Visa Info for COFES Russia

Dear COFES Russia Attendee,
We are delighted that you have decided to join us in Peterhof, St. Petersburg for COFES Russia 2013! 
Now that you have registered, the next step begins: getting a Russian visa.
The Russian visa application process is a pain. There are a lot of pieces you’ll need to collect in order to complete your application accurately, so it is best to start gathering everything early! 
Cyon Research has established an account with CIBTvisas to both help you with the visa application and give you VIP services. If you choose to use them, you’ll receive 5% off CIBT’s service fees.
There are two types of visas for Russia: tourist and business. A tourist visa will be applicable for COFES Russia as long as you are not PRESENTING at the event (leading a briefing does not count as presenting), and you are not there to hold business meetings. For most attendees, a tourist visa will be an acceptable alternative and it is less expensive and less difficult. 
We are recommending most attendees go with the tourist visa option. If you do, we will assist you in getting the required Hotel invitation letter.
A business visa will be required if you plan to transact business in Russia – that includes business meetings, but attending a business event such as COFES Russia doesn’t count in this instance as a business meeting.
If you do need to get a business, rather than a tourist visa, you will need to get a business invitation letter. The challenge is that these letters require approval from a Russian Government entity and Russia’s policy requires these letters be submitted no earlier than 45 days prior to your scheduled arrival date in Russia. This leaves you with a very short window in which to get your visa and you’ll need to be sure you have everything you need for the application completed and submitted to CIBTvisas (or other processor) prior to that 45 day window.  If you are scheduled for a May 30th, 2013 arrival to Russia, all of your paperwork must be in CIBTvisas’ (or other processor) hands well before April 15th, 2013. CIBTvisas can also assist in getting you the business invitation letter if the organization you are doing business with is unable to provide the letter of invitation, but there is a fee for this.
Regardless of whether you are getting a business visa or a tourist visa, it is vital you have everything set and ready to go ahead of time. 
We have compiled a list of necessities for the procedure for the tourist visa, and step-by-step instructions of everything you need to do in order for your arrival to go smoothly, safely, and most importantly: on time!
If you choose to go with a business visa, give CIBTvisas a call and they’ll hold your hand through the process.
If you have any questions, or need further assistance with completing the application process, please do not hesitate to contact me at the number or email address below.
I’m looking forward to meeting you in Peterhof!
Warm Regards,
Becca Wells



Tourist Visa or Business Visa?

For simplicity sake, Cyon Research is recommending that most COFES Russia attendees apply for a single entry, tourist visa. While it may seem strange, the rules about whether you need a tourist visa or a business visa depend on a variety of factors and it appears that a tourist visa is the appropriate choice for most participants. The location of the hotel, in scenic Peterhof, is a tourist destination and no business is being conducted at the event – from the visa department’s perspective, it is purely an educational event.
However, if you are presenting at COFES Russia, you will need to obtain a business visa. Only our keynoters are actually presenting – those leading briefing sessions aren’t presenting – they’re leading discussions and should be able to use a tourist visa.
Also, if you plan on extending your stay in Russia for business purposes during or after the event, you (and an accompanying spouse if applicable) will need a business visa. 
A business visa is more expensive and more costly that a tourist visa. Cyon Research will not be able to issue the required letter of invitation for a business visa, but the Russian company with whom you are conducting business with can, or CIBTvisas can obtain such a letter for an additional fee. 
For any questions regarding obtaining a business visa, or whether or not you NEED a business visa, please feel free to give us a call (+1-301-365-9085) or call a customer service representative at CIBTvisas at the number listed below.
Things you will need to complete the visa process
Valid passport
Up-to-date separate passport photographs
Russian Consulate application form
Support Letter (to be provided by the hotel via Cyon Research)
CIBT order form (if you are using CIBTvisas – recommended)
Direct link to portal:

Step-by-Step Guide


Step One: Your Passport

The first thing to do when undertaking the Russian visa application process is to ensure your passport is valid. Check the expiration date, and apply for a renewal if necessary. Please be aware of the following items:  
1) Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after you are scheduled to leave from Russia. If it expires before then, it won’t be accepted by the Russian consulate. Beware - they are very strict about this and they WILL notice.
2) Renewing your passport can take a significant amount of time—several months if you do it by mail; avoid rush penalties by doing this as soon as you can.
3) Ensure that you have at least 2 pages blank pages (not counting the cover) in the back of your passport. If you don’t, you’ll need to get pages added to your passport before you apply for the visa. 
4) While you are going through the Russian visa process, your passport will be out of your hands and inaccessible. This means you will not be able to travel internationally during that time.
If you are concerned about not having your passport during the visa process, there is a way you can mitigate the issue: Get a second passport! 
CIBTvisas let us know that it is possible for American citizens with a valid US passport to obtain a second passport, under certain circumstances. However, like all things related to international travel, obtaining a second passport is tricky. 
There are two ways to qualify for a second passport: 
1) You must have a scheduled international trip during the 45 days that your passport could/will be tied up by the Russian consulate that also requires you to have a visa. This means you must be traveling to Brazil, China, Australia, India, or Vietnam. In order to meet this criterion, you will have to provide documentation verifying this scheduled travel. CIBT recommends flight itineraries.
2) You have traveled to any Middle Eastern country and have a scheduled trip to Israel. Due to the area’s politics, you cannot have a stamp in your passport from any Middle Eastern country if you wish to be accepted into Israel. Pilots and flight attendees encounter this issue frequently, and have a second passport specifically for Israeli travel. Again, you will have to show evidence of a scheduled trip.
CIBTvisas can assist you with obtaining a second passport. Please visit their website: to start the process, or contact a customer service representative at the VIP number provided at the beginning of the packet. There are additional fees and processing times for this step as well. 
If you have questions about step one or the potential for a second passport, give us a call or contact CIBTvisas.

Step Two: Get your visa photos

Your Russian visa application requires that you submit two (2), color passport photos. Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid each offer inexpensive, convenient and quick passport and visa photograph services. Don’t try to do it yourself.

Step Three: Fill out the online Russian Consulate Application

The Russian Consulate visa application is by far the most challenging piece of this whole visa application process. They ask very in depth questions regarding previous international travel and your personal history. Before you start the form, make sure you know all of the countries you visited in the past 10 years and the years you travelled to each of those countries – for many of you, that will be a long list! 
Please take great care when filling out their form; pay special attention to all instructions and be sure to put your responses EXACTLY in the form they ask for (e.g., dates must be written in the Russian format dd/mm/yyyy). If it is redundant, fill it out anyway—even if it is redundant or repetitive, write everything exactly as they ask it. One mistake will cause serious delays in your application’s processing.
To make your visa application go more smoothly, CIBTvisas has a single entry, tourist visa application kit ( that explains in depth all of the steps that need to be taken during your visa application process. Their application kit has detailed step-by-step instructions on how to complete the Russian Visa application, with specific instructions on filling out the Russian Consulate application. 
We recommend that you view this application kit online, and print it for easy reference during your application process. Be sure to read the section on the Russian consulate application, and keep it handy when you are filling out your Russian Consulate application. 
The Russian Consulate Application form is located at —you must complete this part of the process online; it will not be accepted any other way. 

Step Four: Fill out the CIBT Order Form

The next step is to complete your CIBTvisas order form. You can do this one of two ways: 
1. Online at , or 
2. By hand [the paper version is provided in the CIBT application kit at the end of this packet] (Note – this takes longer and costs $15 more.)
When you go to the online link, the first thing you will see near the top of the webpage is a dialog box, like the image to the left.
Use the drop down menus to make the appropriate selections for: 
Country from which you hold a passport
Your state of residence
Where you are traveling, and
Whether you need a tourist or business visa
After that, select YES, and enter the Cyon Research account number: #57878. The prices you see once you’ve entered our account number, will already reflect our 5% discount for CIBTvisas services and the phone number shown will be a special VIP customer service line.
After you click submit, a second dialog box, like the image to the right, will appear. We recommend you select single entry in the first box. Your only choice for the second box is “Russian consulate determines validity”. Choose it and click the submit button.
This will bring you to the overview page which will advise you again about what you will need to complete the process.  You can also choose to view the CIBT application kit, like the one provided at the end of the packet or you can have it emailed to you—recommended. 
 If you don’t want to do either of those things, click “continue” to be brought to the CIBT online order form. 
The image to the right is from the start of the CIBTvisas form. Fill out all of the information required on the first page: information regarding when you will be leaving, how long you’ll be gone, your legal name, date of birth, email address, phone number, and passport number. 
On the next page you will select how you want CIBTvisas to return your passport and documents to you. Select the appropriate FedEx option – just be aware of the fees attached for delivery.
The third page discusses the fees associated with applying for a visa, both for CIBT and the Russian Consulate. They are provided later in these instructions for additional convenience.
Lastly, review your order and submit it when you are ready!
Please note: You will need to print a copy of your online order form, and sign it with an original wet signature. Copies or e-signatures won’t be accepted.

Step Five: get your Russian Tourist Visa Support Letter

In order for your application to be complete, you’ll need to get a Russian Tourist Visa Support Letter verifying where you will be staying during your visit to Russia. If you requested hotel accommodations when you registered for COFES Russia, we will assist you in getting your Russian Tourist Visa Support Letter from The New Peterhof Hotel (where the COFES Russia will be taking place). You will need to email or mail Cyon Research a color copy of your passport for us to forward to the hotel in order for them to issue a support letter. 
Cyon Research will begin working with the hotel to get support letters in early February. Letters will only be sent to those who tell us they need them. Tell us that you need it by sending an email to Let us know early so we can get your visa support letter in your hands ASAP.
CIBTvisas can also request a support letter from the Russian Consulate on your behalf, but of course there are additional fees and more processing time required for this. 

Step Six: Submitting your documentation

Keep an extra copy for yourself. You can also send a copy to us for safekeeping, but it is not necessary. You’ll also need photocopies of your paperwork and passport to send to CIBTvisas.
When you submit all of your documentation and paperwork for review to CIBT, you must include photocopies of all of your paperwork and passport. 
In total, for a complete non-rush, shipped at a moderate distance (also non-rush), it will cost you approximately $300. Total costs could range depending on rush charges and visa type. 

Final Words

The most important thing to take away from this packet: start the visa application process early! 
Get a single entry, tourist visa. It’s the easiest (and cheapest) to obtain and it should be all you need. If you are uncomfortable with traveling to COFES Russia on a tourist visa you can opt to get the business visa, but it is more costly and more challenging. The instructions above are for the tourist visa.
Use CIBTvisas during the visa application process—they are helpful, knowledgeable, and most importantly, fast. They are worth the extra fees. And remember, you get 5% off all CIBT service fees if you use the Cyon Research account!
Feel free to contact Cyon Research with any questions or concerns. We want you to be in Russia. Let us help you!