A "visa-free" regime will be introduced for visitors from all nations for the duration of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Russia

Russia's most striking border crossing—the Friendship Bridge between the castles of Narva and Ivangorod
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Citizens of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Argentina (90 days), Bosnia and Herzegovina (90 days), Brazil (90 days), Chile (90 days), Colombia (90 days), Croatia (3 months, invitation required), Cuba (30 days), Ecuador (90 days), Fiji (90 days), Guatemala (90 days), Hong Kong (14 days), Israel (90 days), Macau (30 days), Macedonia (90 days), Montenegro (90 days), Nicaragua (90 days), Peru (90 days), Serbia (30 days, only biometric passports), South Korea (60 days), Thailand (30 days), Turkey (30 days), Uruguay (90 days), Venezuela (90 days) all do not need a visa. Everyone else does.

Transit through a few airports, including Moscow Sheremetyevo , Moscow Domodedovo, Moscow Vnukovo or Yekaterinburg Koltsovo airports, does not require a transit visa, provided the traveller has a confirmed onward flight, remains in the airport for no more than 24 hours. Flights to and from Belarus are considered domestic, therefore visa-free transit is not available. Transit to and from Kazakhstan (which is in customs union with Russia) is visa-free only through Moscow Vnukovo airport. Passing through St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport requires a transit (or other) visa. Visas can, in some cases, be obtained from consular officers at the airports.

For those unfortunates that require a visa, the complexity of the process depends on the class of visa. Thirty day tourist visas are fairly straightforward to acquire; 90 day (and more) business visas, less so. It is best to start the application process well in advance. While expedited processing is available to those who need visas quickly, it can double the application cost.

Arranging a visa basically involves two steps:

  1. Getting an invitation and
  2. Applying for the visa.

You may arrive at any time on or after the start date of your visa's validity and may depart at any time on or before its expiry date. Normally, an exit visa is included in transit, private visit/homestay, tourist, and business visas so long as the visa is still valid. Other classes, such as student visas, still require a separate exit visa that can take up to three weeks to process.

Exit and reentry during the validity period of your visa requires permits. Getting these permits is a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare that is best avoided entirely by getting a double- or multiple-entry visa in the first place.

If you're in Russia and have lost your passport, your sponsor, not your embassy, must apply to the Federal Migration Service to transfer your visa to your replacement passport. Having a copy of your old visa helps with this, but is not sufficient to let you depart.

Note: New rules for visas have recently been instituted for US citizens per a visa facilitation agreement which entered into force on 9 September 2012. 

Procedures for U.S. Citizens

A visa facilitation agreement that entered into force on 9 September 2012 has changed the requirements for US citizens to obtain Russian visas (and, for that matter, vice-versa), which changes several of the aspects of the procedure. The main points are:

  • U.S. Citizens no longer need formal, approved invitations or vouchers for business, tourist, or private/homestay visas, but they will need a letter of sponsorship from their inviting agency (hotel or business contact person). Additional information may be required by the consulate.
  • Visas may now permit a maximum stay of six months (rather than 90 days) and may now be valid for multiple entries over up to three years.
  • Visa fees are now set at $140 for single-entry, $150 for double-entry, and $160 for multiple-entry visas. Express processing is a uniform $250 (3 business days).

Other aspects of the regimen were accordingly changed; due to this, it's wise to contact the nearest Russian consular agency for further information.