regarding countries travelled to, former employers, etc.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Nov 2014

Total posts 13

Filling in the online visa application can be tedious. Apart from needing to put in past travel details it also demads other trivia such as the dates between which you were enrolled in a tertiary education institution if you declare that you have a degree. If you live outside of Sydney and can't drop the application off at the consulate you need to add postage times to the processing time. From memory the consulate's advertised processing time is something like "ten working days". However when I applied the consulate was only open for four days a week. Add that to the postage time and the elapsed time for the visa was between three and four weeks. 

In our case the airline changes its schedule and wanted to sent us to St Petersburg a day earlier than planned. We would've been amenable but our visa dates were firm, commencing on our original declared date of entry and expiring on the date we originally said we would leave. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Platinum

29 Aug 2014

Total posts 37

I should have kept my Korean passport as they have visa free agreement with Russia, it was so easy. Didn't know Australia doesn't have the agreement with Russia :(

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