I need some clarification and advice on obtaining a Russian Tourist Visa as a US Citizen, in the US.

I know there is a lot of information on this, but because there are so many sources of varying quality, from various dates, it's a bit confusing as to what I should be doing and what is needed. For one, I do not live near any of the main consulates in the US, and apparently everyone "has to" (according to the San Francisco consulate) apply via ILS.

ILS sounds great, but I'd have to use their mail service, which seems to be:

  • Fill out the application form yourself at https://visa.kdmid.ru
  • Mail us your passport and application etc
  • We'll mail you your visa and passport

Yet, this seems contrary to their mission of claiming to make it easy for you. How is this different from dealing with a consulate directly? Doesn't this also cost more?

Should I be (must I?) use ILS to apply? Has anyone used their mail service before? Is there really no other way than to mail? There's no fully-online method? They even make you pay with a money-order/cashier's check.

Also, there are a number of sites that offer Visa Support Letters for some fee. Does anyone have a recommendation for any of these? Many of them seem a bit sketchy. The invitation host is responsible, in part, for you, after all.

If I get a support letter from one of these services, does it matter where I stay? (I plan to stay in a hostel)

Edit: Forgot to ask the following (in regards to visa support): Consulates now "recommend" US citizens get the full 3-year, multi-entry visa. This sounds good to me, but I've noticed that Visa Support sites seem to only provide single and double-entry support letters.

Can I choose either of these, put a 3-year span on the dates, then tell ILS I want the 3-year multi-entry Visa?

  • 5
    There is no fully online method because the visa has to be placed inyour passport. That's the reason for the requirement to send your passport to the processing center.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 3:06
  • 1
    In the era when I needed visas for Russia I used one of their "registered agents" who handled the invitation and everything else. It was not very expensive, but you had to go to the agent's "shop" in Bayswater. There would be something similar in the USA.
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 3:23
  • Sending something by mail easier than travelling yourself to the consulate, that's how they make it easy for you.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 19:46

1 Answer 1

  1. Your hostel can give you the invitation letter. Sometimes they ask for a small fee, but usually it's free. Once there, they will handle reporting to the police for you as well but make sure this happens. You must report to the police.

  2. You must use ILS.

  3. Yes the cashier's check is shady as ... but, that's Russia for you.

  • +1, great answer. Would you be willing to add a comment to the OP's question if you want to stay someplace other than the establishment that sent the invitation letter?
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 3:46
  • That I have no idea how to do, sorry. I know you can but I do not know how.
    – user4188
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 4:40
  • Thanks for this answer. Many sources here and there seem to indicate that it doesn't really matter who gave you the invitation, hence why there are so many services to do this. But I'd still like to hear from someone directly. Related: can hostels provide Visa registration, or is that usually only hotels?
    – turc
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 6:04
  • 2
    @GayotFow if you want to stay someplace other than the establishment that sent the invitation letter - That's not a problem (as you can change your planes where to stay on your way), but in this case your "new host" must to register your stay with the "migration police". There is also option to "buy" this services online (when basically some Russian citizens or companies register you in their place and send you back confirmation). Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 10:01
  • @ViacheslavBakshaev Yes, I'm aware of that (Russian). The point being that the answer could be improved by adding the info since it was part of the OP's question. It was my suggestion to 'chx'.
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 14:17

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