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Visas and Passports in Russia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: February 2014

Russian immigration regulations are currently subject to change, so we cannot guarantee that the following information will be completely accurate in all cases.

To enter Russia, you will always need a valid passport. You will need to have the equivalent travel document if you are a stateless person or refugee, though it is possible that asylum seekers may be denied entry into Russia. Passports and other travel documents must be valid for six months after your visa’s expiry date. You are legally obliged to carry your original passport with you at all times. In addition to a valid passport, you may need a visa to immigrate into Russia.


No Visa Required

Citizens of other member countries of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, the former USSR minus four countries) – with the exception of Turkmenistan – may enter and live in Russia without a visa. A list of countries with varying degrees of exemption from visa requirements is given here:


Note that if you are from one of these countries, you still have to submit a completed migration card to satisfy immigration requirements.


Visa Types

Regular, ‘O’ type Russian visas, which will be suitable for most expats, are categorised in two ways. First, there are seven different thematic types –  of which, five are applicable to long-term stays: business, employment, humanitarian, private and student visas. Of these, the employment (or foreign employee) visa is probably the most popular; for more information on this visa, see the ‘Working’ part of this Immigration section. Business visas are for those who want to stay in Russia for a short period to conduct light business activities that do not constitute work. Private visas are used if you want to visit family or friends in Russia; see ‘Family Members and Marriage’ for more details.

Visa types are further categorised according to how long you want to stay in the country, and how many re-entries you want to make: single-entry, dual-entry and multiple-entry. Of these, multiple-entry visas can be valid for three, six or twelve months. To gain a multiple-entry visa, you must have previously been issued with a single- or dual-entry visa. Single- or dual-entry business visas are valid for three months, while multiple-entry ones last for six months or a year; they allow you to return to Russia as many times as you like.


Visa Application

Applying for a Russian visa an expensive process that varies from complicated to Byzantine. Therefore, before you apply, you might want to use the services of a visa support organisation, such as one of the following:


The first step towards getting a visa is to obtain an invitation from some kind of Russian institution, that is, a company, university or branch of government. Once the invitation has been sent to the relevant embassy, you can begin your application.

The easiest way to apply for a visa is via the internet. Online visa application forms are available in 15 different languages. Whichever visa you apply for, you will need the following documents:

You may also need to take proof that you have medical insurance. If you are applying for a multiple-entry visa, you will also need to provide confirmation that you do not have HIV. You should be able to have a test at a local medical centre. Visa application takes around four to six weeks to complete. Visas cannot generally be extended – instead, you will usually need to apply for a new visa, leaving the country to do so.


Additional Entry Requirements

Russia imposes an additional requirement on everyone who comes into the country: the migration card (also called ‘immigration card’.) This should be issued to you on your plane, train or at the Russian border. It consists of two copies of the same document, parts A and B. You need to hand part A to the Immigration Officer when you arrive, and keep part B with your passport. Like your passport, you should keep your migration card with you at all times whenever you are outside your house. Failure to do so may result in a fine. The migration card is also required to enable you to register your visa; see ‘Settlement, Residence and Citizenship’ for more details.



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