Russia is a fascinating place with a rich history and culture. The largest country in the world by land mass, it has a population of roughly 144 million people (81% of which belong to the Russian ethnic group). The capital city of Moscow is the largest city with a population of 11.5 million, but Russia has no less than 15 cities with populations of over one million.
Art, theatre, literature, dance, and architecture are all important elements of the Russian culture (to say nothing of ice hockey!), and its influence in these areas on the world stage is substantial.
There is plenty to see, do, and eat in Russia. You just need to get there and get a work visa so that you can work legally.
Applying for a Visa
Many Russian Embassies and Consulates no longer accept visa applications directly. All applications must be submitted via Invisa Logistics Services Ltd. in Canada (offices in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal) and the United States (offices in Washington, New York City, San Francisco, Houston, and Seattle), for example. All applications in Australia must be submitted via the online portal for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whereas British nationals must apply via M/S VF Services (UK) Ltd. in London or Edinburgh.
There is a great deal of variety in the methods and processes depending on where you apply, and whether you are a citizen of that country. It’s best to locate the Embassy closest to you via the Russian Federation Consulate Locator and check out their specific requirements.
- Russian Federation Embassy (Australia)
- Russian Federation Embassy (Canada)
- Russian Federation Embassy (United Kingdom)
- Russian Federation Embassy (United States)
The basic documents include your completed application (submitted via the appropriate channel), passport with a minimum six-months validity, one passport photo to Russian visa specifications, and an original letter of invitation from your Russian host or employment organization issued by the Federal Migration Service (or its local office). You will likely be required to take and submit the results of an HIV test, and submit a copy of your itinerary or work plans, as well.
Depending on where you apply, and via which method, expect to pay between $75-160 for a single-entry visa, with an additional $30-35 service fee if you have to go through a third-party vendor.
Finally, be aware that you are required by law to register with the Federal Migration Service Office (FMS) in the area where you will be living within seven days of your arrival. Your hotel or accommodation provider should help you with this.
Types of Visas
In regards to a professional visit, there are two basic visa types:
- Business Visa - These visas do NOT give you permission to work or be employed in Russia, and while they may be valid for either three, six, or twelve months, they only allow you to be physically present in the country for 90 days each six months. If you’re planning on being in Russia for more than three months, you need to obtain a work visa.
- Work Visa - Allows you to legally work in Russia. They are typically issued for a single-entry and with a validity of 90 days, although it is possible to get multiple entry visas good for up to three years, depending on the specifics of your background and details in your letter of invitation. A work visa is issued for one and only one employer-employee relationship. If you change employers while living in Russia, you will need to apply for a new work visa.
Despite the confusion caused by the varying methods to obtain it, a Russian work visa is not overly difficult to get (once you’ve determined how to go about doing it) if you’re considered a highly qualified specialist. And if you can handle the bitterly cold winters, you’ll likely find it a worthwhile place to live and work. Get out of the big cities and see the country (there’s a lot of it).