Russia To Introduce Electronic Visas By 2021

Filed Under: Travel

Currently Russia requires visitors from most countries to get a “proper” visa to visit, which typically means that you have to go to the consulate, or send someone on your behalf. It’s not exactly an easy process, and doesn’t really do much to encourage tourism.

I got my Russian visa in 2016, and it actually expires this summer, as I managed to get a three year visa.

For anyone looking to visit Russia in the future, it could be easier to get a visa.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a presidential order for Russia to offer electronic visas to foreign visitors by January 1, 2021. This e-visa would be single entry, and would be valid for visits of up to 16 days. They’re expected to cost about $50.

St. Petersburg, Russia

They note that tourists around the world have frequently cited difficulties with obtaining visas as one of the barriers to visiting the country.

Russia has experimented with eased entry requirements in the past. In 2018 Russia offered visa free entry in conjunction with the FIFA World Cup, and that allegedly resulted in a 10% boost in tourism for the year (which doesn’t actually seem that high?).

What hasn’t yet been decided on is what countries would benefit from this. China, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, and European countries are allegedly among those under consideration.

It will be interesting to see if the US is included on the list of eligible countries or not. President Trump claims that no one is tougher on Russia than him, but also claims that no one can negotiate as well as him, so we’ll see how that plays out. Maybe he can negotiate us visa free entry altogether?

Currently Russia offers visa free entry under certain circumstances to those on cruises, as well as for those visiting the Far East Federal District.

Moscow, Russia

Bottom line

I get that Russia isn’t exactly a tourist hot spot for Americans, and has many other issues.

However, I had a great visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg a few years ago, and really want to return to Russia if for no other reason than for aviation — whether it’s Yakutia’s 737 flat bed business class, S7 Airlines’ fascinating route network, Rossiya’s ex-Transaero planes, or the seasonal flights from Anchorage to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

So I’ll look forward to this implementation of e-visas. Of course like everything involving the government and politics, I imagine this has the potential to change.

(Tip of the hat to YHBU)

  1. heh Russia will give US citizens evisas when we offer the same to their citizens: no time soon.

  2. “What hasn’t yet been decided on is what countries would benefit from this. China, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, and European countries are allegedly among those under consideration.”

    South Koreans already get visa-free travel (for 60 days).

  3. A 10% increase in tourism is certainly a lot in the scheme of things!

    I’ve always been put off going to Russia by the need to get a visa and the other issues such as the need for a letter of introduction etc

  4. We went to St. Petersburg in 2017. It was a fairly difficult visa to obtain, but luckily we’re in NJ and my wife works in NYC, where the USILS visa office is located. Other than a tourist visa to enter the United States, I believe the Russian visa is one of if not the hardest to obtain. There was a fairly invasive questionaire, the requirement for an invitation (free from the hotel), and a $110 USD fee for a single entry. If the paperwork had a single error in it the entire application is rejected (the ILS officer found a small mis-spelling; fixed it for an extra fee, of course). Then we submitted our passports to them for 10 days.

    Yeah, not good. I sincerely doubt that US citizens will be the beneficiaries of their new visa system, unfortunately, since apparently it’s considerably harder for them to come here than it is for us to go there now. I want to go back in a couple of years and frankly I’m not looking forward to going through that mess once again, but it’s still worth it. Russia is a magnificent place to visit.

  5. <>

    I am Italian, married with Russian since almost 24 years and obtaining a visa for me it’s the same efforts that an american would experience. But I disagree on your bottom line first statement. I have American friends who visited Russia with me and they were welcomed and treated well. So once the visa issue is solved I guess everyone will cheer especially because St Petersburg it’s one of the cities I like the most. In most shops or tourist sites they speak English, prices are very reasonable and quality is fairly good. The electronic visa is not good but really excellent news.

  6. That’s great. St. Petersburg was fantastic, and I enjoyed Moscow (especially staying at the Park Hyatt, great hotel).

    Combining Helsinki with St. Petersburg is also great – easy and nice high speed train between the two.

  7. We went to Russia a few years ago, and very glad we did, but boy the visa process was an expensive time consuming pain. We live in the DC area and went through the consulate like office and ran unto the same frustrating meaningless “error” regarding the title of our hosting hotel. As I recall, they “fixed” it for us for $90 for the three of us.

  8. Having had many visas over the years, I figured I’d be totally fine going to the Russian consulate several years ago to get my Visa. Boy was I wrong… Every complaint I had read online before I went was validated. I brought every document they asked for, and they still came up with additional documents for me to bring before they’d take my application. Had to go back two more times.
    Awful process and a miserable place. It’s probably the only visa that I’d recommend using an agency for.

  9. I hold a Hong Kong passport. No Russian visa needed for me, that means I can just buy the flight ticket and fly, skipping all the errands. All of my passport control experiences in those Moscow airports are like a breeze (except once in Sheremetyevo, the worst airport on the Eurasian continent but still better than the majority of those US gateways). In contract, if getting the US visa is a pain and money grabbing, passing through the immigration in the US major airports is a torture. I don’t think I would renew after my 10-year US visa expires because this is not a welcoming country at all, judging from its visa and immigration policies and the attitude of the people working on them. Yes, Russia outperforms US in welcoming foreigners.

  10. With the world cup visa you had to have a match ticket to benefit so that was the resulting increase in tourism.

    Living in the UK I’ve often considered a number of destinations in Russia and other equally interesting places have won the day simply because the Russian visa process is complicated and time consuming. If they make the process electronic I will be there quickly but if they don’t, I doubt I ever will because the list of places I would like to go is longer than the times I get to have holidays!

  11. South Koreans do not need visa for Russia since 2014. Tons of Koreans are already visiting easily.

  12. I was just in St. Petersburg last week (cruise ship). The city was beautiful and the people very friendly. Russia should do more to make it easier for tourists to visit.

  13. It was definitely a huge pain to get a visa, so this is surely a good change. That said, among the ~25 countries I’ve been to, I’d rate Russia near the very bottom. I definitely have no desire to ever go back.

  14. Russian dictator needs foreigners – they help him to paint image of Russia for the west.
    But remember people still held in jails, tortured and killed for nothing.
    Remember about this every day you are walking on the streets of Moscow and St Petersberg which you like so much.

  15. A visit to Moscow in the spring proved to be a wonderful visit. The visit process was in fact both time consuming and expensive. A service was paid to expedite the visa. The immigration process was extremely quick and efficient. Based on the weather I would love to visit Moscow yet again, if not for the difficulty with the visa.

  16. I just left St Petersburg a few days ago, lovely place of course. And a decent society which does not hate itself like the majority of the west. I would describe the Visa process through an agent as laborious but not difficult, I never questioned I would get it.

    I miss the anti-Russian trolls so much… if only this were 2018 OMAAT and I could watch them cling to their delusions. So strange we don’t see them apologizing here for the lies and falsehoods they spread.

    We can hope my idiot government in America will participate, but yes it seems unlikely… maybe in particular to not offend these warmongering imperialist “liberals”?

    And yes the Russian government is terrible… who cares? Cowards hate other peoples governments, American patriots hate their own.

  17. DaKine, the Russian government is supported by a large majority of Russians, it’s not like they landed from Mars.

  18. South Africans had to get visas until recently. Getting a visa was difficult and was only given in most cases for the duration of the visit. Problem if you need to overstay for any reason. It was amazing to just go in visa free-even the hotel wanted to know where it was in the passport.
    Russians love to visit South Africa and so its reciprocal.
    Except for Russia and Brazil-a south African passport is a big liability for visas. Luckily I have a Canadian one as well.

  19. Is it easy to obtain a transit visa and is it expensive? Would you need two transit visas if you go through Russia with Aeroflot? I chose not to go with Aeroflot, because of the transit in Russia. Can a transit visa be obtained online or must you go to an embassy or consulate? I hope someone can help explain this process to me. Thank you.

  20. Visa policy is vice-versa
    if you want Russia to be visa-free for US citizens
    then US should also be visa-free for Russian citizens
    is it realistic?

  21. Even tho we have a standing invitation to visit far removed family in Russia, the whole visa process is intimidating, expensive, and not for the faint of heart. Perhaps we will take the plunge if this is enacted.

  22. “Yes, Russia outperforms US in welcoming foreigners.”

    Ok, this gave me a good laugh.

    “I miss the anti-Russian trolls so much”

    As opposed to the (apparently still active) pro-Russian trolls?

  23. “It’s not exactly an easy process, and doesn’t really do much to encourage tourism.”

    My Dear Lucky, have you ever tried to get a US tourist visa? How about a Canadian, UK, or Schengen visa. Compared to those, the Russian visa is a complete cakewalk, and all those destinations do pretty well with regards to tourism…

  24. I had the pleasure of visiting Moscow and traveling into Siberia on the railroad a few years ago, as an American. It was a fantastic trip – great people, beautiful sights, fascinating history. Made a lot of great people-to-people connections with nothing but broken English and plentiful vodka.

    That said, I’d be shocked if Americans were included in this unless we dramatically reduce our entry requirements for Russians. The gruff woman at the NYC visa center actually said to me (as I was back for the *third* time to correct a “mistake” on my application): “We make it only as difficult for you as you do for us.”

    So there you have it.

  25. I first visited Russia in 2016 flying into Vladivostok and traveling by train to St Petersburg. I made such great friends in Siberia that I have been coming back every summer. I’m in Siberia now. I’m an American but since I’m a resident of Guatemala I can apply at their Embassy in Guatemala City. Although I had to leave my passport for a few weeks the process was easy enough and given that Guatemalans do not need a visa, the consular section was empty every time I went. For me the evisa would be useless as I always stay more than 15 days and almost always in Siberia. By the way summers here are hot with temperatures often reaching 30 C. Best of all, nearly no tourists.

  26. The Russians will demand reciprocal agreements. It would be better to have to jump through hoops to get a Russian visa rather than open the doors to the Russian mafia ( in the way the UK and Thailand have done)

  27. 10% is reasonable as you had to have a match ticket and fan id. probably not so many people taking advantage of that. I think the e visa will increase that number substantially. I doubt Americans will be included in it, but if they are, their numbers will skyrocket.

  28. I visited Russia in September last year. It was an easy, straightforward process to get a visa.

    You can get a letter of invitation online from Russian tourism firms for around 30.00USD. The company I used adjusted it for free when I changed a hotel booking.

    The only challenging part is managing the small risk of booking travel before having the visa. Unless you have glaring inconsistencies in the application or you have a previous legal history with Russia then there’s no reason the visa will be denied.

    I had nothing but friendly encounters and excellent treatment in both St-Petersburg and Moscow. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

  29. I have visited Russia many times and have also procured a 3 year, multi entry visa. I have applied for visas 5 times so far and have never had any issues. Cost was also reasonable.

    An upside to the potentially difficult visa process is that there are very little tourists and the culture remains undiluted by other inferior cultures.

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