All foreigners wishing to visit Russia must obtain a visa in advance. Depending on your reasons for traveling to Russia, this can prove difficult, as visas require an official invitation issued by the government. Preparing in advance and making sure you obtain all needed papers will speed up the visa process and make your trip planning less problematic.
Be clear about your motives for visiting Russia. Tourists joining a tour may have an easier time getting a visa than those traveling on their own. If you plan on staying longer than 30 days, you will need a business visa, even if your main goal is to travel around the country. Each visa has its own particular requirements and limitations, so it’s important that you understand what you need before you apply.
Get the appropriate invitation. In order to get a visa to Russia, you will need to be officially invited through the Russian Passport and Visa Department (UVIR) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. If you’re traveling with a group tour, the travel agency will most likely process the invitation for you. Otherwise, you will need to apply for it yourself by contacting agencies like VisaToRussia.com, which will not only get the invitation for you, but also register you with the proper authorities once you arrive to your destination city.
Visit your local Russian consulate or embassy with the invitation and your passport to get the visa. You will need to complete a visa application form (form Nr 95) and present all required paperwork at the time of application. Most visas are issued on the same day or within 3 days, depending on how much you’re willing to pay.
Be ready to pass medical tests if you’re planning on staying in Russia for more than six months. Foreigners wishing to stay in Russia for six months or more will need a business or work visa, which requires that you pass an HIV test and sometimes a TB (tuberculosis) examination. The same is true of those applying for a student visa.
Make sure you register with the immigration office within 48 hours of arriving in Russia. If you’re staying in a hotel, they are required to do this for you. If you’re in Russia with a work or business visa, your company will need to process the registration. Those who don’t register are likely to get fined and could be arrested.