Russia – Passport and Visa Requirements

For most of the 20th century Russia, or the USSR as it was then called, was a victim of its self imposed isolation and cut off from the rest of the world. Business travel was rare since foreign trade and investment was not encouraged and while there was no ban on tourists coming to the country, the visa policies and the conditions and limitations imposed on the visitor, made a trip there something only the hardiest traveler would undertake.

With the fall of communism Russia is once again open to the world and the wonders of the country are once again accessible to all who wish to go there. Russia is a huge country, straddling both Europe and Asia and if you want to see it properly, be prepared to spend at least a few weeks so that you will be able to cover the country in some detail.

Russian passport photos must meet the following specs:

  • They should be 3.5cms X 4.5cms

  • 6 copies of the photos have to be submitted with the application

  • The head must occupy approximately 75% of the total photo area

  • Photos should be recent and bear a clear resemblance to the applicant

  • Any for covering of the face, even because of traditional costume requirements is not allowed

  • If you are wearing spectacles in the photo, there should be no light reflecting off them and your eyes should be clearly visible through the lenses.

There is not much detail given about the specs for visa photos expect that they should match passport photo requirements. However to be on the safe side, please ensure that you are looking straight at the camera, if you have long hair, make sure it does not cover any part of your face, and that the background is either white or of a light color. Avoid any patterned backgrounds in your visa photos. The best way to ensure that your Russian visa photo is accepted easily, besides following the guidelines mentioned above, is to make sure they are in line with the generic visa photo specs of European countries.


Russia has a somewhat complicated procedure for applying for a visa. The policies are also known to be subject to frequent changes (often not formally announced) caused by changes in the international security scenario and bilateral problems with some countries. It is advisable to contact the nearest Russian Embassy or Consulate to find out what are the actual polices and restrictions prevailing at the time you are applying for your visa.

Getting a visa to visit Russia may entail answering more questions than you would have to for other European countries and it may also take longer to come through, but it is worth the effort to be able to visit the land full of ancient history, incredible beauty and friendly people.