In what is good news for both the tourist economy of Russia and for travellers who wish to easily access greater swathes of the country, it seems that an expedited electronic visa application for travel to the Russian Federation is finally on its way.
The Russian government has confirmed that a new E-visa for Russia will be launched sometime in early 2021, and that it will be a Russia-wide travel document, permitting access to parts of the country that were previously off-limits with an electronic visa.
The plan was to roll it out from January 1st, 2021, but this has now been pushed back to later in the year due to the disruption to international travel caused by COVID-19. However, it’s unlikely that the wait will be too long, as the pandemic has already resulted in Russia’s loss of at least $7 billion in tourist revenue since it closed its borders due to coronavirus restrictions.
Updates to Russia’s E-Visa policy
Russia was rather late in joining the wave of countries who adopted a streamlined online visa platform, only implementing an E-visa application in 2017, and even then only for select regions in the country.
The first Russian E-visa to launch permitted travel to the Far Eastern regions of the country, followed by an E-visa for the Kaliningrad exclave in July 2019 and an electronic visa for Saint Petersburg and Leningrad in October later that year.
Even then, the E-visas were only available for a select number of nationalities, valid for 30 days to enter Russia, and only permitted a total stay of 8 days in the selected area: travel outside of the area covered by the regional visa was not permitted.
However, this will now change with the launch of the new unified E-Visa to Russia, which will be available for nationals of over 50 countries, offer a single entry stay of up to 16 days, and be valid for a total of 60 days to enter the country from the date of approval.
Nationalities eligible for the Unified Russia E-visa
It has been confirmed that citizens of any of the following countries will be able to obtain a Russia-wide E-visa for short stays in Russia for a holiday, business, or humanitarian purposes:
● Czech Republic
● North Macedonia
● San Marino
● Saudi Arabia
● Vatican City
It will only be necessary to have a valid passport from one of these countries to submit a visa for Russia online (although applicants will also be required to ensure that the passport is valid for at least 6 months at the time of application to avoid rejection of the electronic form).
Entry points permitted with the Russia-wide visa online
Although an approved Russia-wide E-visa will allow the holder to travel freely within the country once they have crossed its borders, it will first be necessary to gain access to one of 29 pre-approved air or sea ports, or land border checkpoints.
These are as follows:
If a traveller eligible for the E-visa intends to arrive in the Russian Federation through any port of entry not listed above, they will still be required to go through the process of applying for an embassy visa for Russia in person from the nearest Russian diplomatic mission.
How the application process works
Eligible citizens will be able to submit a simple online form that takes minutes to complete with contact details and basic personal and passport information to apply for the Russia-wide E-visa.
Once approved, usually within 4 business days, the electronic visa is sent by email to the traveller in PDF format. Therefore, it is necessary to supply a current email address they regularly check when completing the application form. Once received, the PDF must be printed to carry when traveling to Russia by air, land, or sea.
Additionally, the Russian government asks the applicant to upload some documentation to support their application, including digital images of their passport’s biographical page and a passport-style recent photograph, as well as proof of medical insurance to cover the stay in Russia in the case that medical care is required.
Before submitting the form, applicants are also required to pay a small processing fee using a valid credit or debit card (the cost is roughly 40 USD), and they are also strongly advised to scan all the information provided for mistakes, as even small errors may result in a delay in receiving approval or even a rejection of the application.
As stated above, the E-Visa for Russia will be available for travel later in 2021. Until it is released, it will still be necessary to apply for one of the regional E-visas for Russia, or to initiate a visa application process at a Russian embassy or consulate.