The first thing you need to know if you want to travel to Russia as a British citizen is that you need a visa.
And that you need to get the ball rolling on this visa asap!
Because while getting a visa to Russia from the UK isn’t difficult, there is a process to follow that involves several different parts and can be a little complicated.
But having been there and done it myself, I’ve got the full lowdown on how to navigate the process and hope by sharing all my tips and advice in this complete guide, I’ll help you get your visa as smoothly and easily as possible too.
So let’s dive in…
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The information contained on this based is based on my personal experience as a British citizen applying for a Russian Tourist Visa in 2020.
I cannot be held responsible, nor guarantee any outcomes, based on the information given in this article.
My Russian visa was sponsored by Real Russia but, as always, all views are my own.
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
So the first rule when it comes to getting your Russia visa if you’re from the UK is that you need one!
The second most important thing to know is that you’ll need to have the exact dates of your entry into and exit from the country for your Russia visa – allowing a few days either side isn’t a bad idea here FYI.
You can apply for visas that are either single or double entry, but again, do ensure you work out your dates and details in advance.
Thirdly, the Russia visa can take some time, so it’s best to get organised and start the process early!
In addition, you should definitely check all the government details for this visa care of the British Foreign Office website here.
You’ll then also want to check the Russian embassy website, to get the latest information, and then click through to the visa website – VFS.Global.
Here you want to select the relevant Visa Type in the top menu bar (likely to be Tourist for the purposes of this article) and then read through the 5 relevant sections of information listed below this.
Those 5 sections are: Overview, Visa Fees, Documents Required, Photo Specifications & Processing Time.
In these 5 sections, you’ll learn more about the documents you need to collect and the process you need to go through in order to get your Russia visa in the UK.
In essence, there are 2 parts to this:
The first is the documents you need to assemble before you apply for your visit – more about this later on in this article.
The second part is to lodge the application, pay for it and complete biometric testing at one of the Russia visa centres in London, Manchester or Edinburgh – more info on this later on in the article.
Once submitted, you are able to monitor the process of your visa application online by providing your visa receipt reference number.
Types of Visa to Russia from the UK
It’s important to note here that the types of documents required and the process and costs of a Russia visa from the UK will all be dictated by the type of visa you apply for.
This is why it’s incredibly important you select the right type of visa when you click through to the VFS.Global website.
Selecting the right type of visa here will direct you to the right documents you are required to assemble when you apply for your visa.
There are actually 14 different types of Russian visas listed here.
For travellers, tourist visas and transit visas are the most likely options.
It’s worth noting that cruise or ferry passengers with British passports can stay in Russia for up tp 72 hours without a visa if they have booked tours through officially licensed companies. Cities where this applies are:
- St Petersburg
- Korsakov (Sakhalin Island)
For this purpose of this article, I’m going to only talk about Tourist visas for Russia from the UK as this is the most popular category and the one applicable to most travellers.
How Long Does it Take?
There are 2 different sorts of Tourist visas for Russia from the UK.
Please note that processing times for both of them are not guaranteed and at the discretion of the Russian embassy.
Normal applications take up 20 business days to process from the date of submission.
This is quite a long processing time, which is why it really pays to get the ball rolling early with your Russia visa.
I suggest beginning at least 1 month ahead of your intended arrival date in order to ensure you have time to assemble the documents, take your passport photos according to the regulations and get yourself to a visa centre for the biometric testing (especially crucial if you don’t live in Russia, London or Edinburgh).
If you’re planning to travel to Russia within 22 business days, then you’re best alternative is to opt for an urgent application which takes up to 3 business days.
Although more expensive, this is much more efficient and is the service I used in order to get my visa on time.
Russian Visa Cost
So, as I touched on above, the urgent application for your Russia visa also costs more.
This is essentially because you are paying for a premium, express service.
The cost of your urgent Russian visa cost if you’re from the UK is £125.00. This is for a single entry visa. An urgent double-entry visa costs £200.00
Compare this to a normal application, where the single entry fee is £63.00 and the double-entry fee is £101.00.
As you can see, if you have the time, the normal (or non-urgent visa) is definitely the best option to go for… at least cost-wise!
In addition to the above costs, there’s also a service charge you’ll need to pay.
For normal visa submissions, this is £38.40 GBP and for urgent applications, it’s £45.60.
Payments are made at the Visa Application Centre in person either by cash or credit / debit card – although American Express cards are not accepted.
Needless to say, if your visa is rejected your payment isn’t refundable.
For most British passport holders travelling to Russia and applying for a Tourist visa, the documents required to submit with your application are:
- A valid passport with at least 2 blank pages and a minimum of six months validity after your Russia visa’s intended expiration date
- A completed, hard copy of the visa application form (available via the VFS.Global website) which has been filled in fully and correctly
- A recent passport photo – specifications are given here
- A signed and stamped Tourist Voucher / Tourist Confirmation. This is essentially proof of booking information you can obtain through your Russian hotel (or approved travel agent) and should be valid for the entire duration of your trip
- Bank statements for the last 3 months, showing a balance of a minimum of £100 per day for the duration of your stay in Russia. This must be provided only by those who are self-employed, company directors, working from home or unemployed. Online printed statements need to be certified and stamped by the bank – this can usually be in done in person at your branch
- Extra documents are also required for those taking a vehicle into Russia i.e. those on road trips
It is then recommended that applicants email the pre-check service to ensure all documents are in place before travelling to their chosen Russian visa centre.
Russian Visa Centre
After you’ve assembled your documents and used the pre-check service to ensure they are all correct, you then have to make your way to a Russian Visa Centre.
This is where you will hand over your documents, complete your biometric testing and pay for your visa.
Biometric testing essentially involves having your fingerprints taken and recorded.
This is done through a digital automated machine, much like it is at many border points across the world.
As Russian visa centres are only available in London, Manchester or Edinburgh, you must head to one of these 3 to complete your visa application process.
Please remember to check the relevant opening and service times – most accept visa applications between 8:30am and 3pm Monday to Friday only.
London is the most popular Russian visa centre to visit and it’s located at
15- 27 Gee Street
This is the visa centre I visited to lodge my application.
After arrival, you simply take a number from a ticket dispenser, then sit and wait for your number to be called.
The centre is large with many different counter staff and rows of chairs to sit on.
When your number is called you head to the relevant counter, hand over your documents, complete payment and undergo your biometric testing.
The whole process was swift for me and took under 5 minutes once I reached the counter.
Getting Help from Real Russia
There’s no question however that one of the reasons I think my process was so smooth and seamless was because I used an agency to help me with the application for my Russia visa from the UK.
And this company was Real Russia.
And what a fantastic job they did!
From start to finish, their excellent and well-informed agents guided me perfectly through the process, talking me through my dates and itinerary, the documents I needed to assemble and how to complete my application form.
Anytime I had any questions, I simply emailed them and the answer was given within a few hours.
Not only did this make applying for my Russian visa straightforward and stress-free, but it undoubtedly sped up the process too.
That’s because I knew what I was submitting was totally correct.
No need to use the pre-check service for me, no Real Russia dutifully checked my application from start to finish before submission, advising me about the best way to do things the whole time.
Being experts in this area, with a huge degree of professional knowledge and understanding behind them, I felt very confident using their visa service and the relief that there was somebody competent to guide me through the process gave great peace of mind.
It also assured me that my visa application was less likely to fail due to an over-looked or uninformed error on my part.
Once I was happy with my documents and application form, I then took it to the Real Russia office where they checked over them again in person. It’s at this point you pay them for your visa.
Once all has gone through and is signed off, you then simply make your way to the Russian application visa centre to hand in your application and complete your biometric testing – with a note that Real Russia are covering the costs.
I’m sure their excellent reputation doesn’t hurt here either!
You can then track your application care of Real Russia’s website and when your visa and passport are returned, you’ll be sent a courtesy email letting you know you can collect it from their office.
This means you don’t even have to return to the visa centre. Instead, you simply, head back to see a Real Russia member of staff who has already checked your visa details and that everything is in order for you.
Honestly, through what can be a confusing and difficult visa process, Real Russia steered me throughout without out hassle or concern and I was so pleased I opted to use them to help me with the task.
Learn more by checking out Real Russia’s visa application service here.
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So there you have it, my complete guide on how to get your visa to Russia from the UK.
I hope you found this post useful and that it might help you to take a trip to this fascinating country soon.