Most people who travel to Russia do so through a tourist visa, which allows a maximum stay of 30 days. A business visa, on the other hand, allows longer stays and greater flexibility. For this reason, travelers who need a stay of more than 30 days (be it for tourism, business or to visit family or friends) often use this type of visa. In this article I will explain how to process the Russian business visa and how to compile all the documentation, electronically, in 1 hour (including the business invitation letter).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 1. Some previous things to consider
- 2. Steps to process the business visa
- Step 1. You must have a valid passport
- Step 2. Get an official business invitation
- Option 1: Through the Russian company that invites you
- Option 2: Buy a business invitation and get it in 5 minutes
- Step 3. Travel assistance insurance (only for citizens of European countries)
- Step 4. Complete the application form
- Step 5. Present all the documentation and make the payment of the fees
1. Some previous things to consider
Before explaining step by step how to apply for a business visa, it is necessary that I explain you some previous aspects.
1.1. What is the business visa?
The business visa is a type of visa that is issued to foreigners that are staying in Russia for business reasons. It is not a work visa, so it does not allow you to do any work or receive any type of remuneration in Russia.
It is a visa to develop activities of a commercial nature or carry out negotiations in the territory of the Russian Federation.
In essence, it is a visa for foreign workers who travel to Russia on a regular basis for business reasons, invited by a Russian company. For this reason, it allows stays of more than 30 days (the maximum allowed by the tourist visa) and offers greater flexibility (since it can be one, two or multiple entries).
1.2. Who can apply for a business visa?
The business visa can be requested by foreign persons who have business in Russia and who are invited by a Russian company.
However, in practice, it is a type of visa that is also usually requested by people who don’t have any business matter in Russia, but want to visit the country for a period exceeding 30 days. Examples of this type of travelers are:
- Tourists who are visiting the country for more than 30 days, either because they make the Trans-Siberian route or because their trip is longer than usual.
- Foreigners who visit the country less than 30 days but need to make more than two entries in the country, because they are visiting several countries bordering Russia. Remember that the tourist visa allows a maximum of two entries.
- Foreigners who have a partner, boyfriend/girlfriend or friends in Russia and want to have a stay longer than 30 days.
- Or, simply, travelers who need more flexibility to travel through Russia.
You must keep in mind that the business visa is not addressed to travelers mentioned in the previous list, but Russian authorities have always been permissive with this practice (maybe one day it will change).
Important: citizens of some countries can request visits for a period greater than 30 days:
- United States citizens can request a 3-year visa and multiple entries, as explained in this article.
- The citizens of Austria, Greece, India, Hungary, Spain and Japan can request a tourist visa of up to 6 months (and multiple entries).
1.3. Which stay does the business visa allow?
The period of validity of the business visa can be 30, 90, 180 or 365 days (even more in certain cases). However, even if your business visa is valid for 1 year, it will allow you a maximum stay of 90 days within a period of 180 days.
The business visa can be one entry, double entry or multiple entries. The tourist visa, however, can only be one or two entries.
For example, if you process a business visa with multiple entries and 6 months, you can stay in Russia for a maximum of 90 days over these 6 months. If you get a business visa with multiple 1-year entries, then you can stay in Russia for 180 days in a year: 90 days during the first semester and 90 days during the second semester. You must know that you can’t stay more than 90 days without leaving the country.
Important. If the applicant wishes to apply for a 1 year multiple-entry business visa on basis of a direct inviting letter in accordance with the Russia-EU Visa facilitation Agreement he will be required to prove the visit of Russia during the previous 12 month.
1.4. Where do I apply for a business visa?
You can complete the business visa proceeding in 3 ways:
- At the Russian consulates. The advantage is that it is more economic: you save the proceeding costs of the Russian visa center and only pay the consular fees. The disadvantage is that the procedure can only be face-to-face, you must have a prior appointment, and their attention hours are smaller.
- At the Russian Visa Center, an agency authorized by the Consulate, where you can apply for the proceeding both in person and remotely by courier and they offer longer attention hours. The disadvantage is that you will need to pay proceeding costs.
- Through private agencies. There are many agencies that carry out the proceeding, though you will need to pay an additional processing fee for the services they provide.
1.5. How much does it cost to obtain the visa?
The business visa is more expensive than a tourist visa. The cost is divided into two concepts:
- Consular fees: fees vary according to the country, the duration of the visa, the processing time and the number of entries. You can check the rates on the official website of the Russian visa center in your country. For example, you can check the rates of the business visa in UK through this link: http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk/business.html
- Official Business Invitation: getting an invitation letter of 3 months and double entry from a Russian organization costs about 44 USD (87 USD if it is 1 year) and can be obtained online in 5 minutes (below I explain how).
1.6. When should I begin the procedure?
It is advisable to begin the process well in advance if there is any unforeseen event, with at least 45 days in advance and at most 90 days in advance. Keep in mind that the Russian Visa Center does not process visas with more than 90 days in advance.
2. Steps to process the business visa
To obtain the business visa, it is vital what you submit the following documentation:
- Passport. You have to submit the original, a copy is not valid.
- Official business invitation. Below I’ll explain the different types and how to get one in a few minutes.
- Visa application form. You must fill it in electronically, print it, sign it and paste a passport-size photograph.
- Medical assistance insurance (only for citizens of European countries). It must cover the validity period of the visa, that is, either 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or 1 year, regardless of whether the period of effective stay in Russia is lower.
Step 1. You must have a valid passport
To apply for a business visa, it is essential that you have a valid passport, which must be valid for at least 6 months from the date of completion of your trip to Russia.
A very important aspect is that the passport does not have any scratch or damage, because otherwise it is very possible that they won’t admit it and you will have to request a new one.
IMPORTANT: to process the visa you must present (or send by courier) the ORIGINAL PASSPORT (a copy is not valid), since the visa is a document that is attached to the passport itself.
Step 2. Get an official business invitation
To process the business visa, it is mandatory to have an official business invitation letter, which you can obtain in two ways:
Option 1: Through the Russian company that invites you
If you have business in Russia, you must contact the company with which you are going to maintain commercial activities or negotiations, so that this company will process a letter of invitation through the General Directorate of Immigration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia (abbreviated GUVM, and also known as FMS or Federal Immigration Service). The Russian company will know how to process this invitation letter, which can be in paper format (requires mailing) or in electronic format.
Option 2: Buy a business invitation and get it in 5 minutes
There are several agencies through which it is possible to buy a business invitation letter. These can be basically four types:
1. Invitation from a Russian organization (Schengen countries, USA, Japan and China)
This is the best option since it allows you to get the invitation in 5 minutes online and it is the most economic option. In addition, in most countries it is sufficient to print the business invitation to submit it at the Consulate, along with the rest of the documentation.
However, this option can only be used by:
- The citizens of the Schengen Area countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. It is enough to provide a printed copy of the invitation. United Kingdom and Ireland are not part of the Schengen area.
- United States (printed copy of the invitation)
- Japan (printed copy of the invitation)
- China (for Chinese citizens, unlike the previous countries, the original invitation is required)
Thus, to improve trade relations between Russia and the countries of the Schengen Area, USA, Japan and China, accredited Russian organizations can issue business invitation letters with their logo, seal and signature, within the framework of a simplified visa regime. For example, through the iVisa or Russia Support agencies, it is possible to obtain a business invitation letter from a Russian accredited agency in 5 minutes, ready to download, print it in color and submit it along with the rest of the documentation. Here I explain how to get it:
1º. Fill out the invitation letter request form
You must access the application form http://russiable.co.uk/visa-support/ select your nationality, the visa category (business) and the number of entries (one, two or multiple entries).
- Enter your personal information, your workplace and the cities in which you will stay
- Visa category: Business visa
- Visa period: 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or 1 year
- Visa type: one entry, double entry or multiple (only for 6- and 12-month invitations)
- You must also scan the first page of your passport (where your personal information and photo come from) and send it through the form
- If you have had a previous Russian visa, you must also scan it and send it
Note: If you don’t work as an employee, you can indicate that you are self-employed and that you work as a freelancer.
2º. Data Confirmation
Please check that all data is correct. Otherwise, correct the incorrect data:
You can make the payment through PayPal or bank card:
4º. Download and print the invitation letter
Once the payment is made you can download the invitation in electronic format and ready to print in color.
The data you need from this invitation letter to fill out the form are four items (I have marked them in red in the invitation letter):
- Invitation number: 0S0010XXX (I omitted the last three digits for privacy). This numbering is different in each invitation letter
- Name of inviting organization: OSTWEST.COM LLC
- TIN (Tax Identification Number): 7842467800
- Address: Hersonskaya Str., Bld. 1/7 A, St. Petersburg, Russia, 191024
The above example is an invitation letter that includes a period of 1 year: from May 7th, 2018 to May 6th, 2019. This is the period that you must indicate in the application form (it can be 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, etc.)
In any case, they will send you an email from iVisa after buying the invitation letter in which they will indicate all the information you need to fill out the visa application form:
Note: in most consulates, it is sufficient to provide a printed copy of the invitation. However, in some consulates of the world (for example, in China) it is possible that they request the original invitation, which iVisa must send it to your home for an additional cost.
1.2. Russia Support
Russia Support offers another excellent and even more economic option than iVisa, an agency through which you can obtain a business invitation letter for 44 USD through this form: https://russiable.co.uk/letter-invitation-russia/
The procedure to fill out the form is exactly the same as with iVisa. Select “Business letter of invitation”.
2. eFMS Electronic Invitation (all countries)
If you are not a citizen of any country in the Schengen area, nor of the USA, Japan or China, then you have the option of requesting an electronic invitation from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia (eFMS invitation).
This invitation can be requested through Russia Support for 55 dollars (3 months) or 85 dollars (1 year), through this link: https://russiable.co.uk/letter-invitation-russia/
The advantage of this invitation is that it is electronic and it is directly submitted to the Consulate, though it is necessary that the visa applicant also print it and submit it to the Consulate along with the rest of the documentation.
The drawback is that it takes around 16 working days (about 22 calendar days).
To request this invitation, you must fill in the form and attach a scanned copy of the main page of the passport which contains your personal information.
Here you can see an example of this invitation:
3. Original paper invitation from FMS (all countries)
Another option is to obtain an original paper invitation from the General Directorate of Immigration of the Russian Ministry of of Internal Affairs. The process can take several weeks and the letter should be sent by mail which greatly increases the cost, so I don’t recommend this option.
4. Electronic invitation code – Telex (all countries)
A final option is to obtain an electronic invitation code (called Telex), which is submitted directly to the Consulate where you are going to process the visa. Simply indicate this code in the visa application form. The proceeding takes a minimum of 2 weeks and costs about 160 USD, a more expensive option than all previous.
Step 3. Travel assistance insurance (only for citizens of European countries)
European citizens, in order to apply for a visa, are required to have travel medical insurance with coverage in Russia and that covers the validity period of the visa (1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year), regardless of whether the stay period will be lower.
An easy way to get good health insurance and at a reasonable price is through the Russian company Cherehapa. The process of obtaining it is simple and it is enough to print the insurance policy once it’s downloaded in PDF format:
Step 4. Complete the application form
Once all the documentation has been collected (passport, business invitation and travel insurance), you already have all the necessary information to complete the application form. To fill in the electronic form you must access the following address:
The form is filled out in the same way as the tourist visa application form, so I will not repeat all the steps in this article, though I will point out the small differences that have to be considered:
1º. Details of the type of visa
Regarding the type of visa, the following fields of the application form must be taken into account:
- Purpose of visit (section): BUSINESS VISITS
- Purpose of visit: BUSINESS
- Visa category and type: COMMON BUSINESS
- Number of entries: number of entries according to your business invitation letter, which can be one (single), two (double) or multiple (multiple).
- Date of entry into Russia/Date of exit from Russia: as specified in your invitation letter, which may be a period of 1 month, 3 months (as in the example below), 6 months or 1 year.
2º. Details of the inviting entity
If you use the invitation letter from the iVisa agency, you will have to fill in the following fields:
- Which institution are you going to visit? Organization
- Name of organization: OSTWEST.COM LLC
- Address: Hersonskaya Str., bld. 1/7 A, St Petersburg, Russia, 191024
- TIN (Tax Identification Number): 7842467800
- Invitation number: 0S0010XXX (each invitation letter has a different number)
3º. Your job information
You must indicate again your job information, which also appear in your invitation letter. Name of the company, position, address, telephone and company email. If you don’t work for someone else, you can indicate that you work as self-employed or freelancer.
Step 5. Present all the documentation and make the payment of the fees
Once you have all the documentation, you can complete the procedure in one of the Russian Consulates or in the Russian Visa Center. While in the consulates the proceeding must be in person and by appointment, in the visa centers you can carry out the remote procedure by mail.
I hope that this article has helped you obtain your business visa to Russia more easily and economically. Below you can tell us your experience.