A Guide on the Order of Obtaining Russian Invitations and Visas for Foreign Citizens to Enter Russia
1. Categories of foreign citizens permitted to visit Russia without a visa
In accordance with migration legislation of the Russian Federation, entry into the territory of Russia by a foreign citizen requires a valid visa. However this rule does not apply to all foreign citizens. Foreigners who are permitted to enter the country without a visa can be divided into the following categories:
1) Citizens of the CIS
Citizens from countries comprising the CIS have the right to remain on the territory of the Russian Federation for personal reasons for a period of 90 (ninety) days. In case of employment in Russia, the period of stay can be extended to equal the period of validity of the Russian work permit, up to three years. Upon granting of an extension to a work permit, the foreign citizen is then obligated to exit Russia and re-enter in order to get a new migration card.
2) Foreign citizens from countries having an agreement with Russia regarding a non-visa regime and who are thereby entitled to visit Russia for a period up to one month in duration.
For example, citizens of Turkey, Israel, Serbia and others have the right to enter Russia for any reason other than employment for a period of 30 (thirty) days.
3) Foreigners having temporary residence in the Russian Federation
Russia has agreements with certain countries regarding a visa-free regime for entry and departure from the territory of Russia for temporary residents within the temporary residence validity in Russia. Countries having such an agreement are, for example, Italy, Germany and others.
However, citizens of other countries, for example, France, having temporary residency status in the Russian Federation are required to have a visa of temporary residents in Russia for the period of their temporary residency status, that is to say, for a period up to three years.
4) Those having permanent residency status in the Russian Federation
Those within this category are exempt from acquiring a visa for visiting Russia for the entire period of their permanent residency status, up to a period of five years.
2. Basic types of invitations and visas for enter Russia
If foreign citizens are not included into one of the above mentioned categories, then entry into Russia is granted only with a valid visa. The basis of visa’s issuing is an invitation on behalf of hosting party. Invitation is issued by the Federal Migration Service (FMS) of Russia either via its territorial authority or by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
In certain instances, the basis for the issuing of a visa to a foreign citizen to visit Russia can be the decision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation or the head of the diplomatic representative office or consular institution of the Russian Federation.
Types of invitations for the receipt of visas:
1) invitation letter issued by the FMS on the state blank on the basis of request of a private person or a legal entity
2) invitation issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia in the virtual form (received via telex) without requiring its obtaining on a state blank
3) invitation letter issued on the letterhead of the inviting company for foreign citizens – citizens of the EU (except in specific cases)
4) tourist travel vouchers made by tourist organizations that have been accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
5) a decision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation upon a request (verbal note) of:
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of a foreign state,
- diplomatic representative office or consular institution of a foreign state;
- representative of an international organization accredited in the Russian Federation
Types of visas for entry to the Russian Federation that correspond with mentioned types of invitations:
5)Service or diplomatic
Thus, the organization inviting a foreign citizen can obtain an invitation in the form of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) blank or in the form of virtual electronic invitation (telex), as well as on the official company letterhead.
For each of the above described options with regards to invitations, certain conditions must be observed:
- for obtaining an invitation letter in the form of the Federal Migration Service blank either the company or organization will then be accredited in the FMS for a period of twelve months. Such accreditation is subject to annual renewal. Upon the initial request of either the company or organization for accreditation to the FMS, the registration card confirming the entry of company or organization’s data in the state authority’s database is issued simultaneously with the first requested invitation for entry in Russia of a foreign citizen with work, business, private, academic or humanitarian purposes.
Branches or Representative Offices of foreign legal entities can apply for invitations (upon the existence of extended accreditation within the FMS) to other federal authoritative bodies at which the Representative or Branch office has been accredited. As an example, a Representative office can be serviced by the authoritative body “State Registration Chamber with the Ministry of Justice” (hereinafter – the State Registration Chamber or SRC) or with the Chamber of Commerce of the Russian Federation (Hereinafter – the Chamber of Commerce). A Branch office can only be serviced by the State Registration Chamber. Herewith an invitation letter blank is issued by the Federal Migration Service (FMS).
- for issuing of an invitation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in virtual form for entry of a foreign citizen on a business visa without receiving an invitation letter blank of the FMS, the hosting party must be accredited at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a rule, such a state body services only non-profit, social and governmental organizations.
- invitation on the company letterhead without issuing an invitation letter blank of the FMS can be received for entry on a business visa for citizens of the European Union (except in specific cases) and in accordance with the Agreement between the Russian Federation and the European Union on visa facilitation for citizens of the Russian Federation and European Union dated on the 25th May 2006 (hereinafter – The Agreement between the RF and EU). The requirements for the completion of the invitation letter blank on behalf of the company are outlined within the aforementioned agreement.
Private individuals, either citizens of the Russian Federation or foreigners having permanent residency status in Russia can arrange an invitation at the territorial department of the FMS by place of registration for entry of a foreign guest on ordinary private visa. Besides that, such type of visa can be issued in connection with the necessity of urgent medical treatment or for reasons of a serious illness or death of a close relative. An ordinary private visa can be either a single entry or multi-entry giving the foreign citizen the right to enter and exit from the territory of the Russian Federation one or two times.
3. Features of business visas to the Russian Federation
Foreign citizens who are not planning their employment in Russia, but who enter Russia on a Business Trip, the inviting company arranges the invitation for entry of the foreign citizen on either a single or double-entry for period up to 3 months or multi-entry visa for period up to one year. The continuous presence of a foreigner in Russia on the basis of a multi-entry business visa with a period of validity lasting from 6 to 12 months cannot exceed a stay longer than 90 days out of every 180 days.
A foreign citizen is provided with an invitation for entry on a business visa by the following organizations:
- or by a Russian Company, institution, Branch of Representative Office of a foreign organization which has been accredited by the FMS;
- or by a Company, organization - on company letterhead - for citizens of the EU (with certain exceptions);
- or by a Branch or Representative Offices of foreign companies including non-profit - in the State Registration Chamber in the presence of appropriate accreditation of the company. Before obtaining an invitation the inviting company requests a service visa card of the foreign citizen (for a foreign guest of a Branch Office) or a card of personal accreditation (for a guest of a Representative Office);
- or by a Representative Office of a foreign legal entity - in the Chamber of Commerce in the presence of permission to open a Representative Office in the Russian Federation. Before obtaining an invitation of the inviting company there is a request for personal accreditation of employees (service card).
- or by a Non-Commercial, social, governmental organizations registered - in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the presence of appropriate accreditation – on the basis of decision of either the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or in exceptional circumstances, by the decision of the head of the diplomatic representative office or consular institution of the Russian Federation.
In accordance with the list “Reasons of Travel” in the annex to the joint order of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, the Ministry of the Interior and the Federal Security Service of Russia dated on the 27th of December 2003 ¹ 19723F/1048/922 (hereinafter – the list “Reasons for travel”), for obtaining of a business visa to enter Russia, the following purpose or reason for travel are specified in the invitation letter issued by the Federal Migration Service.
à)Business– visiting state and commercial enterprises to participate in negotiations of a fundamental nature (to participate in meetings, consultations, conferences, symposiums and/or congresses) on issues related to economics and trade, as well as for training or retraining, visiting Russian joint organizations, representative offices of foreign business, financial, banking and other institutions thus accredited by the relevant Russian ministries and governmental authoritative bodies.
b) Commercial– for visiting business commercial organizations in addressing particular business issues (to carry out commercial negotiations, to conclude contracts or their extension, to provide business services), as well as for participating in auctions, exhibitions and other special events having a business commercial nature.
c) Technicalmaintenance- for entry in Russia of foreign citizens who are employees of foreign legal entities (manufactures or suppliers) who perform installation (supervision of installation) work, service and warranty repair as well as post-warranty repair of technical equipment supplied to the Russian Federation (in accordance with subparagraph 4 paragraph 4 article 13 of the “Law on the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens”).
d)Driver– for arrival of a foreign citizen as a professionally licensed driver of motorized transport engaged in the regular transport of passengers and cargo carriage.
e) CrewMember– for arrival of a foreign citizen as a member of a flight crew of either regularly scheduled or chartered flight, train staff and crew members of a ship.
f) Negotiations– for the purpose of carrying out negotiations with the executive, judicial or legislature state authorities. In this case a business visa can be issued to a foreign citizen for a period up to three months.
g) Acceptor– to travel to the Russian Federation under the contracts for the purchase, sale or acceptance of delivery of equipment, raw products and materials. Such business visa can be issued for a period up to three months.
h) Medicaltreatment– visiting with the intent of receiving medical treatment, testing or medical consultations by an invitation of the medical institution (except targeted tourism with purpose of medical treatment) and emergency treatment. A business visa can be issued for a period up to three months.
i) Adoption– arriving in the Russian Federation with the objective of adopting children, a foreign citizen can be issued a business visa valid for a period up to three months.
j) Lecturer– to visit with the purpose of lecturing in institutions of higher education, specialized secondary educational and vocational institutions, a business visa is issued to the lecturer for a period valid for 3 months.
Objective of a foreign citizen’s entry by a business visa to the RF with obtaining an invitation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation:
k) businesstravelofmediaoutlets– to visit in the position of a temporary correspondent or technical assistant of a foreign representative media outlet accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (for negotiations, replacement of permanent employees and covering and broadcast of special events).
l) press/corr. – for a foreign citizen to visit Russia in the position of a temporary correspondent of a media outlet not accredited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to cover and broadcast special events.
m) press/tech – for a foreign citizen to visit in the position of a temporary technical employee of a foreign representative media organization not accredited by the Ministry of foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation for the provision of technical assistance in the covering and broadcast of special events.
Accompanying family members of a foreign citizen who are as well considered foreign citizens can be issued an invitation for entry to the Russian Federation on a business visa with purpose as “accompanying family members” for a term equal to the term of the family head visa’s validity.
4. Invitations of foreign citizens with diplomatic and official objectives
In accordance with article 25.4 è 25.5of the Federal law dated on 15.08.1996 ¹114-FZ "On Order for Departure from and Entry to the Russian Federation” (hereinafter – Law on Order for departure from and entry to the RF), foreign citizens holding either diplomatic or official status can travel to the Russian Federation on a diplomatic or service visa for a period up to three months with exceptions in special cases. These types of visas are issued to foreigners on the basis of a decision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the RF upon the presence of a request (verbal note) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, diplomatic representative office or consular institution of foreign state or of a representative office of an international organization in the Russian Federation.
As a rule, for entry onto the territory of the RF with either a diplomatic or service type of visa, foreign citizens must hold accordingly either a diplomatic or official passport.
In accordance with article 11 of the Agreement between the RF and the EU, citizens of the European Union (except in special cases) have the right to enter Russia just with a valid diplomatic passport for a period lasting not longer than 90 days within 180 day period; and travel in the country as well as departure from the Russian Federation without a visa.
Diplomatic visa is issued to the following foreign citizens having diplomatic status:
1) Foreign heads of states, heads of foreign governments, members of international delegations and their family members and other persons accompanying the mentioned foreign citizens with diplomatic status;
2) Diplomatic agents of diplomatic representative offices, consular officials of consular institutions, employees of representative offices of international organizations in Russia, who are recognized by the Russian Federation as having diplomatic status, as well as their family members;
3) Foreign diplomatic and consular couriers while on business travel.
Service visa is issued to the following foreign citizens having official status:
1) Members of official foreign delegations, their accompanying family members and other accompanying persons;
2) Administrative-technical and service personnel of diplomatic representative offices, consular officials and service personnel of consular institutions of foreign states in the RF or representative offices of international organization, as well as family members of mentioned persons;
3) Military servants of foreign states’ military establishment and their family members.
The purposes of foreign citizens’ entry Russia can be found in the above mentioned list “Purposes for Travel” (see section 3 of this guide).
5. How to obtain a work visa for a foreign citizen who is not considered a Highly-Qualified Specialist
Invitations of foreign citizens for employment in the Russian Federation by Russian legal entities via the FMS occur in several stages:
I. The employer must first receive the permission for the recruitment and hiring of foreign workers in the FMS and obtain an appropriate work permit for the foreign citizen. In presence of the approval stamp of the FMS about the acceptance of documents for obtaining work permit on the corresponding application form, the inviting company can apply to the FMS for obtaining an invitation letter for entry of a foreign citizen on a single-entry work visa valid for three months.
II. The employer should make initial accreditation of the company in the FMS either for a period up to one year or to extend the accreditation in case of its expiration. The result of accreditation of the company is the issuing the registration cards to the company by the state authority. During the initial accreditation a simultaneousrequest of a first invitation for entry of a foreign citizen to Russia on a visa is made; in such a scenario an invitation letter for single-entry work visa valid for 3 months is requested.
III. Upon receiving an invitation letter in the FMS, the employer forwards it to the prospective employee (foreign citizen) to the country of his/her citizenship or to a third country where the foreign citizen is currently employed for approval of either a work permit or permanent residency permit. There the foreign citizen applies to the Russian consulate for a single-entry work visa valid for 3 months.
IV. After foreigner’s entering the territory of Russia on the basis of a single-entry work visa and upon receiving the appropriate work permit, this work visa is re-issued from a single-entry to multi-entry work visa valid for the same period as the work permit.
Later, and upon obtaining the appropriate work permits for a subsequent period of employment, the employer applies to the FMS for an extension of foreigner’s existing multi-entry visa without the foreign citizen departing from Russia not later than the final day of the current work visa validity.
An invitation for a foreign citizen by either a Representative office or Branch office of a foreign company for employment in the Russian Federation can be realized by one of the following variants:
à) via the FMS – in the aforementioned scenario;
á) via the State Registration Chamber or the Chamber of Commerce – in the following order:
I. Obtaining Permission for opening a Representative Office of a foreign company in the State Registration Chamber or the Chamber of Commerce, or the accreditation of a Branch office in the State Registration Chamber for a period up to 3 years.
II. Obtaining personal accreditation cards for employees of the Representative Office in the Sate Registration Chamber (or service cards for employees – in the Chamber of Commerce) or cards of visa service for employees of Branch offices for a period up to three years. The State Registration Chamber or the Chamber of Commerce cannot issue more than five of such personal cards in the period for which the company has been granted accreditation on the territory of the Russian Federation.
III. Obtaining an invitation for entry on a single-entry work visa valid for 3 months, the foreigner makes the request to the Russian consulate in the appropriate country for the visa.
IV. Upon entry of the foreign citizen, the single-entry visa is revalidated into multi-entry visa valid up to one year, but not longer than the period of accreditation of the Representative office in the State Registration Chamber/Chamber of Commerce or the Branch Office – in the State Registration Chamber.
One of the particular features of obtaining a work visa via in the State Registration Chamber of the Chamber of Commerce is that obtaining of such a visa does not require the presence of foreign employee’s permission documents for work in Russia. However, a foreign citizen work visa’s obtaining in advance does not exempt the employer from its obligation to obtain the required permission for the recruitment and hiring of foreign citizens and personal work permit for the employee. Accordingly, a foreign citizen can stay on the territory of the Russian Federation with a work visa obtained in the State Registration Chamber or Chamber of Commerce but at the same time does not have the right to be employed in the absence of a work permit. Moreover, if a foreigner has a work visa, but does not have the appropriate permission documents for work, the reason for his/her presence on the territory of Russia is untrue and can be considered grounds for the annulment of the visa.
6. How a Highly-Qualified Specialist can enter Russia for the purpose of employment
Foreign Citizens can be invited to Russia as Highly-Qualified Specialists (hereinafter – HQS) with the appropriate level of qualifications and if the level of compensation is set at more than 2 million rubles annually (for scientists and teachers the level of compensation is not less than one million roubles; for participants in the Skolkovo project there are no set requirements to the level of compensation).
In accordance with article 13.2 of the Federal law ¹115-FZ from 25.07.2002 “On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens in the Russian Federation” (hereinafter - The Legal Status of Foreign Citizens), those permitted to recruit HQS for employment are:
- Russian commercial organizations;
- Russian scientific organizations, institutions of vocational education (except for institutions of religious or spiritual vocational education), healthcare institutions;
- other organizations who are engaged in scientific, scientific-technical and innovative activity, experimental development, testing, personnel training in accordance with federally mandated priorities for the development of science, technology and engineering of the Russian Federation in the instances that have been provided by legislation of the Russian Federation if state accreditation is available;
- Branch offices of foreign legal entities accredited in accordance with procedures established on the territory of the Russian Federation.
There are two ways to invite an HQS to Russia:
I. Obtaininganinvitationon company letterhead for entry of a foreign citizen on a single-entry business visa valid for 30 calendar days
If information regarding the foreign citizen as a Highly-Qualified Specialist is available on the official website of the FMS, that is to say the foreigner claimed him or herself as an HQS either at the FMS Department of his country of nationality or at the diplomatic representative office or consular institution of the RF, the potential employer (the customer) can send him a written invitation to Russia for negotiations. On the basis of this invitation-letter the foreigner is handed a single one-month business visa. Upon arrival of the foreign citizen in the RF on this visa and issuing HQS work permit during the validity term of the visa, the business visa can be re-issued without leaving the country at the FMS into the multiple working one for the work permit’s validity term or the passport’s validity term if it expires earlier than the work permit.
II. Obtaining an invitation on the FMS blank for entry on the multiple working 3-year visa
Such an invitation is to be requested at the Russian FMS simultaneously with a HQS’s request for a work permit. When a foreign citizen is in possession of a valid work visa and has received a work permit as a Highly-Qualified Specialist, the visa is re-issued into a multi-entry visa of a Highly-Qualified Specialist. If the existing visa identifies the former employer, the newly issued visa for the Highly-Qualified Specialist will identify the new hosting party on behalf of which the work permit was issued.
Accompanying family members of Highly-Qualified Specialists who are abroad are issued a separate invitation for entry to the Russian Federation on a multi-entry work visa as “accompanying family members”. In the event where they are present in Russia on existing work visas as, “accompanying family member”, visas are re-issued without the HQS’s necessity to leave the country.
In accordance with paragraph 12.1 of article 13.2 on the Law of the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens, accompanying family members also have the right to independently pursue employment in the Russian Federation with a valid work permit and to study in educational institutions. In this case they can hold a work visa either as an HQS accompanying family member or hold their own relevant work or study visa.
Upon the extension of a work permit of a Highly-Qualified Specialist for the next term, the visa of the foreign worker and members of his/her family are extended at the Federal Migration Service without leaving the country.
7. Obtaining a transit visa for a foreign citizen
In accordance with article 25.7 the law on order for entry to and exit from the Russian Federation and listed as “Reasons for travel”, a foreign citizen is obligated to obtain a transit visa in the following instances:
a) Evacuation of foreign citizens arriving in the Russian Federation in visa-free regime (passengers of cruise liners, citizens of countries having existing agreements with the Russian Federation on a visa free regime, passengers in transit without a visa up to 24 hours), if due to objective reasons the foreign citizen stays beyond authorised period of stay of a visa-free regime.
b) Exit from Russia of a foreign citizen who did not depart in time while his/her current visa was valid. A transit visa is issued for a period up to 10 calendar days. If a foreign citizen is traveling through the territory of the Russian Federation by air, a visa is issued for a period up to 3 days.
Èíîñòðàíöó ìîæåò áûòü âûäàíà âèçà ñ êîäîì ÒÐ1, òî åñòü îäíîêðàòíàÿ, èëè ñ êîäîì ÒÐ2 - îäíîêðàòíàÿ èëè äâóêðàòíàÿ.
A visa with the code ÒÐ1 - for only single entry – can be issued to the foreigner, as well the visa with the code ÒÐ2 – for one or two entries – can be issued.
To obtain a transit visa a foreign citizen must have all the required and confirming documentation in accordance with the law of the Russian Federation.
In accordance with article 31 of the Law on the entry to and exit from the Russian Federation, transit through Russia without a transit visa is permitted to the following foreign citizens:
- who are flying non-stop through the territory of the Russian Federation;
- a passenger on international airliner with a stopover in the airport on the territory of the Russian Federation having the proper documentation for entry to the country of destination and a flight-ticket indicating the date leaving from the airport of stopover on the territory of the Russian Federation within 24 hours from the moment of arrival, except in instances where it is a forced stop;
- those residing in a country that has existing international agreements with the Russian Federation.
8. Procedures in case of a foreign citizen loses his/her visa in Russia
Upon losing personal documents (passport, work permit, migration card etc.), a declaration of the fact must be made to the territorial division of the police regarding the lost documents. Then it is required replace the lost personal identification document at the appropriate consular institution which is located in Russia. After that a duplicate of the Russian visa of the same type as the previous one, as well as a migration card and a tear-off part of notification of arrival by place of residence, should be received by the foreigner in the Federal Migration Service.
In accordance with article 8 of the Agreement of the RF and EU in case of lost identity documents while on the territory of the Russian Federation, citizens of the European Union (with some exceptions) can depart from Russia without a visa or other permission documents. In this instance, a diplomatic representative office or consular institution of the foreigner’s country of citizenship provides him with an identification document which gives him/her the right to depart from the territory of the Russian Federation.