Since September 2012, American citizens can apply for a 3-year multiple-entry Russian visa. In this article I explain step by step how to apply for this type of visa and how to obtain the visa support documents.
I'm going to talk about ...
- 1. Agreement between Russia and USA on the simplification of visa formalities
- 1.1. How long can Americans stay in Russia under this agreement?
- 1.2. How can you extend the duration of your stay?
- 1.3. Where is the 3-year multiple visa processed?
- 1.4. How much does a 3-year multiple visa-entry cost?
- 1.5. Do I need a 3-year multiple visa support voucher (or invitation)?
- 1.6. What does the 3-year, multiple-entry visa look like?
- 2. How to apply for a 3-year tourist visa for American citizens
1. Agreement between Russia and USA on the simplification of visa formalities
Despite the bad news that usually comes in the media about relations between the United States and Russia, in September 2012 both countries signed an agreement that allows obtaining a 3-year visa, both for Russian citizens visiting the United States as well as Americans visiting Russia.
You can read this agreement in the following link: Agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on the simplification of visa formalities for nationals of the Russian Federation and nationals of the United States of America
1.1. How long can Americans stay in Russia under this agreement?
Multiple-entry visas issued in accordance with the Agreement allow:
- Getting a 3-year Russian visa. For example, from 1.12.2019 to 30.11.2022.
- Staying in Russia for up to 6 months per visit. For example, from 1.12.2009 to 30.05.2020.
- The number of visits is unlimited. So if you leave Russia on May 30, 2020 and re-enter Russia on June 1, the 6-month period begins again.
This means that an American can live in Russia for almost 3 years with just one visa.
1.2. How can you extend the duration of your stay?
- If you are in St. Petersburg, you can take a train to Helsinki or Tallinn or travel to nearby border cities like Leppenranta in Finland or Narva in Estonia, and then return to St. Petersburg to enjoy another 6 months of stay in Russia.
- If you are in Moscow, the border is a little further, but you can take a flight to a border country like Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, for example. You can also take a train, a bus or a car to leave the country, although this will take longer.
In summary: for an American it is much easier to obtain a 3-year visa to Russia than a permit to visit any European country for a period greater than 90 days.
1.3. Where is the 3-year multiple visa processed?
As an individual, you can have your visa processed at any consulate of the Russian Embassy in the United States (which can be found in Washington, New York, Houston, and Seattle) as well as at the Russian Visa Center in USA, an independent business that is subcontracted by the Russian Embassy in the USA which also has delegations in these same cities.
Currently the visa center is managed by the company Russia Visa Center (previously it was managed by ILS and VFS Global).
In the Russian Visa Center the visa process can be complete either face-to-face or at a distance through the Visa Center courier service. You can easily make an appointment in advance. In the offices, they offer additional services for purchase that are not available at the consulates: completion of application forms, photocopying, visa photos, mail service processing, etc. Everything is set up so that you don’t have to come back on another day (and of course do business).
In exchange for better service, the price of the visa is greater since applying requires additional management and a cost of $38 per visa is added.
1.4. How much does a 3-year multiple visa-entry cost?
A 3-year multiple visa-entry costs $160. In addition to the visa fee you have to pay the Russia Visa Application Centre Service Charge of 38 USD (including VAT) for each visa application.
So, the total cost is 198 USD in the Russian Visa Center.
1.5. Do I need a 3-year multiple visa support voucher (or invitation)?
No. As explained in section 2 of this article, it is not necessary to obtain an invitation or visa support voucher for 3 years. In fact, tourist agencies issue invitations for a maximum period of 30 days. With a 30-day visa support letter is enough.
US Consulates recommend that US citizens apply for 3-year multiple-entry tourist visas regardless of the dates, number of entries and period of stay indicated in the tourist voucher.
1.6. What does the 3-year, multiple-entry visa look like?
Like any Russian visa, with the only exception that the period is 3 years and for multiple entries.
2. How to apply for a 3-year tourist visa for American citizens
Below I explain the steps you must follow to obtain a 3-year multiple Russian visa
The detailed process for obtaining a tourist visa is explained in this article. In the present article I will focus on the specificities of the 3-year multiple visa.
Step 1. Have a valid passport
To apply for a visa, you must have a Passport that is valid for at least six months after your visa expires. You should also have at least two blank pages available.
If you apply for a 3-year visa from December 1, 2019 until November 30, 2022, then your passport must be valid beyond May 30, 2023. Otherwise, you must renew your passport before applying for a visa.
Step 2. Get a visa support letter (also called voucher or invitation)
In addition to the passport, you will also need a visa support document, officially titled as a “Confirmation of hosting a foreign tourist”, issued by a hotel or a tourist agency which is registered with the Federal Agency of Tourist Operators of the Russian Federation.
The visa support document may be a copy.
Please note that it is not necessary to book your hotel, you can indicate any hotel in the visa support application. Once you get the visa you can change your hotel if you wish or stay anywhere else.
In order to apply for a 3-year multiple-entry Tourist visa, the easiest way is to obtain a standard visa support letter (single or double entry) for 30 days from iVisa o Russia Support (for example, from 1.12.2019 to 30.12.2019), but then specify a 3 year long period in your visa application form. The starting date of your visa would be on the day your visa support starts, but the end date would be not in 30 days, but in 3 years (ex. Date of Entry 1.12.2019 until Date of Departure 30.11.2022-minus one day).
Here is a real example:
Step 3. Fill out the Visa Application Form
Once you have your passport and your visa support voucher (or letter of invitation), you are ready to fill out the visa application form.
The form can be filled out electronically by visiting: https://visa.kdmid.ru/PetitionChoice.aspx
When you go to fill out the form for the first time, you should select your country (USA) and the language you would like to continue in. Also mark in the box that you have read the introductory information. Next, click Complete new application form.
On the application under the “Visa details” section you have to answer the following:
- Nationality: United States
- If you had USSR or Russian nationality at some time: yes/no
- Purpose of visit: Tourism
- Visa category and type: Common Tourist
- Number of entries: Multiple
- Date of entry into Russia / Date of exit: 1.12.2019 / 30.11.2022
Once the form is completed you must sign it and paste a photo.
Step 4. Travel insurance (optional)
If you need a travel insurance a very good option is Cherehapa, a Russian company specializing in travel insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online your travel insurance to Russia, even after you’ve left home. The insurance has a medical expenses coverage of 50,000 euros.
Step 5. Take all of your documents to the Russian Visa Center (or consulate)
Once you have all your documents, the final step is to take everything to the Consulate or to the Russian Visa Center that is nearest your place or residence. This can be done in person or by mail.
Option 1: Consulate
You can submit documents at the consular establishment of the Russian Federation in USA that is in your jurisdiction by prior appointment only. Appointments have to be booked online:
- Washington: http://washington.kdmid.ru/
- New York: http://new-york.kdmid.ru/
- Houston: http://houston.kdmid.ru/
- Seattle: http://seattle.kdmid.ru/
Option 2: Russian Visa Center
A) Applying in person
When applying in person at a Russian Visa Center, you don’t need to make an appointment ahead of time. Just drive to the Russian Visa Center nearest you and give them your completed documents.
You must come either in person, or nominate a person to submit the documents on your behalf, providing they have a letter of attorney.
B) Applying through the mail
If you are unable to apply in person at a Russian Visa Center, you can also send your application by mail.
I hope this article has helped you apply for your 3-year multiple visa to Russia from the United States!
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