In recent years, Russia has been testing new ways to simplify visa procedures and boost international tourism. This has seen, for example, visa-free entry for foreigners attending the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the launch of new region-specific electronic visas, and the improvement of airports and infrastructures in remote areas.
In February 2020, the Russian government announced they will take one further step for making the country more accessible to foreign travelers — the implementation of new unified E-visas for the entire Russian territory that are going live in 2021.
The details of the unified electronic visas have been confirmed and they include eligibility criteria and how to enter Russia with the unified online visa.
Who Can Get an Unified E-visa for Russia?
The new Russian Unified E-visa is designed for citizens of over 50 countries around the world, making Russia significantly more accessible for international tourism.
Eligible nations include, for example, EU member states, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, and almost all other nationalities who in recent years have been able to already apply for the region-specific Russian eVisas.
What Russian eVisas Were Previously Available?
In the past few years, destination-specific eVisas were made available for 3 Russian regions only:
- The Far East District
- The Kaliningrad Oblast
- The St Petersburg and Leningrad region
Electronic visas have been a huge success thanks to their convenience, affordability, and much shorter waiting times. That is why the government has now decided to launch a unified E-visa that extends to the whole Russian territory and allows its holder to visit all the Federation’s regions.
Other ways in which the government has facilitated international travel and communications include:
What Is the Difference between Regional eVisas and the Russian Unified E-visa?
The application process for the unified E-visa is just as quick and straightforward as that for the previous region-specific electronic visas. The online visa requirements are also very similar.
However, there are 2 main differences that are likely to be well-received among travelers.
E-visa validity: more time in Russia
Although the regional eVisa validity is of 30 days, eVisa holders were only allowed a maximum stay of 8 days in Russia since the moment they first entered the country. As the Second Secretary of the Russian Embassy in the Philippines Denis M. Karenin commented, this is just “enough time to visit St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad”.
The new unified E-visa allows foreigners to stay in the country for up to 16 days. Moreover, it remains valid for 60 days from the day it is approved. This is especially helpful for those who wish to explore more than one city or/and arrive in Russia after a long flight from a distant country.
More territory covered: non region-specific visas
The regional eVisas for the Far East, St Petersburg, and Kaliningrad only granted their holder entry into a specific Russian region. Once they were done visiting, foreigners had to leave Russia from a border crossing point belonging to the same region they first entered. Had the foreigners wished to see another part of the country (for example, both St Petersburg and Moscow) they would have had to apply for another relevant visa.
The new unified E-visa applies to all cities within Russia. This gives tourists much greater freedom of movement. The only exception is represented by special restricted areas and facilities for which written permission is required.
The number of entry points eligible for the unified electronic visa has also been increased and visitors can leave and enter Russia from any of the relevant crossings.
How to Visit Russia with an E-visa
Using the new electronic visas for Russia is very easy.
Once the request is approved, the visa will be sent electronically to the holidaymaker. It is important to print out the confirmation or keep a digital copy on a mobile device before traveling to Russia.
Visitors will then need to carry the visa with them and present it at the border to the Russian immigration officers.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin approved a list of 29 eligible border crossing points to enter Russia with an E-visa. These include maritime, land, and airport crossings.
Are Russian Visas Free?
The vast majority of Russian visas require the payment of an application fee. This goes to cover the processing costs of the visa.
Fortunately, electronic visas are usually cheaper since the amount of both paperwork and manpower required to review applications is lower. However, fees apply to E-visas too.
Why Is Russia Launching New Visas?
Home to 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and famous for its unique architecture and stunning natural beauty, Russia is already the ninth most visited country in the world, with 33 million foreigners choosing it as their holiday destination in 2013.
However, the government is looking to expand the sector even further. Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced his plan to raise the annual tourism revenue of the country to $15.5 billion by the end of his presidential term in 2024.
As part of the national Digital Economy Program, different types of electronic visas have been launched recently to encourage foreign arrivals. The traditional paper tourist visa for Russia requires applicants to submit their papers in person at a Russian embassy or consulate. Moreover, travelers have to obtain an invitation letter from a Russian entity in order for their visa application to be considered. This is not the case with the new unified E-visa.
The new electronic visas change things dramatically. Without having to queue at the embassy, eligible tourists can simply apply online in minutes from anywhere in the world. All they need is an internet connection and a few supporting documents like their valid passport.