behind the headlines

Russian Visa, Schengen Visa, Italian actions on Lampedusa influx: What a joke!

Saturday, May 21, 2011 · Category Eastern Europe · comments 2


Recently French President and parliament cried out over Berlusconi's decision to grant 3-month permits to all arriving refugees from Tunesia. Getting a Schengen visa for a Russian friend is a small nightmare of red tape. Getting a Russian visa to visit the country yourself is another tightened effort. Yet at the same time the 2010 "local visa-free zone" between Helsinki and Saint-Petersburg has send Finland to be the biggest issuer of Schengen visa in Europe. What a joke, if you ask me.

Getting a Russian visa

Travelling to Russia requires a visa. Russia visa come in different tastes. You can get yourself a tourist visa, a private visa or a business visa. For a private visa (so called "izveschenie') with introduction from a friend be aware for a tough ride. You need to go to the Local department of Passport and Visa Service (PVU) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia - PVU, OVIR, etc. Allow 4-6 weeks for approval and get the original invitation to apply to the Russian Consulate/Embassy. Imagine! A tourist visa costs up to EUR 100,00 including letter of invitation. If you don't buy it and ask your hotel were you booked for the invitation letter, you may get it for free although the usual fee is around EUR 30 to EUR 35.

If you want to apply for the Russian Visa yourself, here are some handy documents you will be needing:

  • coverletter (Word Document)
  • Visa application form US-citizen
  • Visa application form non US-Citizen

Russian Business Visa?

Better check with a certified Visa company because you need to do a lot of extra's and it is very time consuming and costly. A business visa with multiple entries is a drain on your wallet ranging from EUR 300,00 upwards. So the best way is to get yourself a tourist, yet to get restrictions have tightened.

Some new regulations to take into account

  • Foreign citizens can obtain Russian visas ONLY in the country of his or her citizenship. Exceptions include those who have a residence permit for a foreign country for the period more than 90 days.
  • A Russian visa may also be issued in a country other than an applicant's own in case of urgent necessity, such as participating in international, governmental, official, scientific, sport and cultural events. A final decision in these cases would be left up to the consulate.
  • A multiple entry Russian business visa allows nationals of all countries to stay in Russia up to 90 days out of the period of 180 days.
  • For Russian business visas only, if you plan to stay in Russia for more than 3 months a HIV test is required (please contact the nearest Russian Consulate or Embassy or review its web site for further information)
  • If you want to visit only Saint-Petersburg remember that you are going to pay double the normal price, like you will pay double prices for all museums and tourist attractions.

What you need as a EU citizen?

  • A flight to Moscow with connecting flight to your destination (All flights go to Moscow first with the exception of Saint Petersburg)
  • A completely filled "Visa application form" includign a recent passport photo with white background
  • An invitation letter from a hotel (Easy to obtain even without a hotel booking. Basically you have to buy it)
  • Proof that you are insured and your insurance company is ready to repatriate you in case of any medical emergency
  • A valid passport with at least 6 months before experation

Recently the insurance regulation has been changed and tightened. Up to 2010 one could get along with a copy of a standard issued form from your insurance company. Nowadays you need an Insurance certificate (or travel insurance) stating "health coverage in the Russian Federation". Insured Name and validity insurance should also be mentioned!

What do you need to get a Schengen visa for a Russian friend?

  • A flight from Moscow to any Schengen country
  • A personal letter of invitation
  • Copies of the last 3 months from your salary slip
  • A filled in "visa application form"

This information should than be send by the Russian citizen to the visiting Schengen countries Embassy including a statement from the Russian employer, proof of enough money in the bank (or cash upon arrival) which is also stricly calculated down to average day spending needs.Oh and don't forget; if your friend happens to be a single or divorced woman, she also needs approval of her parents. Can you imagine? And than I have not even started to talk about getting a girlfriend over to Europe for a long period because maybe you want to live together or you married. Than you are in a real tough ride. Although there are ways to by-pass the hassle and get your girlfriend or wife a paper job with an income of EUR 43.000 or more! If you are interested, please contact us for more information.

Now let's take a look at the controversies

Russia's PM Vladimir Putin is stressing the importance of more local-visa-free zones, since the EU as a whole has so far declined any ideas of opening up it's borders for Russians. Since last year 2010, the following local free-visa zones have been in effect:

  • Russia and Norway agreed to establish a local border traffic regime, which includes visa-free travelling for local inhabitants.
  • Russia is also negotiating with Poland about the introduction of a similar zone in Kaliningrad.
  • Talks are on the way between Sweden and Russia to open a similar visa-free zone for ferries from Stockholm to Russia.
  • Since december 2010 the visa-free regime currently available for ferry passengers in Saint Petersburg is also applied to air and train passengers. The latter being important since the december opening if the new Allegro high-speed train connection between Helsinki and Saint-Petersburg. Russians can also isit Helsinki for 72 hours without a visa.

What does it mean?

We all but forget that both Norway, Finland and Poland are EU members and have the right to issue Schengen visa. Finland is now the country which is issuing the biggest number of Schengen visas to Russians. This year, more than one million Schengen visas are expected to be issued by the Finnish consular units in Russia. And it's quit easy and cheap. Finnisch Schengen visa cost approxamitaly EUR 35,00 and are valid for a year.

Are you still going to even try to get your Russian friend to the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Germany or France? You would be crazy. Getting here is easy and cheap too. If you consider that Ryanair is now flying from Milan, Brussels Charleroi and Germanies Weeze airport to Lappeenranta, Finland for as little as EUR 45,00 return ticket, we may as well conclude that the Schengen VISA restrictions are as much a joke as Sarkozy's anger over Berlusconi 3-month permit for Tunesians, whom as we all know speak only French.

Concluding: It seems to me that if you aren't going to move towards Russia's wish for visa-free travel as the EU, you are just going to have a tougher way of getting that Russian VISA. So if you ain't Finnish, Danish, Norwegian or Swedish, you just have to accept tougher rules.

On the other hand; if you take a good look at the holes in the maze, there are ever more options and possibilities of getting what you need and politicians in the EU seem to only shout loud words and focus on their own domestic issues in stead of a wider EU ruling.


1. by Nilesh Solanki about 6 years

I am trying to get a schengen visa for a Russian friend. She tells me the travel agent she uses charges 450 US Dollars for 7 to 14 days and takes 2 weeks to process. Is that excessive charge for the visa. She lives about 300 miles south of Moscow. Can you tell me if there is a cheap way out of this mess.

2. by Shailen about 6 years

I am from India, presently on training in china on business visa. Want to join international clothing fair at Russia in Feb 14.
My question is can I get a Russian visa from Indian embassy in china or i need to go to India to get it.
And if Indian embassy in china can give me this Russian visa then can I return to China with same visa and keep continue my working as before.

Please advice.


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