The first step in applying for a Russian visa is to obtain an invitation or visa support document, officially titled as a “Confirmation of hosting a foreign tourist”, issued by a hotel or a tourist travel agency which is registered with the Federal Agency of Tourist Operators of the Russian Federation. A booking reservation does not suffice. I have applied for invitations through many Russian agencies over the past few years. The best by far is iVisa. It is the only Russian tourist agency that allows you to obtain the invitation automatically after making the payment, and to modify it for free through their electronic system, in the event that you make a mistake or simply need to change hotels. No problem if later, once you have obtained the visa, you decide to stay at other hotels.
Official invitation accepted by the Russian consulate. The invitation, also called visa support document, tourist voucher, invitation letter, tourist confirmation or confirmation of hosting a foreign tourist, is issued by the Russian tour operator iVisa (Visa Service, LLC). It is registered with the Federal Agency of Tourist Operators of the Russian Federation (Registration Number PTO 015681) and provides invitations to users of this website at a cheaper price.
The system is automatic. With this form you can obtain an invitation letter to Russia for tourism or business from iVisa in PDF format and ready to print (preferably in color) in less than 5 minutes. You receive it after making the payment with a bank card or through PayPal. With this document you’ll be a little closer to Russia. Keep in mind that each visitor, including children, needs their own invitation. The visa support document may be a copy.
Do you need help with the invitation? Not to worry. I’ll help you solve any problem you may have. Send me a message through this contact form and I’ll reply as soon as possible. You will also find below a section with answers to the most frequently asked questions about applying for the invitation, as well as the iVisa support email. Also, you have a step-by-step guide on how to apply for the Russian visa with this invitation.
Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions
What if I’m travelling with friends or family? Do I have to fill out separate forms?
- No. You fill out only one form with the information of all the travelers and you will receive all the invitations at the same time. Maximum 5 invitations at a time. Each person must have their invitation. Children also need to have their invitation.
What is the cost of the tourist invitation to Russia?
- It depends on the nationality of the applicant. But for most countries (United Kingdom, Australia, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, USA, etc.) the price is between 1200 and 1400 roubles (between $17 and $20 depending on the exchange rate dollar ruble).
- You may find some agencies that issue invitations for a little cheaper price (1 or 2 dollars less), but keep in mind that the service offered by iVisa, Russia Support or HotelsPro is much better, especially if you have any problems or need to change your invitation or your hotels. This is why I always use these services.
The price is higher for citizens of countries that are considered "immigration risk countries" (countries with a bad economic environment, as well as states where hostilities take place).
The list of these countries is constantly modified depending on how the world situation changes. Visa support or invitation for the application of Russian visas for citizens of such countries are issued after a much larger number of checks (passport copy, hotel reservations, interview, etc.).
Which countries are currently included in the list of migration risk countries? Mainly African and Asian countries:
- Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Egypt, Barbados, Beliz, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Uruguay, Gabon, Guinea, Qatar, Kuwait, Palestine, Eritrea, Georgia, Congo, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Yemen, China, Guyana, North Korea, Cambodia, Lesotho, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tonga, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Tanzania, Albania, Angola, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Burundi, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Djibouti, Zambia, Zimbabwe, India, Indonesia, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Kenya, Congo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mauritius, Madagascar, Macedonia, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Paraguay, Seychelles, Senegal, Sudan, Suriname, Sierra Leone, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, Philippines, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Syria, Somalia, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Libya, Myanmar, Oman, Fiji, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Comoros, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Jamaica,
Can I apply for a private visa with this invitation?
- No. This invitation allows you to obtain only the tourist visa, not the private visa. So it includes only hotels or tourist apartments. Do not include addresses of flats, apartments or private homes because the Consulate could deny you the visa.
- Now, if you are going to visit friends or relatives, what many people do is apply for a tourist visa (easier to process than a private visa) putting random hotels in the invitation. Once they have obtained the visa, they stay in the homes of their friends or family.
What period should the invitation letter cover?
- Very simple: it should cover the entire length of your stay in Russia. If you’re going to travel to Russia from August 1 to 10 and apply for your visa for this period, then the invitation letter must specify that it covers, at least, August 1 - 10 (It’s not a problem if the invitation letter covers a longer period, for example, July 31 - August 12).
- Bear in mind that you cannot stay in the country for any night without accounting for it.
What is the maximum period covered by the tourist invitation voucher?
- The maximum number of days for a tourist invitation is 30 days.
- If you need a longer stay, you must apply for a business visa and, therefore, you will need a business invitation, which you can also apply for using the iVisa or Russia Support form.
IMPORTANT: ONLY FOR US CITIZENS
- In accordance with the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States of America on the simplification of visa formalities for nationals of the Russian Federation and nationals of the United States of America, the US citizens shall as a rule be issued multiple-entry business, private, humanitarian and tourist visas that are valid for three years (36 months) from the date of issue of the visa.
- In order to apply for a 3-year multiple-entry Tourist visa, the easiest way is to obtain a standard visa support letter (single or double entry) for 30 days from one of the services mentioned in this website (iVisa, Russia Support or HotelsPro), but then specify a 3 year long period in your visa application form. The starting date of your visa would be on the day your visa support starts, but the end date would be not in 30 days, but in 3 years (ex. Date of Entry 25/10/2019 until Date of Departure 24/10/2022-minus one day).
- When filling out the electronic visa application form at: http://visa.kdmid.ru choose «multiple» from the drop-down menu and indicate a 3-year period of stay starting from the date of entry in your visa support documents (invitation).
What does it mean to be granted one or two entries?
- Very easy. The invitation can be for a single or double entry. One entry means that you are going to enter Russia only once. Visits, for example, to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and then you return to your country. Two entries (or double entry) means that you enter Russia a first time, visit any city, leave Russia to visit another country (for example, Mongolia) and re-enter Russia a second time, and from there you return to your country.
What personal information should I include in the invitation application?
- Name and surnames (Please note: as they appear in your passport)
- Email (to which the invitations will be sent).
- Passport number. Check that you have written it correctly because the consulate checks to make sure that it matches exactly the one that appears in your passport.
- Date of Birth
- Expiry date of your passport
As you can see, it’s very easy.
Can I include any hotel in the invitation application?
Yes, of course. You can include the hotels (or apartments) you have booked or those you plan to book. It’s a good idea to include the hotel's Russian address (what I do is copy it directly from Booking.com). If you’re not sure about the hotels, you can include, for example, these two:
- Moscow: President Hotel - Bolshaya Yakimanka Street 24, Yakimanka 119134 Moscow
- St Petersburg: The Bridge Hotel - Admiralteyskaya Naberezhnaya 12, Admiralteyskiy, St. Petersburg 190000
After obtaining the visa you can change or cancel your hotels and book others without any problem.
Do I need to show evidence of hotel reservations for the visa application?
- No. For the visa application you only have to present the invitation, not the hotel reservations. However, for citizens of certain countries designated “migration risk” countries, it is possible that the tour operator or the consulate will ask for hotel reservations in addition to the invitation.
What if I spend a night aboard a train?
- Nights on a train in Russia do not need to be included in the “Hotels” section, as long as they are included within the total invitation period. More information: Should I indicate the nights on a train on the application for a Russian invitation or visa?
What if I stay in apartments on Airbnb or similar platforms?
- No problem. In the "Hotels" section simply indicate "Airbnb apartment" and the address. More information: How do I get the invitation to Russia if I’m staying in an Airbnb?
What if I travel to Russia on a cruise to St. Petersburg or another Russian port?
If you arrive in St. Petersburg on a cruise, the first thing you should know is that you can visit the city in two ways:
- For 72 hours without a visa (visa free), although with limitations on what you can do, as I explain in this article.
- With a tourist visa and no kind of limitation. In this case, when applying for the invitation you must indicate the name of your cruise in the “Hotels” section. More information in this article: How do I get the invitation to Russia if I’m traveling on a cruise ship.
What if I travel to Russia on a river cruise?
- In this case you will need a visa and therefore, a visa support document or invitation. In the invitation you must indicate the name of your cruise ship or boat in the “Hotels” section.
How can I pay for the invitation?
- You can pay securely using your credit card or through PayPal (only iVisa and Russia Support).
How will I receive the invitation?
- iVisa (automatic system): After paying you can download it directly from your browser. In addition, they will send you an email with the invitations in PDF format.
- Russia Support (manual system): Once your invitation is ready, they will send you an email with the PDF document (it can take 5-15 minutes after payment, maybe 1 hour or more during the night or on weekends).
- HotelsPro (automatic system): after paying they will send you an automatic email with the invitations in PDF format.
What is the format of the invitation I will receive?
It is a one-sided document on A4 paper, stamped and signed by the inviting agency or tour operator. It contains your personal information and the hotels or tourist apartments where you will be staying. This A4 paper document has two different, but very similar sections:
- The tourist services contract (tourist voucher), which is the document that certifies that you have booked a hotel facility in Russia. This section reproduces your personal information, the cities you will visit, as well as the services offered by the hotel and the proof that you have paid for the reservation.
- Foreign tourist confirmation receipt (confirmation letter), which, as its name indicates, is the hotel confirmation of your booking. It also comes with your personal information and the accommodations in which you will stay overnight.
Here is an example of the PDF document that you will receive and that you should print, preferably in color:
What if I need to modify the invitation?
- iVisa: Once you’ve obtained the invitation, you can correct the wrong information yourself at no additional cost on the iVisa electronic system or by sending a message to the iVisa email support (email@example.com). You can also change the hotels.
- Russia Support: You can request the correction of the wrong information at no additional cost by sending a message to the Russia Support email firstname.lastname@example.org
- HotelsPro: You can request the correction of the wrong information at no additional cost by sending a message to the HotelsPro email email@example.com
What if I need the original invitation?
- A color printout of the invitation is sufficient for most Consulates worldwide: USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Spain, France, Germany, Italy and other European countries, etc.
- However, it’s possible that some countries may require the original invitation. In this case, iVisa can send you the invitation by post, but at an additional cost, depending on your country. When you obtain the invitation online they will send you an email with a link to request the postage service.
What information about the invitation should I include on the visa application form?
On the electronic visa application form, in the "Details of the visit" section you must include information about the agency inviting you, that is, iVisa:
- Name of organization: VISA SERVICE LLC
- Address: Leninsky Avenue 153A, Office 706, St. Petersburg 196247
- Reference number: 015681
- Confirmation number: a unique number in the header of the invitation. This number also appears in the email that will be sent to you.
Why apply for the invitation from a Russian tour operator and not directly from the hotels?
For many reasons:
- Because you will not need to request a different invitation letter from each hotel where you’ll be staying. A single invitation from iVisa, Russia Support or HotelsPro covering the entire length of stay is enough. Keep in mind that platforms like Booking.com do not issue invitations.
- Because if you need to change the hotels in the invitation you can do so quickly and without problems.
- Because you will save time with their electronic system.
- Because the length of stay can include nights you spend aboard the train.
- Because in the invitation you can include tourist accommodation on Airbnb or similar platforms. Airbnb hosts cannot issue invitation letters.
- Because you can include the nights you stay on the sea or river cruise ship. Cruise companies cannot issue invitations.
- Because it is almost always cheaper to apply for the invitation from a Russian tour operator than to do so directly from hotels.
Are there other options for applying for the invitation?
- In Russia there are hundreds of agencies that issue letters of invitation. The best one I've tried and the one that offers the best service is iVisa. However, there are also other agencies such as Russia Support or HotelsPro, through which you can also get the invitation and which I also recommend. On the other hand, you have to be careful with fake agencies that issue fraudulent invitation letters at very low prices.
Is it necessary to provide a detailed program with the itinerary of my trip in Russia?
- In some countries, such as France, if the planned trip to Russia lasts longer than 13 days, you must also submit a detailed program of your stay in Russia, which you can request from iVisa or Russia Support at no additional cost. To do this you must indicate to the agency the itinerary you will make (what days you will be in each city) and it will send you a signed and sealed itinerary.
- You must also provide hotel reservations that confirm the full payment of tourist services (with invoice in your name, payment receipt or account statement if you have paid by credit card or ACH transfer). You can also send a confirmation of the hotel reservation (many hotels don’t charge room price until departure).