All foreigners visiting Russia require a visa. Visa requirements are very restrictive, and it may take several weeks for the paperwork to go through. While a visitor can apply for a Russian visa at the nearest Embassy, the papers must be approved by the Passport and Visa Department (UVIR) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs before an official visa can be issued.
Before making travel arrangements, it's important to choose the right Russian visa. The most common types of Russian visa are transit, tourism, and residence visas. Foreigners who are in Russia even for a few hours require a transit visa in order to avoid delays and complications. Tourist visas may be the easiest to obtain, since they're usually handled by travel companies on behalf of the traveler. However, a tourist visa must specify every city to be visited and the length of time the visa holder will spend there.
Work visas are, surprisingly, the easiest to get. Once a company has signed a contract with you, they are in charge of obtaining the preliminary paperwork, which can take up to twenty days. Once you receive the approved invitation, you can go to the Embassy to obtain your Russian visa. Travelers who intend to stay in Russia longer than a month are also required to take an HIV test and provide proof of medical insurance before they are issued a Russian visa.
A Russian visa must be sponsored. This means that somebody in Russia must invite the foreigner to visit the country. The sponsor may be a tour group, a family member, or an employer. The person or entity issuing the invitation is also responsible for registering the foreigner with the local authorities once he or she arrives in Russia. Registration must be completed within three days of arrival; in some cases, such as one-year work visas, the process can take up to six weeks.
An exit visa is required to leave Russia. This is usually issued automatically but it can be canceled due to irregularities, so it's always a good idea to check its validity before traveling. Overstaying a Russian visa is a serious problem, and it can lead to severe fines and even detention. Losing your passport, your migration card, or your Russian visa can also become a serious problem, so make sure that you keep these papers in a secure location. Carry photocopies with you whenever possible.