So you’ve decided to visit Russia! It’s an exciting and interesting place to visit, but there are a few things to get figured out before you leave for your trip. You know you need to get a Russian visa, but you are unsure how. First of all, in order to get a Russian visa, you have to have an invitation issued either from a resident living in Russia, this would be for a private visa, or from a Russian organization that is recognized by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Normally this invitation will come from a hotel or tour operator. There are also outside agencies that issue invitations but stick to those that are recommended by your hotel, tour operator, or visa agency. If you are visiting more than one city, it would be easier to get the invitation through a tour operator or outside agencies. The invitation is required to have the address(es) of the hotels that you will be staying at during your time in Russia. 

The application for a Russian visa can be done online and completed electronically but it has to printed, signed, and have a passport-sized photo attached to the document.  Along with your invitation and application, you must have your original signed passport. Along with the original passport, it is required to have a copy of your signed passport. 

Once you have completed your application and you are ready to submit it, there are different options of how 

 You can go directly through a consulate. This is slightly less expensive, $160 instead of $198 because there is no processing fee. Going directly to the consulate is more complicated and generally not worth the trouble. You will have to schedule an appointment ahead of time, and it normally takes a while to be able to get one. If there is anything missing or incorrect, you will have to return on a different day. Consulates do not provide additional services to aid in the event of a mistake. Consulates may not offer appointments ahead of time for tourist or private visas and recommend that you apply for your Russian visa through 

The next option is to use a Russian visa center. All visas for residents of the United States and Canada are handled through a private company called VFS Global. These centers act as intermediaries between the consulates and the applicants. They receive the documents, verify that they are correct and complete, and send them to the consulates for processing. VFS Global has locations in Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, New York City, and Washington D.C. (Also the Canadian cities of Ottowa, Toronto, and Montreal) The individual consular sections recommend that you apply for your visa through VFS seeing as it significantly lightens their workload. This option makes things significantly easier for the consulate and more than likely you. When you go through VFS a charge of $38 is added to the $160 consular fee. You can mail your application to VFS but the charge for the mail-in application is $85. Along with these extra fees, there are fees for any mistakes that they may want you to correct, no matter how small the mistake is.

The third option is to use a third-party visa agency such as Visas for Americans. This will most likely be the most convenient option unless you live in one of the cities where there is a VFS location. You have to travel to a VFS location and personally apply for your visa if you do not live in or near the cities where the visa center is located. It is more than likely that the cost to travel to the visa center would be much more expensive than using an agency. Another upside to using an agency such as ours is that you will get our expertise. We will be able to make sure that your application is correct before it is taken to the visa center, and if there are mistakes, we can take care of them in a timely manner, and there will be less stress on you. Another upside to our agency is that you can choose to have a no-hassle package. This allows you to just send us your documents, and we will take care of the rest. We can make sure that you get your Russian visa in the most convenient, and timely manner. 

Once your application is accepted, there is a processing time of 3-10 business days from the date the documents are submitted to the consulate depending on if your application is processed as urgent or standard. In order to pick up your visa independently if you are not using a visa agency, you have to have the original receipt from when you submitted the documents. If you want someone to pick up the visa for you, they have to have the receipt as well. This is another upside to agencies because you can just wait for them to pick it up and ship the passport back to you. There is no issue of how you will get your passport back.