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Choosing between Russian visa support services

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posts: 42
Choosing between Russian visa support services

I recently booked a hotel (Hotel Aster) in St. Petersburg through Hotels.ca. As you may have read in my other post, the induhviduals I spoke to on the phone at Hotels.ca have no idea how I can get Russian visa support from the hotel. So, I suppose I'm forced to go through one of these Russian visa support services.

The two that I've seen recommended in various places are:

www.waytorussia.com AND www.visatorussia.com

Both of these websites say that hotel reservations and bookings are not necessary and that the Visa support they will provide you is sufficient for you to get your Russian visa. The former says that they reserve a hotel for you but you don't have to stay there--this sounds very strange to me! Will you get into trouble with the cops over there if they stop you and find out that you're not staying in the hotel printed on your visa?

Does anyone here have experience with either two companies? Can you recommend them? Is there a reason to prefer one over the other?? ((Their prices are the same.)



Moscow, Russia
posts: 338
1. Re: Choosing between Russian visa support services

KLM, you have nothing to worry about. Both these are trustworthy.

A visa to Russia requires an invitation to the country.

The invitation needs a place to stay.

If you book hotel on your own or you do it after applying for visa, the visa agency just put themself or any hotel in the invitation form to fullfil the requirements. Somewhat strange maybe, but it works.

AND in the visa only the organisation (the visa agency) you are visiting is mentioned. NOT the hotel.

Here is an example of the russian visa, which will be pasted into your passport. This is the new look since last year, before they were of yellow color slightly different:


Here is the newest immigration card for Russia/Belorussia:


The picture is is better in this (older) variant:


oklahoma city
posts: 223
reviews: 23
2. Re: Choosing between Russian visa support services


I too was leary of the on-line visa support services. After looking at a lot of websites and talking to my local travel agent, I picked a company that provides both the visa support as well as the visa itself, all at one time and for one fee. Alot of the others wanted to charge one fee for the visa support, then another fee for getting the actual visa. I picked www.TravelVisaPro.com who do both for around $150 including Fed Ex 3 day service. They were recommended by the booking agent I used to book my hotel (www.allrussiahotels.com). Their rates were competitive, but I chose them because when I was skeptical about something www.visatorussia told me, I was able to actually talk to a guy named Kest at TravelVisaPro who confirmed I was getting incorrect information. He was very helpful, and not only gave me correct information, he personally contacted the other service to clarify what they had told me (they had told me I had to have a tour booked with a tour company in order to get off a cruise ship even if I had my visa - not true). That said, I don't have my passport with the visa back in my hands yet, but I got an email from Kest when he received my paperwork and passport, and another email from him to let me know my visa was approved and should arrive on 5/29. If I don't receive it, I'll post again to let you know, but I feel pretty good about this company. Good luck!

St Petersburg Russia
Destination Expert
for St. Petersburg
posts: 2,201
reviews: 23
3. Re: Choosing between Russian visa support services

I would be very concerned about a Russian hotel NOT being able to supply the invitation, if they are authorized to accommodate foreign visitors, they also are authorized to issue invitations.

The process of visa support and registration has changed a lot and your host is now responsible for your comings and goings, but the process is a lot easier and cheaper(free) to the visitor.

For the poster above, if the visa support company is charging $150 for 3 day service that is indeed a low price since it might be below their cost of the consular fees alone:

$100 for 6-10 business days processing;

$150 for 3-5 business days processing;

$200 for next business day processing or two business days processing;

$300 for same day processing;

Over the years I have used many visa services, mostly for business visas for 12 month duration. I've only had problems with one company, that one almost cost me many thousands of $$ to correct since they were useless in correcting their mistake and would not answer my frantic emails while I was stranded in Russia about to be deported. When I complained later on a forum the president said I was lying and had never been a customer. I posted the scans of 3 visa orders over a 4 year period and the credit card charges that all added up to about $1000. I am sure they will sue if I use their name but they are the biggest one on the web.

After that time I insist on doing it myself entirely because I can make sure it gets done. Actually it is very easy and no gain is made by farming it out to 3rd parties who are in no legal authority to represent either Russia or you if there is a problem. The visa services do not create the invitations themselves, they can't, they simply by them at a discount from Russian hotels or tour operators who can issue them from within Russia. The only one who can fix a problem if it arises before or after you arrive in Russia and that company is kept a secret from you. You HAVE to deal with them yet the visa service will not tell you who they are.

With the changes in registration, the issuing tour operator or hotel are supposed to register your visa. Any visa support document should have that registration guaranteed to be available once you get here or you could be in for problems.

If the visa service provides the registrating company's contact information in the city you are visiting that is ok, be sure to contact that Russian company to verify that they will register your visa. I paid $30 extra one time for registration at the time of buying the visa support and when I got here, the company I was supposed to meet for the registration would not accept the voucher the visa service company provided because they never forwarded the money to the Russian company. So I had to pay an additional $30 when I got to Russia.

My advice, due to having had more visas no doubt than anyone on this forum for more years, is to simply use hotels or apartment agencies who will provide free visa support and registration (in their own name) so you know who you are dealing with, do not have to pay the service charges(except for consular fees which you pay regardless) and they are responsible for any mistakes or resolving any problems.

Applying for your own visa saves some money but most importantly, it means you can make sure it is right.

If a visa company needs to skirt the laws to get you an invitation that should be free from your host anyway, it does not seem like a good risk to me.

pasadena, ca
posts: 4,913
reviews: 22
4. Re: Choosing between Russian visa support services

Can't you just contact the hotel directly? Even if hotels.ca can't help you (no surprise), the hotel they booked you with should be able to provide you with the invitation you need.

New York City
posts: 10
5. Re: Choosing between Russian visa support services

I just assume apply for my own visa directly with the consulate. However, I have one question: if I will be staying in two hotels (one in Moscow and one in St. Petersburg), will I need invitations from both hotels? Or should I just use the first hotel for visa support?

posts: 42
6. Re: Choosing between Russian visa support services

So, after sending three e-mails to the hotel with no reply, I had my friend who lives in St. Petersburg give them a call. They then replied to me telling me that I have to go to their website and PAY $30 per person for visa support--this after I booked two entire weeks at the hotel for over $3000. Then, I suppose I'll have to pay, pay, pay them to register the visa once I get there, then I'll have to pay, pay, pay them an extra fee for every imaginable thing they can get me for, correct? I wonder how much I'll end up paying for their "complimentary" hotel transfers!

posts: 42
7. Re: Choosing between Russian visa support services

And here's ANOTHER really strange / confusing / ripoff thing!

The e-mail I received told me to go to the website www.hon.ru and PAY 30 EUROS per person, but the person who sent me the e-mail is from a DIFFERENT company--www.ap-tour.ru

Has anyone heard of / dealt with this company????

When I go to this website, it says that the visa invitations are only 20 EUROS, so I guess the hotel is pocketing an extra 10 EUROS per person. Nice.

oklahoma city
posts: 223
reviews: 23
8. Re: Choosing between Russian visa support services


Thank you for your reply to KLM. I was the poster who paid $150 for my visa support and visa - it was actually $158.00USD for both support and visa, not including the return postage. It was indeed the lowest price on the web. Because I booked my hotel through www.allrussiahotel.com (excellent price for a deluxe room at the Kempinsky), I did not have the option of obtaining my visa support directly from the hotel, but only through the booking agent (according to the booking agent - I only hope when I arrive I have a room reserved!). They wanted $30USD for the visa support, plus $45 for the visa itself, plus the consular fee, which seems to be different depending on who you're working with, but averages around $100 for the 4 days we will be in St. Petersburg. My local travel agent, who could not provide visa support, wanted $212.00 including consular fees and postage for just the visa. www.travisa.com was also recommended; they charged $214 total for visa only - no visa support. I also liked the fact that the company I used, www.travelvisapro, has an existing office in San Francisco with a valid address and a live person to walk me through the process. Now, that said, I'm concerned about your comments about the need for registration once we arrive. We arrive on 7/17 and are staying at the Kempinsky for 3 nights - I understand this is all handled by the hotel, but with the Russian office (OVR?) only open certain days, how will this be handled? Do I need to be concerned? Thank you for your help, and for all the advice you post on this forum. It's been immensely helpful. KC

oklahoma city
posts: 223
reviews: 23
9. Re: Choosing between Russian visa support services

Just to confirm to all, I did get our passports back today, complete with visas, from TravelProVisa. Everything is in order. Best of luck to you, KLM.


New York City
posts: 10
10. Re: Choosing between Russian visa support services


I too had to pay the hotel $30 for an invitation. But, it seems rather standard whether or not you go through the hotel (or some travel agency that buys one from a hotel) it is going to be $30. I don't really see it as a rip off but rather the cost of visiting Russia. Certainly is complicated, but we can't expect the hotels to provide extra services for free because we don't happen to live in Russia.

By the way, $30 is approximately equal to EUR20 so the hotel probably isn't pocketing anything.

As to my previous post, I found out from the hotel that I will only need one letter of invitation for my whole stay. My question now is does anyone know about insurance for US citizens? I've read conflicting info on insurance requirements.