Dodging Unnecessary Costs of a Russian Visa

A visa to Russia is not like a product on a shelf at a supermarket. You cannot just walk in the store, grab it and expect to pay the price on the tag. Even if you could grab it off the shelf, the final price would vary based on numerous factors once you get to the cashier. She would ask you for your citizenship and add the corresponding tax. Another fee would be added based on the type of Russian visa you’d like to get. And, yet another fee would be assessed according to the urgency of your case, although this fee can be understood. All in all, you realize that the cost of a visa to Russia requires gathering additional information.

There is good news, however! In spite of the current political tide between the United States and Russia, the process of getting a visa to Russia for Americans is easier than ever before. A US citizen is requested to provide fewer documents to be granted a Russian visa compared to citizens of other countries who need a visa like citizens of the EU. Not only that, anyone in the USA, including non-US citizens, can apply for a visa to Russia by mail, even from the comfort of your own home. There’s absolutely no need to seek out a Russian consulate, wait in line, get frustrated about vague instructions and maybe have the patience to finish the job! Read more about that here.

For US citizens, the minimum cost for a visa to Russia is $123 and can reach as high as $900 with all the agent fees or even more! The biggest factor in significant price increases is due to urgency. We’ve seen plenty of visa applicants put off the visa process and, in the end, have overpaid to get their visas on time. With a little planning, you can cut your costs dramatically and not to mention the headache and stress you’ll put yourself through because of the time crunch. Without further ado, here are some ways you can dodge some steep fees when applying for a visa to Russia. To avoid any exuberant expediting fees, I recommend sending in your documents for a visa to Russia no less than one month before you leave on your trip. Ideally though, start 90 days in advance. Regular processing time for a Russian visa is just 6-10 business days at the Russian consulate. This does not include mailing time to and from nor does it include any corrections you’ll need to make to your visa application should you decide to save money and try to go through the process yourself.

$123 is what the Russian consulate charges including the visa center processing fee for a single entry tourist visa for up to 30 days. You can spend several hours going through the process yourself and to avoid a mail-in fee, you will have to apply for the visa in person at a visa center (ILS). Keep in mind you’ll have to make a trip to the visa center to submit your documents and a second trip to pick your passport up when the visa is ready. Some visa centers, like San Francisco, charge an additional fee to send your documents to Washington D.C. because the Russian consulate in San Francisco has closed.

Take a look at the table below that compares the fees for regular processing versus expedited processing for different types of tourist visas. These fees are the Russian consulate fees and do NOT include any agency fees. Notice that a double entry tourist visa valid for only 30 days costs MORE to process quicker than regular processing of a multiple entry tourist visa valid for a whole 3 years.

If you’re going through an agency to process your visa, you’ll spend $100 to $150 on the service fee for regular processing versus $200 to $400 on expedited 3-4 day processing.

Don’t forget the visa invitation! If you need the visa invitation right away, some companies charge as much as $50 just for 1 hour processing. By the way, you should never spend more than $20 for the tourist visa invitation (aka travel voucher or visa support).

And one more thing, you’ll need overnight mail if you’re in a hurry. You’ll spend $27 to $50 on FedEx overnight mail vs FedEx 3 day service that runs $7.65 to $9.90 for envelopes.

The difference adds up quickly. So, for planning ahead you would spend around $245 total ($123 consulate fee, $99 complete visa submission, $15 visa invitation, $9 mailing) through Let’s Russia for a 30-day, single-entry tourist visa. Our regular service takes 10-15 business days. However, if you fail to plan ahead and wait until the last minute, that same visa could cost you well over double at $612 ($213 consulate fee, $299 expedited service, $50 rush visa invitation, $50 overnight FedEx).

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