13 Jun How to Get Your Russian Visa (UK)
FYI this information is correct as of 13th June 2015. Russia changes its rules all the time, so please always check for any changes.
Before you go to Russia you must obtain a visa in your passport before you go. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you can get one on arrival at the airport, or that you can leave it till the last minute! Give yourself plenty of time because otherwise you could risk losing thousands of pounds on a trip because you won’t be allowed to travel.
It’s surprising how many people don’t realise the importance of getting the visa well in advance. I recently joined the Topdeck Vodka & Caviar coach trip through Russia and one guy couldn’t join the tour because he didn’t have a visa in his passport. From what I gathered, he was travelling through Europe and thought he could get it somewhere along the way but couldn’t and he ran out of time. Another lady thought the visa would be included in the tour and when she realised it wasn’t, she had to rush one through at the last minute.
The Russian visa application process is actually a lot more simple these days than what it used to be if you’re from the UK, so here’s the lowdown on what you need to do. I applied for mine about a month in advance, in case of any problems.
1. Visit this website http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk/
2. Figure out your visa type, the costs and the requirements. Most likely you’ll want a Tourist Visa.
3. Go through the online application, fill out all the details. It’s long-winded. They’ll ask you every country you’ve visited, which can be difficult to remember if you’ve been to a lot of countries. Just list the ones stamped in your passport and maybe a few European ones. They’ll also ask you to list the addresses of the accommodation where you’re staying etc.
4. Take the printed application and all required documents to one of the UK visa application centres. Here you will have to submit fingerprints. You cannot obtain a visa in the UK without visiting one of these centres in person.
I took the following with me:
1. My Passport. You must have at least two blank pages and at least 6 months left on your passport.
2. Printed online application documents with correct entry and exit dates matching my supporting documents.
3. One passport size photo (you can easily get them done at the post office). Size is standard 4.5cm by 3.5cm.
4. A ‘Tourist voucher’ and a ‘Tourist confirmation’ document stamped and signed by authorized person. My documents were supplied by my tour company, Topdeck. They can be obtained through your hotel or an approved travel agent who deals with trips to Russia, and should be valid for the entire duration of your trip.
Fees as of 13 June 2015 are:
Single, 5 working days: £50
Single, Next Working Day: £100
Double Entry, 5 Working Days: £65
Double Entry, Next Working Day: £130
So the cheapest option is the single visa with a turnaround of 5 working days.
In addition, there’s a ‘service charge’ of £38.40 for the 5 working day option, or £46.50 for the next working day option.
I chose the 5 working day option which came to £88.40
Because I live in Manchester, I didn’t want to hang around in London waiting for my visa so I had them return my passport in the mail for an additional charge of £9.80
Visiting the Visa Application Centre
There are two centres in the UK. I visited the one in London but there’s also one in Scotland. Addresses are:
Russia Visa Application Centre
15- 27 Gee Street,
Russia Visa Application Centre
64 Albion Road
The London Visa Application Centre
You don’t have to book a time slot, just show up. However do check the opening hours and any public holiday closures online before you go to avoid disappointment. http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk/contact_us.html
Usual standard opening hours at the London application centre are:
Passport submissions: Monday to Friday 08:30 till 15:00
Passport collection: Monday to Friday 17:00 till 17:30.
When you arrive at the centre in London you take a numbered ticket and they call you by number. It wasn’t very busy and my number was called so quickly that I actually missed it and had to take another ticket!
You then hand over your documents and if everything looks good, you can pay by cash, credit card or postal order.
Unfortunately I had made a bit of an error. My printer is a bit temperamental and hadn’t printed the second page of my ‘Tourist Voucher’. They have printers and Internet kiosks inside the building but unfortunately there was a queue and a long wait to get on the computers, plus they charge you to use them. Most of the people were filling out the application on these computers and the application takes ages, so I felt a bit frustrated that all I needed was a quick second to jump on my email and print off one page. In the end I asked the Russian lady manning the kiosks if I could use her laptop to print the page and she obliged.
Once that was done, it took a quick second to submit my stuff and then pay by credit card.
Et voila! I went home and awaited my passport in the post, which arrived the following week.
All in all it was rather easy an painless and cost less than £100. So don’t let the whole visa application deter you from visiting Russia!