Russian visas for American citizens

Published by Mike Lomberg June 4, 2020
United States Passport cover

American citizens are always warmly welcomed in Russia. However, in order to enter the country you will need to obtain a visa prior to your trip. 

Do US citizens need a visa to Russia?

Yes, they do!

Visa application process may seem quite complicated and full of bureaucratic pitfalls, so we’ve created this article to provide more information about the types of visa available for American citizens coming to Russia. We’ll also explain which documents are required to apply for one, how and where to apply, processing times, expenses you’re likely to encounter.

Categories of Russian visas

Depending on the purpose and duration of your trip you can choose to apply for one of these visa types:

Visa typesDuration of stayTravel purpose
Tourist visa30-90 daystourism and leisure
Private visa90 daysprivate guest visits. Not recommendable: see why here
Business visa30 -90 days (up to 3 years max)
conducting business in Russia, looking for partners, negotiating, investing etc.
Transit visa3 -10 dayscrossing Russian territory on your way to another country
Student visa90 days and abovestudying a course in a Russian school or university
Work visa90 days and aboveworking under contract for a Russian employer

The good news is that under the agreement between the Russian Federation and the USA for the simplification of visa formalities, US citizens are entitled to receive a three-year multiple entry visa (tourist, private, or business types) and come to Russia multiple times during the period of their visa validity, staying up to 90 days out of every 180.

Applications can be made six months before your trip, but not earlier. Please note, the consular department does not recommend buying plane tickets before your visa is issued. 

The main steps for the visa application include:

Step 1

Choose the appropriate visa category depending on the purpose of your trip

Step 2

Acquaint yourself with and collect the necessary documents required for each visa type. The standard set contains:

an appropriate visa support document from Russia;

a completed visa form at, you need to fill it out, print on both sides, sign and date;

an original passport that is signed and valid for at least six months after the date of your expected exit from Russia. The passport must contain at least two blank pages for a visa stamp.

– your recent color photograph  3.5×4.5cm on a light background, glued into the specially marked place in your application form. See the relevant article on photo specifications here: Visa photo requirements

additional documents depending on the visa type

Step 3

Choose the method of application:

Pay the required visa/service fees, obtain the money order and apply either in person or by mail

Step 4

Wait for the processing of your documents to finish and pick up the passport with your visa. You can get it delivered to your place by ordering the relevant service.

Step 5

Upon arrival to Russia if you plan to stay over seven working days, get registered at the address of stay. If you plan to stay in a hotel, the management will do it for you. If you’re staying in a private apartment, make sure your host registers you at the local department of migration service or post office.

Russian tourist visa for American citizens

The most popular visa type which is also normally the fastest and the easiest to obtain is a tourist visa. This applies to travelers whose intent is to do sightseeing, attend festivals and other cultural events, venture on a trans-siberian railway tour or travel through Russia by car. A tourist visa can be issued for 30 days with single or double entry to Russia. However, American citizens are advised to apply for a three-year multiple entry tourist visa, regardless of the duration of their first trip. 

Documents needed to apply: Apart from the standard application, passport and photo (read the standard set of documents above), the Consular Department of the Russian embassy in the US requires the following document of tourist visa support:

A confirmation of receiving a foreign tourist issued by the Russian tour operator registered in the Uniform Register of Russian Travel Agencies. This document bears an individual confirmation number, and includes your passport details, dates of trip, hotel of stay, name, address and reference number of the issuing tour operator. It’s typed both in English and Russian on the letterhead of the inviting company and is signed and sealed. Photocopies are accepted for your application.

Please note, that the Consular division also has the right to ask for additional documents, such as a bank statement proving your financial abilities, an employment verification statement, and medical insurance etc.

Refer to the information on visa fees, processing times and methods of application for all visa types provided further in the article.

We are here to help you with your tourist visa support. Follow this link to request our service: Get tourist confirmation

Russian private visa for American citizens

A private visa is necessary for those individuals who intend to visit their relatives or friends in Russia. A private visa can be issued for up to 90 days with single or double entry. However as an American citizen you are eligible to a multiple entry three-year private visa.

Documents you need to apply:

If you feel that a private visa may be too complicated to get (and it is!), consider coming on a standard tourist visa instead.

Russian business visa for American citizens

This type of visa is for an American individual traveling to Russia with the intent of participating in business meetings, carrying out negotiations, looking for business partners, researching the market, attending business fairs and exhibitions etc. 

Documents you need to apply:

A US citizen can apply for a one-to-three months business visa with single or double entry to Russia, or alternatively a one year multiple entry business visa. For this type of visa you will need to obtain the Official Business Visa Support issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia upon request from the inviting Russian company. The document is accepted in both paper and e-formats. Processing of the business support by the Russian authorities can take up to 20 working days. 

A US citizen is also eligible for a 3-year multiple entry business visa to Russia. If you wish to apply for this type of visa you should obtain a written statement from the Russian inviting company. The statement needs to include information such as: your passport details, sex, citizenship, contacts, workplace and position, purpose of trip, dates of trip, number of entries requested, cities of visit, as well as the details of the inviting company, contacts, tax identification number, and legal address. 

The invitation must be printed on the letterhead of the Russian company, verified by seal and signature of the CEO. Photocopies are accepted at the Consular offices and visa centers. This invitation type can be prepared within one day and sent by email to be printed and submitted together with your passport, color photo, and completed visa form.

We are happy to inform you that you can use our services to obtain your business visa support document. Follow this link to order it: Get business invitation

Russian work/student visa for American citizens

These visa types are considered long-term, as they have no limit of 90 days stay, unlike tourist/private/business type, and you can stay on the territory of Russia without the need to leave for a longer period of time, with the possibility of extension depending on your of work contract or course of study.

Documents needed to apply:

When applying for a work/student visa, aside from the application form, passport and photo, an American citizen must have an original invitation issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia upon request of the inviting employer/educational institution. Only paper originals are accepted – make sure you order delivery. Preparation of such an invitation can take one to two months on the Russian side. 

For both these long-term visas an American citizen should also present a valid HIV negative test certificate obtained at his/her local clinic no earlier than three months prior to application.

Russian transit visa for American citizens

If you’re crossing the Russian border on your way to another country, check with your airlines whether you’ll have to leave the transit zone while making a connection in the Russian airport. If you don’t, and prefer to simply wait in the transit zone until your next flight, you won’t need an entry visa into Russia. Alternatively, if you need to leave the transit zone or you’d like to explore a bit of Russia during your transit time, make sure you get your transit visa in advance. 

Documents you need to apply:

To apply for a transit visa an American citizen should submit an application form, color photograph, valid passport, tickets for the whole itinerary, and a visa to the country of final destination, if required.

For American passengers traveling to Belarus or Kazakhstan, it’s compulsory to obtain a Russian transit visa for making connections in Russia.

The duration of your transit visa will depend on your travel itinerary. If you’re making a flight connection, transit is usually provided for up to 72 hours. If you pass Russia by road or sea, transit will be given for the length of your necessary transit time, but no longer than 10 days.

How to apply

A US citizen can choose several options to apply for a Russian visa. We’ll list the main methods here, along with their pros and cons, as well as the table with the required contacts and links.

Independently through the Russian consular section In this case you’ll need to collect the documents and make an appointment using their website. Be ready to submit your documents in person and pick up your passport with visa afterwards. Make sure you proofread all documents and do not forget anything. The Consular division does not offer any extra services such as photocopies, taking photographs, filling out the forms or delivery of documents.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of applying at the Consulate:

Through a licensed visa center Using this method you’ll be able to enjoy a wide range of extra services offered by visa centers. Moreover, visa managers professionally check all your documents, correct mistakes, consult you on the missing items, provide assistance in filling out the form, making copies etc. You won’t need to make an appointment and can submit documents to the visa center at any working hour. You will even be able to apply by mail, which will make your physical presence there unnecessary. Note that in a visa center you’ll need to pay a service fee as well as the regular visa fee. Any extra services are charged additionally as per the tariffs of the visa center.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of applying at the Visa Center:

Through a private agency office offering visa, tourist and other services. You will enjoy an all-inclusive service without the need to fill out forms, look for visa support documents, make photocopies, send and receive your documents to the Russian consulate etc. For this full service package you’ll need to pay a handsome sum of money. Please make sure you only use registered legal companies.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of applying at the Private agency:

Place of visa application in the USAddress, contacts
Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in the US2641 Tunlaw Rd., N.W.Washington, DC 20007Tel.: (202) 939-8907; (202) 939-8913Website: [email protected]
Online appointment: in person
ils-usa visa centerGeneral website: +1 202-827-0891
Address in Washington: 1680 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 100, Washington, D.C. 20007[email protected] Address in New York: 352 Seventh avenue, Suite 703, New York, NY, 10001[email protected]
Address in San-Francisco: 315 Montgomery Street, office 1010, San Francisco, CA 94104[email protected]
Address in Houston: 1001 West Loop S, Suite 575, Houston, TX 77027[email protected] Apply in person or by mail
Russia Visa Center1025 Vermont Avenue NWWashington D.C 20005USATelephone:+1 2025039911+ 1 202 6009675
Email:[email protected]Website:
Apply in person or by mail

Visa expenses

One question that is likely to be of particular interest is “how much will my Russian visa cost?”. Expenses will differ depending on the method of application and the company you choose. However, here are some overall expenses you’ll need to bear in mind:

Processing times

While you can start preparing visa documents way in advance, you cannot submit your visa application earlier than six months before your travel date. Here’s the time you’ll need to spend on the different visa application steps:

We hope this information will be useful for managing your visa application process in the most efficient way, now that you know about the required documents, processing times, fees, application methods and different visa types. If you still have questions and would like some additional tips, you are most welcome to contact us at any time. Have a wonderful trip to Russia!

Izmailovo Kremlin, Moscow Russia