Obtaining the e-visa (or electronic visa) to Russia is very simple and quick: you will only need your passport and a digital photo. However, the e-visa can only be requested by some nationalities and at the moment it is only available to visit the regions of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Kaliningrad and the Far Eastern Federal District. The electronic visa is not valid to travel to Moscow, Kazan or Sochi or to carry out the Trans-Siberian route.
Article updated on February 7, 2020. Originally published on July 21, 2019
Note: I will update this article as the e-visa procedure is extended to other Russian regions and other nationalities.
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- 0. THE BEGINNING OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE E-VISA IN RUSSIA
- 1. SOME CONSIDERATIONS ABOUT THE ELECTRONIC VISA
- 1.1. What is the Russian e-visa?
- 1.2. How much does the Russian e-visa cost?
- 1.3. Which e-visa categories exist?
- 1.4. What nationalities can apply for the e-visa to Russia?
- 1.5. Which regions of Russia can be visited with the e-visa?
- 1.6. Should I enter and exit through the same checkpoint?
- 1.7. Which is the duration of the e-visa?
- 1.8. When can the e-visa be requested?
- 1.9. How long does it take to issue the e-visa?
- 1.10. Where is the e-visa requested?
- 1.11. Is it mandatory to register in Russia with an e-visa?
- 1.12. Can I get to St. Petersburg with a flight with stopover in Moscow?
- 1.13. Can I visit Moscow with an e-visa to St. Petersburg?
- 1.14. Am I required to stay in the hotels or apartments that I have included in the electronic visa application?
- 1.15 Can I stay in apartments or private houses of friends or family?
- 1.16. What if I travel with minors?
- 1.17. Is it mandatory to apply for an electronic visa to travel to St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad or the Far East regions?
- 1.18. In which cases can I not apply for the e-visa and must I apply for a regular or traditional visa?
- 2. STEPS TO OBTAIN ELECTRONIC VISA OR AN E-VISA TO RUSSIA
- STEP 1. Have a valid passport
- STEP 2. Take a digital photo
- STEP 3. Fill in the electronic form
- STEP 4. Monitoring the status of your visa application
- STEP 5. Receive your visa in PDF format
- STEP 6. Acquire travel insurance
- 3. ARRIVING TO RUSSIA
0. THE BEGINNING OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE E-VISA IN RUSSIA
Many countries around the world already use the electronic visa system (e-visa) to authorize foreign citizens to enter their country. For example, former Soviet republics such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan or Georgia already use this system.
The truth is that the global trend is towards the extension of the electronic visa, due to the advantages that it offers.
Russia began to implement the electronic visa system in August 2017, through a pilot project, in the regions of the Far Eastern Federal District, though limited to citizens of 18 countries.
In July 2019, this pilot project was expanded for the Kaliningrad region and for citizens of 53 countries, including European countries in the Schengen area.
In October 2019, it was expanded again for the Leningrad region, whose administrative center is St. Petersburg, also for citizens of 53 countries.
As of 2021, it is expected that this system will be extended to other more touristy Russian regions (such as Moscow, Kazan and Sochi) and to the citizens of other countries. It is yet to be seen which nationalities can request the Russian e-visa from 2021. The purpose is obvious: increase foreign tourism in Russia. United States, Canada, United Kingdom or Australia are excluded from the electronic procedure (e-visa).
It can also be said that it is a system that has already been used in some sporting events, such as the 2018 World Cup or the Sochi Olympics in 2014 with very good results.
In this article I will explain what is the electronic visa to Russia (often abbreviated as e-visa), who can request it now and which steps have to be followed to obtain it. If you don’t meet the requirements to apply for an electronic visa, then you must apply for a paper visa by following the steps in this article: How to get the visa to Russia (in paper) easily and economically
1. SOME CONSIDERATIONS ABOUT THE ELECTRONIC VISA
1.1. What is the Russian e-visa?
The e-visa (or electronic visa) is an official document issued electronically by the consular department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, which allows entry to certain regions of Russia. It is the alternative to a paper visa.
It is a visa that must be requested a few days before arriving in Russia, that is, it is not a visa that is requested upon arrival at the airport in Russia.
The e-visa has three major advantages over paper visas:
- You can obtain it electronically, in an easy manner from your home through the website enabled by the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation: https://evisa.kdmid.ru/. Therefore, it is not necessary to travel to any Consulate or Russian visa center to carry out the procedure.
- The required documentation is very small, only a digital photo and to have a valid passport. Therefore, it is not necessary to provide an invitation, hotel reservations, plane tickets or other documents that justify the purpose of your trip. Of course, once you have obtained the electronic visa, to enter Russia it is mandatory to have travel medical insurance.
1.2. How much does the Russian e-visa cost?
It is currently free, although from 2021 a fee will be applied that is still to be determined.
1.3. Which e-visa categories exist?
The Russian evisa can only be from one of the following categories:
- The common tourist visa, when the purpose of the trip is tourism.
- An ordinary business visa, when the purpose of the trip is business.
- An ordinary humanitarian visa, in which case the purpose of the trip are sports, cultural, scientific or technological links.
If the purpose of your trip to the Russian Federation does not correspond to any of the above, then you must apply for a traditional visa (not electronic) in a diplomatic mission or consular office of the Russian Federation. For example, if you need a study or work visa, then you must apply for a regular or traditional visa.
1.4. What nationalities can apply for the e-visa to Russia?
Currently, only nationals of the following 53 countries can apply for an electronic visa:
- China (including Taiwan)
- Czech Republic
- Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)
- Northern Macedonia
- San Marino
- Saudi Arabia
Citizens of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand cannot apply for a Russian electronic visa.
1.5. Which regions of Russia can be visited with the e-visa?
At the moment the electronic visa can only be used to visit some Russian regions, specifically the regions of the Far Eastern Federal District, Kaliningrad region and Leningrad region.
At the moment, the e-visa can’t be requested to visit the main cities such as Moscow, Kazan or Sochi, though it is intended to be implemented in these cities as of 2021. It remains to be seen which nationalities may opt for this electronic visa, beginning from 2021, and if it really ends up being implemented on this date.
A) Leningrad Region (St. Petersburg)
From October 1, 2019 it is possible to apply for an electronic visa to visit the Leningrad region, whose administrative center is St. Petersburg, the second most important city in Russia.
This e-visa allows to move only within the Leningrad region. Therefore, this visa does not work if you want to move around other areas of Russia such as Moscow. Keep in mind that when you take a train or a plane from St. Petersburg to Moscow, you will be asked for your regular or traditional visa. With the e-visa you will not be able to access.
To enter and leave Russia with this electronic visa, you must do so through one of the following border control points in the Leningrad region:
- Air crossing point: Pulkovo Airport of Saint Petersburg
- Automobile crossing points
- Pedestrian crossing point of Ivangorod.
- Sea crossing points:
- Port of Vysotsk
- Marine Station of Big port of St. Petersburg
- Passenger port of St. Petersburg
At the moment it is not possible to apply for an electronic visa to St. Petersburg if you travel by train (Allegro or similar), from Helsinki (Finland) to St. Petersburg.
B) Kaliningrad region
From July 1st, 2019, it is also possible to apply for an electronic visa to visit the Kaliningrad region (oblast), a Russian enclave located in the Baltic Sea, between Lithuania and Poland.
The electronic visa of Kaliningrad allows you to move freely but only within the Kaliningrad region.
To enter and leave Russia with this electronic visa, it must be done through one of the following border control points in the Kaliningrad region:
- Air crossing point Kaliningrad Airport (Khrabrovo)
- Sea crossing points
- Big port of Saint Petersburg (Marine station section)
- Automobile crossing points
- Mamonovo (Gzhekhotki)
- Mamonovo (Gronovo)
- Railway crossing points
C) Regions of the Far Eastern Federal District (Vladivostok)
The e-visa can be requested for the following regions within what is known as the regions of the Far Eastern Federal District:
- Primorsky Krai, whose capital is Vladivostok. The word krai (which also means border or end), is used for regions located in the economic and geographical borders. In Russian, primorie means ‘littoral’, and primorski, ‘maritime’, so the region is also known as Maritime Territory. The electronic visa began to be implemented in August 2017 for the entries through Vladivostok, but this procedure has been progressively extended to other regions that I detail below.
- Sakhalin Oblast, whose capital is Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. It is located in the Far East district and comprises the island of Sakhalin, which serves as a boundary between the sea of Okhotsk to the north, and the sea of Japan to the south, and the Kuril Islands.
- Kamchatka Krai, whose administrative center is the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
- The Amur Region. Its capital is Blagoveshchensk.
- Khabarovsk Krai. Its capital is the homonymous Khabarovsk.
- Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. Its capital is Anadyr. It is located in the far northeast of the country, near Alaska.
- Republic of Buryatia. A Siberian region whose capital is Ulan-Ude.
- Zabaykalsky Krai. A Siberian region whose capital is Chita.
In the visa application you must indicate which region of the above you are going to visit, since the electronic visa allows you to move freely but only within the administrative territory entity of the Russian Federation for which you are applying for.
In addition, only citizens of the 53 countries listed above can apply for e-visa from these regions. Initially there were 18 countries, but the list was extended to 53 countries at the end of January 2020. In the initial list of 18 countries were Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates, but these countries are no longer listed.
To enter and leave Russia with this visa, it must be done through one of the following border control points, depending on the region for which you apply for the visa:
- Air checkpoints (airports)
- Anadyr (Ugolny)
- Vladivostok (Knevichy)
- Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (Yelizovo)
- Ulan-Ude (Mukhino)
- Khabarovsk (New)
- Chita (Kadala)
- Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (Khomutovo)
- Maritime checkpoints
- Railway checkpoints
- Road checkpoints
- Turiy Rog
1.6. Should I enter and exit through the same checkpoint?
With e-visa you can enter through one of the authorized control points and exit through a different authorized point. For example, in the case of the Leningrad region, you can enter through Pulkovo Airport and exit by car via Ivangorod (or vice versa).
Border control points are points equipped with the latest technology to control electronic visa. Therefore, new control points will be added over time.
1.7. Which is the duration of the e-visa?
The e-visa is issued for a single entry and for a duration of up to 30 days from the date of issue, however, the maximum stay allowed in Russia is 8 days from the date of entry and within its period of validity. Also keep in mind that the validity of the e-visa can’t be extended.
The above explanation may seem a bit confusing at first glance, but with an example you can see it more clearly:
- In the first place, it must be clear that 8 days does not mean that one can stay for the full 192 hours (24 hours for 8 days), since permanence in the Russian Federation always begins at midnight on the day of the passport control, when crossing the border, regardless of the actual time of passage through passport control.
- For example, if you have a valid electronic visa from July 15 to August 13, and you enter Russia through passport control at 8:00 p.m. on August 1, in that case, you must leave the country for passport control before 11:59 p.m. on Monday, August 8 (instead of until 8:00 p.m. on August 9).
- You should also consider that if you cross passport control to enter Russia, for example, on August 10, with the electronic visa from the previous example (remember that it was valid from July 15 to August 13), then you must leave Russia by crossing passport control before 11:59 pm, on August 13.
1.8. When can the e-visa be requested?
You can complete the electronic visa application form at the earliest 20 days before the scheduled date of your trip and no later than 4 days before the expected date of entry into the Russian Federation. For example, if you want to enter Russia on July 27, you can begin the e-visa application procedure on July 7.
1.9. How long does it take to issue the e-visa?
The electronic visa is issued within a maximum period of 4 days from the date of the request, though it is usually ready in 2 days.
1.10. Where is the e-visa requested?
You can request the electronic visa in two ways:
- Yourself from your home computer, through the address: https://evisa.kdmid.ru/
- Entrust it to a visa agency to be responsible for carrying out the procedure. These agencies charge management costs that are usually around 20 USD.
1.11. Is it mandatory to register in Russia with an e-visa?
Because the maximum period of stay allowed with the electronic visa is 8 calendar days from the date of entry, it is clear that registration in Russia is not necessary. This is so since registration in Russia is not mandatory if you are going to stay in Russia for less than 7 business days, excluding weekends (Saturdays and Sundays) or holidays.
1.12. Can I get to St. Petersburg with a flight with stopover in Moscow?
No, it is mandatory to arrive at the Pulkovo airport in St. Petersburg with a direct flight from your country (or from another country other than Russia). If you arrive in St. Petersburg with a flight with a stopover at an airport in Moscow – Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo or Vnukovo – (even if you do not leave the international area), then you must apply for a traditional visa.
1.13. Can I visit Moscow with an e-visa to St. Petersburg?
It is not possible to visit Moscow. You can only move through the Leningrad region.
1.14. Am I required to stay in the hotels or apartments that I have included in the electronic visa application?
You are not obligated, you can change your accommodation when you arrive in Russia. In fact, a hotel reservation is not necessary to request an electronic visa. You can include any hotel.
1.15 Can I stay in apartments or private houses of friends or family?
Yes, simply choose “Individual” type of accommodation, and include host information, address and telephone number.
1.16. What if I travel with minors?
If you travel with your minor children, you must submit a separate electronic visa application for each child. All minor children traveling with their parents must have their own electronic visa.
1.17. Is it mandatory to apply for an electronic visa to travel to St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad or the Far East regions?
It is not necessary to apply for an electronic visa to enter St. Petersburg and its region (Leningrad Oblast), if you already have a regular or traditional visa in your passport.
An electronic visa does not extend the validity period of a regular visa.
1.18. In which cases can I not apply for the e-visa and must I apply for a regular or traditional visa?
You must apply for a regular or standard visa in the following cases:
- If your electronic visa is denied
- If in 4 days you have not received any notification after your e-visa application
- If you want to stay in Russia more than 8 days
- If you want to visit Moscow or other regions not included in the electronic visa process
- If you are not a citizen of any of the 53 countries that can apply for an electronic visa
- If the type of visa you want to apply for is neither tourism, business or humanitarian. Therefore, if you need a work or study visa, then you must apply for a regular paper visa.
2. STEPS TO OBTAIN ELECTRONIC VISA OR AN E-VISA TO RUSSIA
To apply for the electronic visa, you will only need:
- To have a valid passport at least 6 months from the date of application for the e-visa, and with free space for the stamps that will be placed at the border crossing.
- To fill out a simple electronic form with your personal information, your work information, the region you will visit and places where you will stay.
- A recent digital photo, which you must attach during the application. You can take it with the front camera of your mobile phone, with a plain wall of light color in the background.
- Travel medical insurance with coverage in the Russian Federation during the period of your trip.
The best: it is not necessary to provide an invitation, hotel reservations, airline tickets, a scanned passport or any other document that justifies the reason for the trip, nor is it necessary to travel to the consulate or the Russian visa center to complete the process. You only need a computer with an Internet connection.
Important: when filling in the form, make sure that all the information is correct and that the information in your passport matches the information included in the application. The e-visa is issued with the information you provide during the electronic application process, so if there is information in your electronic visa application that does not match your passport, they could deny you entry at the border. Also, don’t include a false photo, since they will be check it at the border.
STEP 1. Have a valid passport
The first thing you will need to be able to apply for the e-visa is your passport, which must be valid for at least 6 months from the date you request the visa. That is, if you apply for the visa on July 1, 2020, then your passport must be valid beyond December 31, 2020.
In the e-visa application you will be asked for the information of your passport: passport number, date of issue, validity date, etc.
When you cross the border in Russia, they will ask for your passport and they will verify that its information contained there matches with what you declared in the application. Please note also that the passport must not present any damage, scratch or be unstitched. If this is the case, it’s better that you renew it before requesting the electronic visa.
STEP 2. Take a digital photo
Before starting to fill out the electronic visa form, you must have a digital photo of 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm, which must be recent and on a white background.
STEP 3. Fill in the electronic form
Now that you have a valid passport and a digital photo, it is time to complete the electronic visa application form.
Some prior matters to consider:
- You can start filling in the electronic visa today and finish it another day. Of course, you must save it with the “Save the draft” button. You should also bear in mind that the unfinished forms are saved on the server for a maximum period of 30 days from the last time you saved it.
- To continue filling in, editing or reviewing the application, you must choose the option “Retrieve application” from the menu: https://evisa.kdmid.ru/en-US/Account/Retrieve. For this you will need 4 information items: the identification of the application or “Application ID” (which will be provided when you start a new application), a password (which you choose when you fill in a new form), the first 5 letters of your last name and the year of your birth.
- Fields with an asterisk must be completed.
- If your minor children accompany you, you must also fill out an electronic form for each one of them. All minors who are accompanied by their parents must also have an individual e-visa.
- Certain characters (such as Ñ, É, Ü or Ç) will not let you register them. In this case it is necessary to indicate the transliterated meanings. Examples:
- LÓPEZ: put LOPEZ (no tilde)
- MUÑOZ: put MUNOZ (N in place of Ñ)
- TÜRRE: put TUERRE (UE in place of Ü)
The transliterations of these characters can also be seen under the page of your passport, in which your personal information is contained (next to the signs <<<<<<<<<<).
Below I will show you how to fill out the e-visa application form:
0. Select your nationality and region that you will visit
Enter your email address and choose a password. Don’t forget to write down the application number, since you will need it to recover the form and to track your application.
1. Indicate your personal information
Fill in your personal information: name and surnames, gender, date and place of birth.
2. Details of the visit
In this section you must specify the reason for your visit (tourism, business, cultural, sports, scientific-technical, etc.), the region you will visit, the date you plan to enter in Russia and the information of your accommodations (Hotel, Airbnb apartment or address of the private house or apartment in which you will be staying). Finally, you must also indicate if you have visited Russia before.
Regarding hotels or tourist apartments, nothing happens if you include a hotel and you end up staying in a different one. Reservation of accommodation is not necessary. If you are going to visit, for example, St. Petersburg for 1 day and do not spend the night, then you can also include any random hotel (no need to book it).
3. Passport Information
In this section you must indicate the type of passport you have (tourist, official or diplomatic), the number of your passport, as well as the date of issue and expiration thereof.
4. Contact and work information
You must indicate the information of your permanent residence, as well as your work information.
5. Relatives in Russia (if you have)
You must indicate if you have relatives in Russia. In the case of having relatives you must indicate the relationship of kinship, name, surname, address and date of birth.
6. Digital photography
You must take a photo, as explained in step 2 of this article and upload it to the form. Try to fit the photo in the center of the space dedicated to it.
In the last step you will see a summary of everything you have indicated in your application. Check that all data is correct and accept the conditions for the electronic visa application. The last part of the process will be to click on the “Save and submit” button. Now you can only wait for your visa.
STEP 4. Monitoring the status of your visa application
You can track the status of your application on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, through the link: https://evisa.kdmid.ru/en-US/Home/StatusCheck
By entering your application number (Application ID and your password), the system will tell you in what state your application is.
Once the Russian authorities make a decision, the status of your request will change to “Visa issued” or “Visa denied”
The deadline for the issuance of the electronic visa is less than 4 calendar days from the date of sending the completed form. If you haven’t received a notification of concession or refusal of electronic visa within four days, then you can apply for a visa, according to the standard procedure at the consulate or at the Russian visa center.
STEP 5. Receive your visa in PDF format
The most normal thing is that in less than 4 days, you will receive an email that you have been granted the visa with a link by which you can download it in PDF format.
You must print this PDF file in color in A4 format. Here is an example of an electronic visa recently requested:
STEP 6. Acquire travel insurance
Now you have your visa, but to enter Russia, in addition to the visa, it is necessary to have travel medical insurance with coverage in Russia, which covers your entire period of stay in Russia.
Travel medical insurance must be purchased before traveling. It is not possible to buy it when arriving in Russia, neither at the airport nor at any border entry point. In addition, the policy must come in Russian or English, it must cover the entire period of your trip and it must specify that it has coverage in Russia or worldwide.
Travel insurance can be purchased online, although you must print the policy to present it along with your electronic visa.
A quick and inexpensive way to obtain travel medical insurance online is through the Russian company Cherehapa, through which you can get an 8-day travel insurance with coverage in Russia for just over 9 euros:
3. ARRIVING TO RUSSIA
Once you arrive in Russia, at the border control points, you must submit the following documentation:
- Electronic visa printed in color on an A4 sheet
- Travel medical insurance
After the control, the customs officer will complete the so-called immigration card. You can find a detailed explanation of the immigration card in this article: Russian airports: the immigration card and customs procedures.
I hope this article has helped you apply for your electronic visa. Below you can tell us your experience.