Russia 2023 : The ultimate visa guide

Russia 2023 : The ultimate visa guide

Russian visa

To venture around the Altai mountains, the Siberian taiga or the forests of Adygea most of us need to get a Russian visa. Putin won’t open his great Russia to Europe or the West anytime soon …

The following informations are mostly for European and Swiss passport holders about tourism related visas. If you are looking to gain informations about private and student visas you will have to look somewhere else.

Disclaimer : I do not work for any travel agency, embassy, nor the tourism industry. This page has only informative purpose to help you a bit in the messy and confusing Russian bureaucracy.

Last updated : 01/09/2023

Russia visa guide 2023
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I got a 3 months tourist visa double entry (even used the 90 days travel insurance of my Visa card) early june 2022 through a visa center in Strasburg, France.

So yes, foreigners/westerners (depending on the nationality probably) can obtain a tourist visa even these days. I did.

Sanctions travel facts

  • The Evisas are BACK – Click here for a full detailed guide
  • You can still apply for a regular tourist visa & a business visa if you are a citizen of Europe, others countries. See the full list on the Federral agency tourism’s website linked below.
  • Entry in Russia is possible by air and land. No more restrictions due to the Covid Pandemic.
  • The Psu border to Abkhazia is open also for foreigners but you should definetly double check with the Abkhaz authorities. You can contact them on the ministry of foreign affaire’s website.

For further informations & the list of allowed countries see directly the Federal agency for tourism’s website.

I highly recommend you to double check with the Russian embassy/consulate in your home country. Rules change quite quickly these days.

The tourist visa

The regular tourist visa is valid for maximum 30 days or 90 days (3 months), single or multiple entry and the dates are fixed, meaning you cannot enter before or leave after your visa dates, but you can still enter after and leave before the expiry date.

You cannot apply more than 3 months prior your trip, and at last 2 weeks before it. I don’t recommend you to apply last minute because of the deadline, national holidays (yours and theirs) and other unexpected events.

The required documents for your application :

  • An application form (complete, signed, without any mistakes)
  • A recent passport photograph
  • Your passport (in good condition!) valid 6 months beyond the intended stay, and must have two empty consecutive pages facing each other 
  • A copy of the first page of the passport with your details
  • A letter of invitation (LOI) or Voucher (same thing, different name)
  • An insurance certificate on your name (first name, middle names, family name. All of them) with the dates of your trip – I used the one from my Visa card for 90 days and it worked just fine.

The business visa

I really recommend you the business visa if you have time and you wish to visit Russia beyond Moscow or get stuck seven days in a row in the Trans-Siberian and see Russia through a window at 50 kms per hour without a single stop … You can easily apply for a business visa even though you have no business to do there, no one will ask you anything at the border or elsewhere.

I have myself applied for one year visa, 6 months allowed to stay on Russian soil and never had any troubles or questions regarding it : Neither by immigration officers (6 entrances and exists), by the FSB (twice but for something else) or by regular police checks on the road (if so, the policeman wants a bribe … Don’t give him anything).

A business visa can last 3 months, 6 months or one year, but the maximum allowed on the Russian territory is 90 days in a row. So if your visa is valid for 3 months, you can stay there 90 days (3 months) without needing to leave; if your visa is valid 6 months you can only spend 3 months there, spread on the 6 months period of time. And if you have a one year visa validity, you will be able to stay twice 90 days (3 months). It’s quite confusing, I admit it.

I have heard of some travelers not leaving after 90 days and never got in troubles. At your own risks! I personnally wouldn”t try.

The required documents for your application :

  • An application form (complete, signed, without any mistakes)
  • A recent passport photograph
  • Your passport (in good condition!) valid 6 months beyond the intended stay, and must have two empty consecutive pages facing each other. Be careful with your passport validity if you apply for a year visa!
  • A copy of the first page of the passport with your details
  • A letter of invitation (LOI) or Voucher for a Business visa, not a tourist one!
  • An insurance certificate for the time of your visa. Must be on your name (first name, middle names, family name. All of them) with the dates of the visa you are applying for. If you apply for a year visa, the insurance must be valid for the entire year even though you won’t be allowed to stay the entire time. I know it’s not fair, but eh, that’s Russian bureaucracy.

The “working holiday” visa

So what is exacty a “working holiday visa” ? It’s a sort of resident visa allowing you to work in the country to fund your travels.

Don’t get too excited about it. You will have to battle to obtain this visa, and in the end it is not worth it as no one will really offer you a working contract in Russia unless it is a big compagny that doesn’t avoid declaring its employees and paying its taxes …

And Russia isn’t really the best country to make money unless you are willing to deal with mafia & illegal stuffs …

I have applied for this visa on my first long trip to Russia, back in 2016. It was valid for four months only ! Not all nationalities have this agreement. You may have heard of working holiday visas to Australia, New Zealand, or Canada, which are much better because you can work for real for a year or more in the country.

You must check if your country signed an agreement with Russia. So far I have only heard of my country, France, but they might be others in the futur.



If you find out your country made a deal with Russia for a Working Holiday visa, here are the documents they will probably ask you for :

  • An application form (complete, signed, without any mistakes)
  • A recent passport photograph
  • Your passport (in good condition!) valid 6 months beyond the intended stay, and must have two empty consecutive pages facing each other
  • A copy of the first page of the passport with your details
  • A letter of invitation or Voucher (same thing, different name)
  • An insurance certificate on your name (first name, middle names, family name. All of them) with the dates of your trip
  • Your criminal record better be empty, or you can forget about this visa)
  • A medical certificate with some impossible to do tests (you will get it from the Russian embassy website during the application process) : Tuberculosis, Leprosy, Syphilis, Chancroid, Granuloma, HIV and Drug Addiction test .

    You may wonder “But how to get a certificate if some tests are impossible to do?” Well, I hope your childhood doctor is nice and helpful … !
  • A return flight ticket
  • A recent bank account statement
  • A letter declaring that you will come to Russia alone, without husband, wife or children
  • The certified translation of your criminal record, medical certificate and the previous letter

The E-visa

The e-visa is back. Yes, since the 1st of August 2023 the e-visa is once more available and the russian authorities even made some welcome changes !

The russian e-visa is now available for 16 days (15 nights) instead of 8 days, for European passport holders and 28 more countries (Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, the Philippines, Malaysia, China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey etc). A total of 55 nationalities can obtain it.

The second biggest change is that now the whole country is included, not just Kaliningrad and the Saint Petersburg region. You can enter Russia with an e-visa by air, land or sea.
They are 50+ entry points to Russia ; have a look at the official website to view them all.

The e-visa can be obtain within 4 days and is valid for 60 days, meaning you can enter whenever you wish during 2 months period but can only stay 16 days on russian soil. You cannot apply earlier than 40 days and no later than 4 days before entering the country.

I have heard and read about many travellers who have been denied on arrival on the Russian territory because of their e-visa. There were mistakes between the informations on their passports and the ones shown on the e-visa. When you receive your e-visa, always verify each of your names, none has to be missing and the dates of travels are correct.

This also applies on any visa application, in Russia or elsewhere.

The e-visa costs is 40 US$ – equivalent in euros I guess, I couldn’t find any updated info online. Apply directly online on the official website. No need to pay for a travel agency.

The required documents for your application :

  • Your passport (in good condition!) valid 6 months beyond the intended stay
  • A scan (JPEG) of the first page of yout passport with your details
  • A recent passport picture (JPEG) of yourself 3,5 x 4,5 cm

No LOI (Voucher) needed, nor any hotel booking reservation and apparently no travel insurance either. In case they ask for the later, just get the one from your bank card (visa or mastercard works)

The letter of invitation

The letter of invitation, also called LOI or Voucher is the major dilemma in the visa application process. I have listed here a few agencies to get your LOI for either a tourist or a business visa. They are all verified and registered on the official Federal website of the travel agencies.

You can check out by yourself if you find offers of too cheap to be true LOI online : enter the PTO + the number of the agency you can find on the travel agency’s website.

Watch out for Francophones and probably others agencies affiliated to Russian ones with different names. Their registration number might not appear on their website because they belong to a Russian agency, but it doesn’t mean it’s a scam. Just email them and ask about it.

  • GoingRus : 15 US$ for a single or double entry tourist visa | 50 to 65 US$ for business visa
  • Visardo : 11 to 21€ for a single or double entry tourist visa | 45 to 70€ for a business visa
  • Russie Autrement : 23 to 35€ for a single entry tourist visa | 45€ for a double entry tourist visa | 105 to 117€ for a multiple entry business visa
  • Visa Russie : 23 to 45€ for a single or double entry tourist visa | 70 to over 200€ for a business visa depends on the option you choose
  • Alsvisa : 35 to 80€ for a single or double entry tourist visa | 65 to 95€ for a business visa
  • Russia Support : 16.99€ for a single or double entry tourist visa | 34 to 69€ for a business visa
  • Action-visa : 39 to 125€ for a single or double entry tourist visa | 65 to 100€ for a business visa.

If you know any good travel agencies making LOI in your home country, feel free to message me about it so I can add it to the list!

*Prices may change, check on their websites directly.

My tips

Here are a few extra useful tips :

  • Instead of paying a quite huge amount of money for a travel insurance, get the insurance certificate from your Visa or Mastercard (make sure you pay the LOI, visa fees, plane/train tickets or whatever else with it). This insurance is valid for 90 days, and can be used for a 3 months business visa application.

    Okay if you plan on hiking the Elbrus or walk through the Taiga in the middle of winter, a good travel insurance is adviced !
  • Do not mention “sensitive areas” on your travel itinerary. No worries, no one will ask you what you are doing in Kamtchaka if you only wrote down Moscow and Saint Peterburg on your visa application.
  • Big cities & Baikal lake are “normal” for tourists, Chechnya or the Ukrainian border villages are not.
  • Double check, triple check, check 10 times the informations you wrote down on your visa application. They are super picky, if one thing is missing they will reject your application.
  • Do not try to bribe the grumpy lady at the embassy or consultat, do not get angry either, it won’t help. Be like Zhdun, wait and be patient.
  • When receiving your visa, make sure all the informations are correct, that no middle name is missing, or that there’s a mistake on the date of birth (I was born on the September 14th but the 11th is stuck even on Russian minds apparently …)
  • If you live far away from the consulat or embassy (like me, deep in the French countryside, count how much it will cost you to go at least twice to the embassy and back, and the fees of the visa and potential extra costs (Russians are good at this), maybe it is just not worth the time and money will you spend on getting there yourself. Better pay an agency to do the work for you.
Russia visa guide 2023

You are struggling or still have questions you can’t find answers online to ? Any help to fill up the application form ? Send me a message and I will try to help you as much as I can.

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