How to get a Russian Visa

IMG_6477Getting a Visa can be confusing and complicated. When I booked my recent trip to Russia, I hadn’t really thought about it until after I’d booked the flights and accommodation. Luckily I am an early booker and so I had looooooooooooads of time to get this sorted, but I was a little overwhelmed by how convoluted the process seemed to be. However it definitely wasn’t as confusing as I’d anticipated. Here’s the steps I went through…

  • Get invited
  • Fill in the form
  • Visit the Visa centre to hand in information
  • Go back to collect when it’s ready

See, it’s not as many steps as you’d think! (NB these are the steps for a tourist Visa from the UK).

First of all, we were staying in an Airbnb. This made things a little more complicated – the easiest way to get a Visa for Russia is staying in a hotel or, even better, going with a travel company. This is because you have to get an invite to visit: travel companies and hotels can easily do this for you, but the process I followed had a couple of extra steps because we were essentially staying in someone else’s home.

The website I used to apply for the Visas and find out all the information I needed was this one (It has information about how to fill in the form, how much the visa costs, where the Visa centre is etc.) –
http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk/how_to_apply.html

So first step was to get our official invites. I asked our Airbnb host for help with this (if you use Airbnb, you’ll see many hosts advertise that they are happy to help with this). Our host sent us a form to fill in, (they needed some details such as when we would be in Russia, addresses, passport numbers etc.) which they took to a travel company in Moscow to get the official invites. Once these arrived we had all the details we needed to complete our form (albeit some of them in Russian!) and we agreed with our hosts to pay 1000rub per person, which is about £14. We paid this when we arrived at the apartment.

Back on the website, click on the online application form (on this page, you’ll see a hyperlink at the end of the paragraph that says click here. Select visa type – tourist. Scroll down and click “proceed to online application form.” Follow the steps through and make a password, then make a note of your ID number. You may need this if you don’t complete the form all in one go.

And now it’s down to you to fill in the form. It’s fairly easy step-by-step, but here are some tips on the more confusing points:

  • have your passport with you as you fill it in! And your passport type is probably “Tourist”
  • British passports are issued by United Kingdom Identity & Passport Service
  • for Visit Details, you will get all of the information from your Invite letter
  • For the question “Do you plan to stay somewhere…” use the details on your invite letter i.e. not the address of the airbnb. It doesn’t matter if you don’t stay in the place that is detailed on your visa, it’s not checked and you could’ve just changed your mind
  • You will need to add details of 2 previous places you’ve worked. This can be tricky to find the details if it was a long time ago!
  • For the section “Have you visited other countries in the past 10 years” you just need to put the countries that have warranted a stamp in your passport. i.e. you don’t need to include visits to countries in the EU (sob). Make sure any information you include matches the information in your passport.

You can then select where to go for your appointment – London or Edinburgh (there is also a Visa centre in Manchester, select London if you want to go here). When you’re ready, make your way to the passport centre with everything printed out – invite forms, passports, applications forms.

We went to the London Visa centre on Gee Street, which is just a 5 minute walk from Old Street station (take Exit 4 towards LSO St Lukes). There’s a bag check when you arrive, and then you take a ticket number and wait to be called up – we went on a Monday, mid-morning, and only had to wait around 5 minutes. When called, they check through your forms and passport. If there is anything wrong, there are computers you can use to re-do the form (I think it was £5 per 30 mins) and printers too (I think this was about 50p per sheet, but I can’t remember). But everything with ours was ok, so I paid my £108.40 and that was it! It was over in a flash. We were told that they would be ready to collect in one week. There is also an option to pay extra to have it ready the next day. I went back the following week with the ticket stubs for all of the Visas and was able to collect for everyone in my party.

I hope that helps anyone who is attempting to go through this process themselves! Please just ask any questions if you need any help.

 

If you’re interested in visiting Russia to find some musical locations, go to “List by Country” to see where I’ve been and written about.

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