We are carefully monitoring the situation with e-visas to visit certain Russian regions. Recently there have been frequent reports of various travel agency websites and questionable mediators that profit from providing Russian e-visa application services. The cost of these services is rather significant ranging from €15 to €40. We are not in any way disputing foreign nationals’ right to spend their money as they prefer, however we would like to remind that the above mentioned e-visas for visiting selected Russian regions are granted free of charge and can only be obtained via the Russian Foreign Ministry’s special website evisa.kdmid.ru. E-visa applicants do not have to provide invitations, hotel booking confirmations or any other documents proving the purpose of their travel to the Russian Federation.

An e-visa is granted within 4 calendar days after an e-visa application has been submitted. Thus any promises by intermediaries to expedite the process and obtain an “express visa,” including for an additional fee, are unsubstantiated. Moreover, there is no guarantee that an agent completing an e-visa application on behalf of somebody else will not make errors in their personal data, which may result in the applicant being denied entry at the Russian border.

It should also be remembered that neither an e-visa nor a paper visa guarantees entry to the Russian Federation. The decision on whether or not a foreign national is admitted to the country is made at the port of entry, which is generally in line with international practice.

There have also been reports in the media on the difficulties visitors face when crossing the Russian border, as well as on the deportation of foreign nationals from Russia due to errors in their e-visas, and duration of stay violations. The analysis of the reasons indicates one common circumstance, which is simply lack of attention and disregard for e-visa application guidelines that are an integral part of the application process. The guidelines contain detailed explanations with examples of how to correctly fill out one’s first and last names, including how to use characters of national alphabets and how to enter other personal data. A major part of the guidelines describes how to correctly determine one’s period of stay and exit dates in order to prevent administrative charges for violating Russian immigration law.

Finally, we would like to point out that an e-visa is granted based on an application submitted by an applicant himself rather than by a mediator. The entire experience of a foreign citizen travelling to Russia largely depends on the accuracy of his e-visa application.