It’s not very common to get denied the Russian visa, but what does happen sometimes is that some of the documentation provided is incorrect and you have to correct it. In this article, I will explain what are the most frequent errors that can cause your Russian visa application to be rejected or denied, and how to avoid or solve these errors.
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0. THE DENIAL OF THE RUSSIAN VISA IS RARE
Most people who apply for a Russian visa usually don’t have any problem when it comes to obtaining it. It is enough to follow the rules set by the consulates.
However, if these rules are not followed, it is likely that the visa application will be denied for reasons related to the documentation provided, due to the lack of any document or that any of the documents provided are incorrect or have an error.
In these cases, there is no need to feel alarmed since it can be solved easily, by simply providing the missing documentation or correcting the incorrect data. Therefore, it is important to begin the visa process well in advance of your trip, if there is any problem during the processing.
But the problems don’t always come up for reasons related to the documentation provided, but also for reasons related to the applicant or their country of origin. For example, it may happen that the applicant has provided all the documentation correctly, but it has criminal records, or comes from a country that is currently at war or with an epidemic. These are also possible cases of denial of visa application.
You must consider the following:
- If you are denied a visa for any reason, the consular authorities don’t have to inform you of the reasons for the rejection, citing national security reasons. On top of not giving you any explanation, they don’t return the application fee if they deny you the visa.
- Visa refusals may be different in each country. While in some consulates of the world they review the documentation very carefully and are more demanding in the face of any small error, in other consulates they are more permissive.
Next, I will explain in detail below the main reasons for visa denial that I have seen, both those related to the documentation and those related to the characteristics of the applicant, so that you can avoid or correct them.
1. REASONS RELATED TO THE CONTRIBUTED DOCUMENTATION
1.1. The documentation provided is incomplete
It means that the applicant has not provided all the required documentation. Therefore, it is important, before submitting the documentation, to check the visa center or the consulate website, the updated list of necessary documentation, because sometimes the list of documents to be submitted may change from one day to the next without prior notice.
If you submit the application personally at the Consulate or at the visa center, they will quickly tell you which documents are missing so you can come back another day with all the documentation.
If you send the documentation by courier, they will contact you to tell you what documentation is missing for you to send it.
1.2. The documentation provided is incorrect or with errors
But the most frequent problem that I have found is not that the documentation is incomplete, but that the applicant submits some of the documents in an incorrect manner.
If you have submitted any documentation incorrectly or with errors, they will inform you from the consulate or visa center so that you can correct the documentation.
These are the problems of incorrect documentation that I have most frequently seen and that you have to try to avoid:
A) Problems with your passport
Sometimes the applicant does not provide the original passport but a copy. It is important to know that it is mandatory to provide the original passport since the visa is an adhesive sticker that is stuck to one of the pages of the passport.
The vast majority of people are aware that they must provide the original passport, but in this case some problems can arise for the following reason:
- The passport is damaged. In this case, the usual question arises: What is considered a damaged passport? How do I know if my passport is damaged for the Russian authorities? It’s not easy to answer this question because it is subject to the decision of the Consulate, but I recommend renewing the passport before applying for the visa if it has any of the following flaws:
- The covers or some pages are broken or torn.
- Has bite marks from your dog or cat.
- The passport has faded colors.
- The back of the passport is unstitched.
- It has ink, drink or food stains.
- It has gotten wet or you have put it inside the washing machine.
- The chip is damaged.
- My final recommendation: if you have doubts about whether your passport is damaged or not, it is best to renew it to avoid problems, not only to obtain the Russian visa but to travel to any country in the world since it is the most important travel document.
- The passport is valid for less than 6 months from the date of completion of your trip to Russia. For example, if you apply for a Russian visa from June 1 to June 15, 2020, your passport must have a validity date beyond December 15, 2020, otherwise you must renew it before submitting the visa application.
- The passport doesn’t have two blank pages. If you travel a lot and have many visas and stamps from other countries in your passport, check that at least two pages are left blank, otherwise you will have to renew your passport.
B) Invitation letter or visa support
As for the letter of invitation, I have sometimes met people who don’t provide the invitation letter, but hotel reservations (either from booking.com, Airbnb or other platforms), because they think that these reservations are the same as invitation letter.
Don’t confuse the invitation letter with the hotel reservation. It has nothing to do with it.
This is an example of hotel reservation with Booking (I know it is a Beijing reservation, but currently I don’t have any Moscow reservation at hand, hehehe):
And this is an example of invitation or visa support document:
To apply for the visa, it is always mandatory to submit an invitation letter issued by a Russian tour operator. However, hotel reservations don’t need to be provided, except for citizens of certain countries deemed as immigration risk. For example, Indian citizens need to provide hotel reservations for getting a Russian invitation.
But sometimes, the letter of invitation provided contains errors, most of the time because the invitation request form has been filled out incorrectly. The most frequent errors are the following:
- Error in the passport number, that is, the number of your passport doesn’t match the passport number that appears in the invitation.
- The name and surname on the invitation doesn’t exactly match the personal data of the passport. Important: you have to indicate the full name.
- Some consulates require that the invitation not only include the name of the hotel or apartment, but also their address.
- In place of hotels or tourist apartments or Airbnb, you have put private apartments or private homes. When you request a tourist invitation, never include addresses of private homes or private apartments of friends or family.
In conclusion: make sure that the data in your passport exactly matches the information in the invitation letter, including the name and address of your hotels or apartments and never include private addresses in a tourist visa application.
If you have made an error when requesting the invitation letter and you need to modify the information, you must write to the tour operator who issued your invitation letter to modify it.
The tour operators that I recommend in this blog can quickly modify your invitation letter if you have made an error, writing to the following emails:
- iVisa: firstname.lastname@example.org. With this agency you can also modify the wrong data yourself through your electronic system.
- Russia Suport: email@example.com
Finally, you must also be very careful with websites that sell false letters of invitation, which are plenty on the Internet.
C) Russian visa application form
In the first place, it must be said that for some years now it is mandatory to fill out the application form electronically. Therefore, don’t think of printing the form and filling it with a pen.
Regarding the completion of the electronic form, people also make mistakes in some of its sections. The most frequent errors that I have encountered are the following:
- The visa form information does not match the information in the invitation letter. Some examples:
- The itinerary is not the same. This happens for example if you include Moscow and St. Petersburg in the invitation letter and then in the visa application form you only put Moscow or include a city not included in the invitation.
- The reason for the trip is not the same. It happens if you request a tourist invitation and then apply for a visa for private trips and not a tourist visa.
- The duration period of the trip. If your invitation letter includes the period from August 5 to 10, you can’t fill out the visa application form by specifying dates from August 4 to 11. On the contrary, you must indicate that your trip is from August 5 to 10 or from August 6 to 9 (the period of the invitation must include, at least, the period for which you request the visa).
- The information of the organization that invites you (the Travel Company) is filled in incorrectly. Don’t put the name and address of the hotel or travel agency in this section, but the name and address of the organization that invites you, that is, the Russian tour operator who has issued your letter of invitation. It must be a tour operator listed in the Unified Federal register of tour operators in Russia. For example: Visa Service LLC. I explain this in this article.
- In the form you must indicate the countries you have visited before, with the dates of entry. The form allows you to put a maximum of 25 countries. It is important to include, at least, the countries that are indicated in your passport by means of a stamp or visa, since this is verified by the consulate. Not everyone does it.
- If you apply for a double entry tourist visa, keep in mind that in order to leave and re-enter Russia, some consulates will only grant a double entry visa if you visit a country in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS): Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Mongolia or China.
Once the visa application form is completed electronically, it must be printed and signed. Well, there are people who forget to sign the application form. If you do the proceeding in person, there is no problem because at the visa center they will check the documentation and they will quickly tell you that you must sign it. But if you send the documentation by mail and without signing, you will have to make another shipment with the cost that this implies.
In addition to signing the form, you must also paste a photo that complies with the requirements established by the Consulate: recent photo of size 3.5 x 4.5 cm (though 3 x 4 cm is also accepted), taken on a light background, printed on photographic paper, without smiling, without sunglasses or hats, etc.
You must paste the photo, don’t staple it. Here are the basic rules to follow:
D) Travel assistance insurance (for European countries citizens)
With regard to travel assistance insurance, the most frequent problem is that it covers only European Russia and not Asian Russia. Therefore, the insurance must clearly reflect that it covers all of Russia (or specify “World”). In addition, you must sign the insurance policy.
Sometimes, people submit their health insurance documents in which they don’t indicate the countries of coverage or the validity period. In this type of insurance, you need to request a certificate from the company indicating that it has coverage in Russia (or in the World) and that it has coverage during the period of the trip.
1.3. The documentation provided is correct but is submitted more than 90 days in advance
In most consulates, they don’t accept the visa application if it is submitted more than 90 days before the scheduled start date of the trip, so it is preferable not to begin the visa proceeding so early. It is better to wait.
1.4. The provided documentation is correct but the consulate requests additional documentation
There are certain cases in which the consulate may request additional documentation. These are some of the cases that I have found and in which, after providing new documentation, the applicants didn’t have any more problems:
- The traveler requests a tourist visa to visit a little known or a small town in Russia. The consulate will ask you for additional information about the reason for your trip and hotel reservations.
- The traveler requests the visa and indicates that he/she has friends or relatives in Russia. The consulate asks for additional information about the people you are going to visit during your trip.
- The traveler will remain more than two weeks in Russia and the Consulate asks him/her for a more detailed program or itinerary. Tour operators that issue invitations, such as iVisa, can issue this detailed program.
- The traveler indicates that he/she is unemployed. The consulate will ask you to justify that you have sufficient economic means to travel and be able to return to your country after the trip.
To prevent the consulate from requesting additional documentation, many applicants don’t indicate that they have friends or relatives in Russia, and that they will visit only Moscow and St. Petersburg for tourism.
2. REASONS RELATED TO THE APPLICANT PERSON
2.1. The applicant comes from a poor country, at war or with poor diplomatic relations with Russia
In Russia, as in other countries, limitations are imposed on entry into the country for reasons related to the origin of the country of the applicant. The reasons can vary:
- Proceed from a poor country or at war. In this case it is about preventing illegal immigration. Russia, like other countries, has a list of countries that are considered immigration risks, which correspond to those countries that are at war or in a poor economic state (these are countries where, more often than others, their visitors violate visa regulations). Current examples of these countries are North Korea or Syria.
- You have recently visited or resided in a war-torn country, or a country that is not a “good friend” of Russia.
- You are from a country that is in conflict with Russia, as in the past it happened with Georgia or with Ukraine, and the conflict with Crimea.
- You are from a country with which Russia has interrupted its diplomatic relations, as it happened with Turkey.
Also, if Russia considers that you can be a danger to their country, you can also be denied a visa. For example:
- Belonging or having belonged to the espionage service of a country.
- You have a criminal or terrorist background.
- You have HIV or a contagious disease.
- You have been previously expelled from Russia or you have violated the terms of stay in Russia previously.
It must be said that these grounds for refusal are applied by all the countries of the world, not only in Russia.
It must also be said that, from the consulates, it is increasingly common for certain people to be investigated in their social networks, so you need to be very careful with the things that are published on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks.
2.3. The applicant was born in Russia
It is paradoxical, but one of the most common causes of visa denial is for those citizens who were born in Russia or the former USSR, who emigrated abroad and can’t prove that they are no longer Russian citizens.
Therefore, citizens of the former USSR and who currently have the nationality of another country, when applying for the Russian visa, they must provide some documentation proving that they no longer possess Russian citizenship, such as:
- Copy of the USSR passport with a stamp indicating that you left Russia for “permanent residence abroad”, dated before February 6, 1992;
- Copy of a “Visa to Israel” issued before February 6, 1992;
- Copy of a Naturalization Certificate issued before 1996;
- A document confirming the renunciation of your Russian citizenship;
- A copy of the main pages of a passport of a former state of the USSR, issued after February 1992;
- If you don’t have any of the above documents, you can provide a written statement explaining the circumstances for which you are no longer a Russian citizen (though this is subject to the discretion of the Consulate).
You must consider that, according to Russian law, visas can’t be issued to Russian citizens with expired passports. In addition, children born to a Russian father and mother automatically obtain Russian citizenship, regardless of the place of birth. In this case, they are not issued a visa and must apply for Russian citizenship, or have their information written in the passport of one of their parents, or obtain a Russian passport.
If you are applying for a visa for a minor, you must provide a copy of your birth certificate, in which it is clear that at least one of the parents is not a citizen of the Russian Federation.
Other cases related to the person requesting the visa, and in which they can deny you the visa are the following:
- The traveler wants to visit areas of conflict or restricted areas in Russia, for which a special permit is necessary
- The traveler indicates that he/she is going to travel as a backpacker, either hitchhiking or couchsurfing.
- The traveler indicates that during his/her stay in Russia, he/she will do some work as a digital nomad (for example, as a photographer)
- The traveler indicates that he/she is going to sell merchandising products during his/her trip.
3. THE INTERVIEW AT THE RUSSIAN CONSULATE (AND THE KGB)
There are occasions when the consulate, before issuing the visa, wants to have an interview with the applicant. The consulate has the right to interview you for whatever reason.
In these cases, don’t be alarmed, because in most cases, the consulate simply wants to have more information about you and your trip.
In this interview you will have to be honest and tell the whole truth.
Some of the questions that you will get asked are the following:
- What is the purpose of your visit to Russia?
- What is your itinerary?
- Where are you staying?
- What will be the duration of your trip?
- Where do you work?
- Have you visited Russia before?
- Do you have sufficient means to pay for the trip?
- Do you have airline or train tickets?
- Do you have hotel reservations?
Sometimes they can interview you without a clear reason, but in other occasions the interview can be due to very different causes: if you are travelling to an unusual area of Russia they will want to know the reasons for your trip, if you are or have been a police or military officer, it is also possible that they will ask you additional questions, etc.
In most cases it is a routine procedure after which the visa is granted. Relax, the KGB is not coming.
From what I told you this article it can seem that many visas are denied. But nothing is further from reality. The vast majority of people who submit the documentation correctly are granted the visa and only in very special cases, these are denied.
I hope that this article has been useful to you, so you can avoid the most frequent mistakes that are made when submitting your application