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Welcome to Russia? New visa regulations

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs pledges itself to issue visas to foreigners within a period one month. Supposedly, foreigners willing to visit Russia will spend less than 20 minutes in consular establishments.

For the first time ever the foreign policy department has approved Administrative Standing Orders, a detailed description of the order of issuing, extending, renewing and annulling Russian visas for foreigners.Also, for the first time issuing visas has been called a state service. A respective decree signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia on December 29 has been registered at the Ministry of Justice of the RF. This document will become a basis for work of all Russian embassies and consulates abroad. The new standing orders have accumulated nearly two tens of laws and other lawful acts which are to be studied by the foreign travelers if they are going to apply for a Russian visa on their own. On the whole the document promises a high level of service to foreigners, but yet there are some bureaucratic snags left. For instance, travelers who need to get a Russian visa valid for over 3 months must provide a paper confirming they do not have AIDS; and the Ministry is not obliged to explain why they refuse to issue a visa to a foreigner.

Types of Visa
The standing orders imply 12 categories and types of Russian visa. Diplomatic and official visas can hardly be available to ordinary mortals. The majority of foreigners can apply for a guest, business, or tourist visa to Russia. For obtaining a private or business visa it is needed to provide an invitation paper from the receiving side. The inviter has to apply to the organs of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and to provide a petitionary and guarantee letters confirming that the inviter obliges himself to carry out all expenses concerning the foreigner during their stay in Russia.

A regular guest visa is issued for a period of up to 3 months. A business visa can be single, double, or multiple-entry with the total period of staying in Russia not exceeding one year, and not exceeding 90 days within every half year (for multiple-entry business visas).

A regular tourist visa is issued for a period of up to 1 month. In order to get this type of visa it is normally needed to have a contract on being provided with some tourist services and a confirmation of receiving the foreigner by the organization that provides the tourist services to them. Booking a hotel room is not enough in this case - the foreigner must provide a document handed by a company that is listed in the state register of tour operators with international activity. The standing orders do not specify it in detail what kind of contract it must be (traditionally the fact of making a contract was confirmed by handing a so-called “voucher”), whether it can be made via a travel agency in foreigner’s native country, and in what form it must be made. A tourist visa to Russia can even be double-entry if case if the provided documents imply visiting the neighboring states by the foreigner during their stay in Russia.

Welcome to Russia! Authorized persons only!
At the moment the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia 227 has consular establishments abroad. On the territory of such countries as Ukraine, Germany, the USA there are 5 Russian consular departments, Turkey and China have 4 consular departments, Canada and Kazakhstan have 3, etc. The process of applying for a visa at the consulate and checking all the documents by a consulate officer is said to be no longer than 20-30 minutes. Visas must be issued to foreigners within a period 20 work days since the date of applying for a visa. Formally, the consulate officers are not obliged to explain or prove justification of their refusal to issue a visa to the foreigner. At the same time the foreign citizen can apply to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia with a complaint; in this case the Ministry is obliged to give a reasoned explanation to the refusal to issue a visa. Besides, the foreigner has a right to apply to court for appealing the consulate’s refusal.

For citizens of the EU member countries the consular charge is around €35 at the moment, according to the information from the Russian embassies in Finland, Germany, Czech, and France. According to the information of the Russian diplomatic representative office in Poland, obtaining visa within 5 days costs around €37, and €75 for getting a Russian visa within 3 days. Since the 1st January 2008 US citizens will have to pay $131 for a visa instead of the former $100. The consular department of the Russian Embassy in the North Korea charges from 25 to €100 for a visa. (