Visas: For Everywhere You Want to Be – Part 1 Russia

If you have been following me on facebook you know how much fun I have had in obtaining all the various visas required for my upcoming trip. (Read: not)

In my experience there are three basic “visa situations” when visiting a country:

  1. The type where no visa is required for entrance
  2. The type where a visa is required but it can be purchased for a $20-$30 fee at the airport
  3. The type where a visa is required and it will require massive amounts of pain and energy to procure said visa

(Note: Please keep in mind that the same country might be a type 1, 2, or 3 depending on what type of country YOU are from)

Well, guess what? We had three major “Type 3′s” on our trip: Russia, China and India. Today I’ll cover the process of getting our Russia Visa.


Russia was by FAR the most painful. The paperwork was long and complicated and we needed to provide a lot of information we didn’t have. One example- I had to list every country I have ever visited along with the dates. (*cough cough*)

Next up you need a “letter of invitation.” As I mentioned before – One does not simply walk into Russia. You must be invited.  With a letter. With an official seal.

Yeah. This can be provided by some hotel and tour operators and luckily Real Russia (who we bought our Trans-Mongolian tickets from) was able to provide us with our letters. Next up you need entrance and exit tickets as well as the names of all your hotels. Basically you need to have your entire itinerary with proof. The dates of your tickets and hotel stays must line of exactly with your paperwork.

The Russian Embassy has outsourced their visa processing to a company called ILS and all your paper work must be brought to their office ( You must bring the following:

  • Copies of your Visa application – signed with 2×2 passport photo
  • Your passport
  • A copy of your passport
  • Your official letter of invitation
  • Copies of your entrance and exit tickets
  • A “cover letter” with your name, itinerary and purpose of visit

Shannon, Tejal and I all applied together with Shannon dropping off the paper work. Apparently we had mis followed many of these directions and she was at the embassy for several hours updating and changing our paperwork. Finally it was given the okay and we were told we would get an e-mail when it was done.

Sadly, Tejal got a very different email stating that her date of departure was off by one day. VISA DENIED. If this were Gymnastics I think it would have gone down like this:

Luckily, after plunking down another $170, she had her dates sorted out and was on her way to a visa.

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13 Responses to Visas: For Everywhere You Want to Be – Part 1 Russia

  1. mee says:

    All this whining and complaints about visas for Americans always amuse me. I guess now you know what the rest of the world feels like.

    • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

      Haha called out. I guess its true that the visas frustrate me because I’m not used to them. I try to be patient with most of the travel related hurdles but visas are the one thing that I find really complicated.

  2. Sylvain Beauregard says:

    Thanks for the insight… I hope it will be much easier for me with a Canadian passport, and I have a few contacts I could use in Moscow. I’ll have to wait to be in Europe before planning my visit to Russia… but I’ll see. I will first visit all the Central and South Americas… and the only countries where I’ll need a passport are Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela (where we also have to sign a form confirming we do NOT want to immigrate there).

    I’ll soon begin my visits to the consulates and embassies to confirm some info. Right now, my biggest fear isn’t Mexico or Brazil… but the US. Entering the US without a firm date of exit can be tricky… even with a Canadian passport. I’ll sure visit the US consulate here to discuss the issue and prepare the paperwork.

    • Rob says:

      Entering the us without a firm date of exit is tricky with a Canadian passport? Before I moved here I traveled in the US dozens of times with itineraries as solid as “a couple of weeks. I’m on vacation…”.

      • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

        That did sound strange. I was able to pass through the Canadian border pretty easily last summer without any paperwork or questioning.

      • Rob says:

        And, to continue my observation, after I got approval for my green card, but didn’t yet have the card, I entered the US at the Toronto (or maybe Ottawa) airport, handed the border guy a CDN passport, a customs form saying I lived in the US and he just stamped it and said “here you go..”. I was surprised and asked “Don’t you want to see the proof that I’m allowed to live in the US?” and he said “no, not really. Next”.

  3. Dave says:

    Ha. Mee’s ‘whining’ comment made me laugh. It’s tit for tat, right? The Americans make it hard for the Russians so the Russians return the favour, right? It’s virtually impossible to generalise the visa acquisition process, regardless of the visa – it’s different for different nationalities & it also depends on where the visa is being applied for. As an Irish passport holder I recently (only in the last few weeks) have applied and acquired both Russian & Indian visas in Seoul, South Korea, both without too much hassle. But that’s not to say I wouldn’t have problems elsewhere… or that an American, for example, would have a harder time of it in Seoul (very likely). In my experience it’s Americans that have the most hoops to jump though for most visas… which is fine by me because it makes my chore of getting visas seem somewhat easier!

    • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

      Hi Dave- I think you are correct – in many cases countries match each others visa requirements. I know thats the case for the work visa situation between the US and pretty much ever other country.

    • Rob says:

      @Dave: It’s not always true that it’s harder for Americans. I have dual nationality and this spring the “buy it at the airport” visa for Turkey was US$20 for Americans and US$50 for Canadians. I recall wondering what Canada had done to piss off the Turks as I pulled out my US passport….

    • mee says:

      I also disagree that it’s harder for Americans. For a few countries probably, but not for most countries in the world. Try holding a third-world country passport. Getting into any first-world countries is a bitch.

      • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

        I obviously only have the experience as an American so I can’t compare. I know that many citizens of other nationalities must suffer through much more red tape than I had too.

  4. Rob says:

    I despise visa paperwork and expense. I could see Russia being interesting, but India and China are just dirty, filthy masses of people. There are nice places to which you can escape in each country, but getting to them is pretty disgusting. Even my friends who intentionally go to those countries admit that the trip is 75% tolerating the disgusting cities, food and people and 25% “wow, this is really nice..”

    • ElizabethJ_Bird says:

      I’ve heard very conflicting opinions about visiting both countries. Many people love India and China and swear they are the best places to visit. Others, like yourself, have had bad experiences. I’m interested to see how I end up liking both.

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