I recently applied for (and received) a visa to Russia in Tbilisi, Georgia. There was very little information available in English, and the process was a little confusing, so I will share my experience here.
Can a non-resident foreigner apply for a visa to Russia in Tbilisi, Georgia?
Yes. I have successfully applied for a tourist visa to Russia in Tbilisi, Georgia, as an Australian visiting Georgia. The experience wasn’t simple, but if you have all of your documents in order, it is definitely possible.
I also enquired about placing an application for a business visa to Russia in Tbilisi, and was told this was not possible for a non-resident of Georgia.
What you need to apply for a Russian visa in Tbilisi, Georgia
Your passport, and a photocopy.
A completed application form, filled from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. The visa application form is thorough. Be prepared to list the name and address and telephone number of every institution you have studied at, and your current and two previous jobs, as well as every country you have visited in the last 10 years, with entry dates.
This form – Completed in Russian.
A 3.5cm x 4.5cm photo – I went to Photo Center on Liberty Square.
A tourist voucher, with a photocopy. A tourist voucher from an authorised travel agent is required to apply for a tourist visa to Russia. You don’t need to book a tour to obtain a voucher, and there are plenty of online services that will provide you with a voucher in 24 hours for less than $30. Just Google “Russian visa support”.
Visa fee – $60 USD, payable in cash (USD) or by card.
Travel insurance certificate. I purchased this from the agent that provided the tour voucher.
Additional requirements for Australian citizens
Upon applying, I was told that the fee for Australian citizens is $100 USD.
The Russian consulate in Tbilisi seems to have a beef with Australia. Buried deep in the website of the Russian consulate in Tbilisi, we found this, in Russian only.
In English it says:
Australian and Georgian citizens visa application form must be filled in Russian.
Australian citizens need further detailed curriculum vitae, also in Russian.
A call to the embassy confirmed that my application form should be completed in Russian (excluding names of people or places), and that I would require a short “autobiography”, also in Russian.
I included a short statement that contained no information that wasn’t already in the application form, similar to below, that was enough to satisfy the curriculum vitae requirement.
“I, Nick Drewe, am a citizen and resident of Brisbane, Australia. I have a degree in _________ from ___________ university, and have worked as a __________ for ___ years. I currently work as a ________ for _________ in _________.
I’d recommend that Australians find someone who can speak Russian to help them with the application. Fortunately, I have one of these handy, but I’m sure you could find a Russian translator online to help with the process.
Submitting your application for a Russian visa in Tbilisi
Visa applications must be placed in person at the Russian Federation Interests Section at the Embassy of Switzerland in Tbilisi at 51 Chavchavadze Street. The Embassy of Russia in Tbilisi was officially closed in 2008 after ongoing conflict between Georgia and Russia, and Russian interests in Georgia are now represented through a small annexe next to the former Russian Embassy. Visa applications are accepted at 11am.
Don’t expect orderly service and queuing, this place is hectic.
You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see a crowd of people huddled around small gate waiting for their ticket numbers to be called. As a foreign citizen, you can’t actually obtain an appointment number, so you’ll instead need to push your way to the front of the gate, and tell the guard that you’d like to place a visa application. I had to wait a few minutes before being let inside.
You will pass a security checkpoint, and enter a small, crowded reception. Fight your way to the front, and tell the receptionist that you would like to place a visa application. He will tell you to speak to the consular official, and direct you to the next room. The consular official’s office is behind the door to the right, as soon as you enter the next room. I had to wait in line (I use “line” loosely here, just keep track of who is in front of you).
The consular official asked if I had all of the documents ready, and if I had “one of those tourist voucher things”, and said that placing the application shouldn’t be a problem. He also had a glue stick handy to attach my photo to the application, before directing me to counter 1 in the adjacent room.
The lady at counter 1 checked over the application, and had me sign and date everything, before directing me to the cashier at the end of the room to pay. After paying, the cashier handed me a small slip of paper with the date to pick up my passport and Visa, 10 business days after applying. Keep that slip of paper, you’ll need it to get your passport back.
Receiving your Russian visa in Tbilisi
Visas are handed out at 9am. I returned to the gate at 51 Chavchavadze Street, and told the guard I was there to pick up my passport and visa. He told me to wait. 10 minutes later, he yelled something to the crowd in Russian that included the word “Visa”. About 10 people rushed to the front of the gate. I joined them, showing the piece of paper I was given by the cashier, and received a numbered ticket to be served inside.
Pass through security, and tell the receptionist you are there to receive your visa. Wait for your number to be called at one of the counters, and exchange your slip for your passport and visa to Russia.