Travelling to Russia

Aim of this page

Russia may not be high on everyone’s list of holiday destinations but it’s a country that has opened up tremendously over the last few years and is now seen by many as a fascinating country to visit.

The aim of this page is to provide details of the documentation needed to travel to Russia and whether it’s necessary to disclose details of your criminal record. It’s part of our information on travelling abroad.

Why is this important?

The majority of people visiting Russia will need to get a visa before they travel and the visa process can be quite strict. When making an application you should make sure that the visa type you’re applying for is consistent with the purpose of your visit and that all the information contained in the visa document is correct.

It’s important that you’re aware of any conditions attached to your visa and that you strictly adhere to these. Overstaying your visa or breaching the visa conditions can result in fines, court hearings, deportation or possibly a ban from re-entry.

Do you need a visa to enter Russia?

Most foreign nationals will need to have an entry visa to travel to Russia. If you are transiting through Russia but won’t be leaving the airport then you won’t need a visa.

There are many types of visa available but a tourist or business visa will usually be suitable for most travellers. You’ll need to make the initial application online but will then need to visit a Visa Application Centre to submit your biometric data; these are located in London, Manchester and Edinburgh.

Applying for a visa

Your visa application will need to be made online. If you are based in the UK and aged 12 or over you’ll also need to visit a Visa Application Centre to submit your biometric data (scanned fingerprints).

What questions are asked about criminal records on the visa application form?

There are several questions on the application form relating to war crimes, crimes against humanity and membership of recognised terrorist organisations.

There is one question which specifically asks about your criminal record, namely:

Have you ever been charged with a criminal or administrative offence (including traffic violation) in Russia or any other country?  Yes/No”

The question only allows you to give a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer; it does not ask you to provide specific details about your criminal record.

On submitting your online form, you’ll be provided with a list of documents that you’ll need to take to the Visa Application Centre. It’s likely that under the ‘Additional Documents’ you’ll be asked to provide further evidence of your criminal record.

How does the visa process work?

  1. Once you’ve completed and submitted your online visa application form, print it off and sign it.
  2. You’ll receive a ‘next steps’ email which will provide you with details of what documents you need to take to the Application Centre (see below).
  3. The Application Centre will contact you to confirm a suitable day and time to provide your biometric data and any other information. This can take up to 1 hour depending on the number of applicants being seen.
  4. In some cases (for example where you’ve disclosed a criminal record) you will be invited for an interview to discuss your application further.

What documents will you need?

When you visit the Visa Application Centre, you’ll need to take the following documents with you:

You’ll need to print off and sign the completed online application form.
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the planned date of departure from Russia and you must have a blank visa page if you’re applying for a single-entry visa or two blank pages for a double-entry visa.
One passport sized photograph which is no older than 6 months.
The tourist voucher is a document that confirms your itinerary, hotel you are staying in and any excursions whilst you are in Russia. It will also include a tourist reference number. The confirmation of invitation is typically issued by a licensed UK or Russian travel company. The voucher and confirmation of invitation must have the same reference number.
An official document issued by a company that has been licensed by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
These may include any additional documents such as those for nationals or people applying outside their home country, children travelling alone, auto-tourist visas and documents that are required for self or unemployed travellers.

What happens if you’re invited to an interview?

In some cases the consulate may wish to interview you before making a decision about your visa. The purpose of the interview is usually to gather further information about you and your trip.

Will your application be successful?

Most people who apply for a Russian visa don’t have any problems in obtaining one. However, if you are denied a visa, the consular authorities generally won’t inform you of the reason for the rejection, citing national security reasons. On top of not giving you any explanation, they will not refund your application fee.

Refusals are generally related to the documentation you have submitted or the characteristics of the applicant. Issues with documentation can usually be solved easily by providing missing data or correcting anything that’s wrong.

If you have answered ‘Yes’ to the question relating to criminal records your application may be refused on the basis that ‘The applicant is considered a danger to the Russian authorities’.

There is very little information available which sets out the details of the types of offence or sentence/disposal that would lead to an application being refused. However, it does seem that the majority of visas are approved and only declined in exceptional cases.

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Key sections include:

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information can be found in our travelling abroad section
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Question – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us.
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum.
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord.
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