At the end of November 2019, the Russian Ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin made an announcement that opens the way to a closer relationship between the two countries.
The Russian government has in fact recently implemented a series of measures and innovations meant to boost international tourism and foreign investment. Among them, the launch of a modern, fully-electronic process of obtaining a visa for Russia, improvements in the country’s airway system and internet network, and more.
Ambassador Andrei Kelin talked of the possibility of reciprocally facilitating visas and potentially even reaching visa-free status between the two countries.
Readers of this article will learn about:
- Getting a visa for Russia from the UK under the current visa system
- Measures already taken by Russia to improve international relations and tourism numbers
- The implications of this month’s announcement.
Do British Citizens Need a Visa for Russia?
Yes, British citizens are required to apply for a visa before visiting Russia as they currently don’t enjoy visa-free status. Of course, some special exceptions apply (for example, holders of diplomatic passports).
UK nationals are currently required to apply for a visa at the Russian embassy in person. Please keep in mind as you make your travel plans that standard processing times are up to 20 business days (3 business days for urgent service).
Depending on the type of visa you decide to apply for, you may need to provide a range of supporting documentation, including an invitation letter from a Russian resident or entity. British citizens of 12 years of age or older will also need to attend a visa application center and provide biometric data like fingerprints.
Visa-Free Travel to Russia: Passengers of Cruise Ships
The only exception to this rule for citizens who do not hold a diplomatic passport is represented by cruise ships. Passengers of cruise ships can enter the Russian territory without a visa for up to 72 hours. However, strict conditions and limitations apply.
Foreign tourists must book a tour with officially-licensed agencies and companies. Moreover, they can go ashore during port calls but must be accompanied at all times by the licensed tour operator.
The visa-free regime for cruise passengers applies to the following cities:
- St Petersburg
- Korsakov (Sakhalin Island)
Russia Is Opening to the World: New Visas and Other Innovations
In 2019, several measures were taken by the Russian authorities to boost international relations and tourism.
In September, the government announced a major project to renovate 40 airports in the region of the Far East District. President Putin commented at the time that the plan is to improve mobility through “a developed network of air transportation, affordable ticket prices for flights within the region, to Siberia, Central Russia, abroad.”
At the same time, electronic visas for specific Russian regions have been launched. Currently, eligible citizens can apply for tourist visas online for the following territories:
The electronic visas can be applied for from anywhere in the world — all that’s required is a working internet connection, a valid passport, and a current email address. No need to visit an embassy or obtain an invitation letter for Russia.
Unfortunately, UK nationals cannot apply for eVisas at the moment. That’s why the recent announcement from the Russian embassy in the UK may have historical implications for the relationship between the two countries.
Will Russia Grant Visa-Free Status to British Citizens?
The Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United Kingdom Andrei Kelin recently spoke to the press about the current visa situation between the two nations and the chance of opening more visa possibilities for UK citizens in the future:
“Visa facilitation is a good idea, but we can act only on the basis of reciprocity. If readiness is shown [by the UK], we will have a great interest in starting dialogue on visa facilitation for all the categories of citizens. This is a subject that we are yet to come close to in the relations with the UK.”
Russia already has a visa facilitation agreement in place with the European Union. The objective is to reach visa-free travel for diplomats and great visa facilitation for several categories like students, scientists, and journalists.
Kalin commented: “This agreement has nearly been transformed into an agreement on further travel facilitation, which we have given our consent for. As this EU’s basis exists, we have quite easily allowed almost all the EU member states to use online visas for traveling to Kaliningrad and the Far East.”
Should the UK be open to dialogue, British passport holders may be able to apply for eVisas soon or even travel to Russia without having to obtain a permit.Apply for Russian E-visa