Russian Visas Clear and Simple. Russia-EU Agreement analysed

The below is analysis of Sochi May 25th 2006 EU-Russia Agreement on Visa Regime Facilitation + brief intro into Russian Visas.

 Editor’s notes:

(1) Russian visa policy in brief: citizens of most of Latin (Central&South) American countries, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macao, some Balkan States, Turkey, Mongolia and some former USSR republics are exempt from visas with some reservations. Visas are required for the citizens of the rest of the countries in the world.

(2) We will not discuss diplomatic and other state bound visit purposes in this article.

(3) Hereafter, we focus on and assume business travel.

By default visas come in the following type: 2-weeks, 1-12 months visas, single and multiple entry, all subject to 90/180 day rule.

Note: 90/180 rule means that a foreigner is allowed to stay in the country for 90 days within each 180 day period of the visa validity.

Work visa and student visa holders are exempt from 90/180 day rule. Visa invitation process goes via Russian Federal Migration Service (the FMS).

Based on a set of documents, submitted by the inviting party, the FMS has to issue and invitation that has to be presented at the Russian consulate abroad. Starting fall 2015 they do 'electronic invitations' (number e-mailed to consulate), but paper based ones are still widely used.

Agreement between the EU and the Russia on the facilitation of the issuance of visas was signed in Sochi on May 25th 2006, and entered into force June 1st 2007.

26 of EU countries signed the agreement.

3 EU countries did not sign: the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Denmark had special 'position' and didn’t join. So provisions of the Agreement do not apply to those three states.

Note that: Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are not EU members to date and provisions of the Agreement do not apply to them as well. The 26 EU members of the Agreement mainly coincide with 26 Schengen Area countries.

The Agreement is still under the 90/180 days rule. What are the benefits for the EU citizens?

There are, basically, two benefits:

(1) EU citizens may apply and obtain longer - 2-5 year visas, in case they used multiple 12 months visa during the period of 2 year prior to application date.

(2) The application process bypasses the FMS (Russian internal Federal Migration Service). The application is all between Russian Inviting Party, foreign citizen and Russian Consulate.

Are there any downsides?

Consulates, in this case, bear more responsibility for checking application background details, the checks take time (up to 2 weeks), also consular officers often require additional information from Russian inviting Party.

You need to be prepared for this - allow adequate time in advance and have Russian inviting party that will do due communications with Russian Embassy.


Yours GreenLane.