3 year visa to Russia

I have a 3 year visa to Russia. Can I stay in Russia for 3 years?

Congratulations! You are a US passport holder. Luckily for you, Russia and the USA have a simplified visa agreement which grants US citizens 3-year, multiple-entry visas to Russia. This includes the tourist visa, private visa, business visa and humanitarian visa. Currently, there are no other countries that have a similar agreement. Other passport holders are limited to short-term stays of up to 90 days continuously unless they enter with a work or study visa.

There are other long-term visas such as 1, 3 and 5-year business visas but they are restricted by the 90/180 rule. This means that an EU passport holder with a 3-year, multiple-entry business visa can stay in Russia for a maximum 90 days out of every 180-day period. This is no ideal solution for continuous long-term stay in Russia. Yes, this type of visa is available to many passport holders holders including those from the United States. But I don’t recommend this type of visa for US citizens. 

The good news is that US citizens with a 3-year visa are not subject to this 90/180-day rule! When a US citizen has received a 3-year visa to Russia based on a simplified visa agreement between Russia and the USA made in 2012, that person is allowed to stay in Russia for up to SIX consecutive months. The best part is that upon leaving Russia this visa allows you to re-enter Russia right away! Yes, essentially, a US citizen can live in Russia for up to 3 years with a 3-year Russian visa and the only requirement would be to cross the Russian border every 6 months and then go back. There is no minimum time limit to spend outside Russia before re-entering again. 

How soon can you go to Russia again? Well, as soon as physically possible if necessary. I usually recommend taking a trip for a couple days to a neighboring country like Finland, Estonia, Ukraine if you’re keen on train travel. You can reach a multitude of destinations in Western or Eastern Europe within a couple hours of a plane ride. However, often times we procrastinate and don’t plan ahead and there’s a need to return to Russia as soon as possible for work or personal reasons. In this case, you can cross the nearest border and go back. You can even leave Russia, turn your car around in the neutral area before entering Estonia and enter Russia right away. Believe me. I’ve done it myself, more than once. 

So, if you have a US passport and it’s quite possible you’ll be spending time in Russia, get a visa for 3 years and travel Russia as you please. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up staying in Russia longer than you first imagined. That’s the effect that Russia has already had on many visitors to Russia, even those who don’t speak any Russian. Some have even come to call Russia their home. Going to Russia is the only way to find out why.

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