For those travelling to Russia on a Hong Kong passport, you can get fourteen days of visa free access (though if staying more than seven you are required to register at the local branch of the Federal Migration Sevice). In other situations, where a visa is needed, the good news is that unlike many cities, there is a Russian consulate in Hong Kong which can issue visas.
The Russian visa process, like a lot of Russian bureaucracy, has long been renowned as cumbersome and heavily bureaucratic. Different consulates had some liberty in setting their own application procedures, which while it can be frustrating did and does mean that there can be some cracks in the process which can come in handy in pressing situations.
The Hong Kong consulate is at 2106, 21/F, Sun Hung Kai Centre, 30 Harbour Road, Wanchai. They open from 9 a.m. to 12 noon Monday to Friday to receive visa applications, and from 2.30 – 5.00 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 2.30 – 4 p.m. on Fridays to give back passports.
I recently made multiple visits to the consulate to apply for a visa and it was usually empty, or with one other customer at most. Having previously braved deep, slow-moving queues at the consulate in Shanghai, the speed of service at the Hong Kong counters was a pleasant surprise from a low base. There is also a table with glue, pens and scissors which can be handy.
How to Apply
The consulate has a website which explains the process pretty well. Bear in mind that the website is not comprehensive and lots of details can change which it does not reflect, but it is a useful place to start.
The website explains the documents you will need. In practice the consulate may ignore some of them, but it is best to prepare them all as the website sets out. Note that you need a copy of your passport details page, as well as your physical passport.
If you are not a Hong Kong passport or ID card holder, you may need to show a visa to stay in Hong Kong unless you have leave to stay for at least ninety days in which case the landing slip issued at the Hong Kong border suffices. The rules on this vary by country although in short most western countries can get by with the landing slip. The consulate maintains a book with all of the rules by country so you can check whether your passport can receive a Russian visa in Hong Kong and whether a landing slip is sufficient.
The application form must now be completed online at https://visa.kdmid.ru/. You can do so immediately before you apply in person, if you wish – there is no waiting time. Be aware that the form is a bit cumbersome, especially if you need to make changes. Record your application number and password, as you will need them if you need to make any changes. Each time you edit it it seems to generate an additional reference number – it is probably safest also to record these. Annoyingly, the electronic process means that any error or omission can only be corrected by editing the online form and printing it out again (or at least the relevant pages). The consulate will not help with this, but on the second floor of the building there is a branch of Fotomax which prints black and white pages for a steep $3 per sheet. Other print shops further afield in Wan Chai are more affordably priced.
The consular staff are generally unfriendly and can be fairly gruff. However, the process is fairly clear – you need to fill out the form and provide the requested documentation. If there are any problems with this or discrepancies (for example dates do not match up), the application will not be accepted. If you complete the application form accurately and your paperwork is in order, the process should run smoothly.
Other ways to apply
There is a visa application service offered by the Russian Visa Centre on the forty first floor of the same building (rooms 4120-4123). They will help you check your application and for this charge a premium of around $300. It doesn’t seem that they can expedite the speed of visas more than applying directly to the consulate. The consular staff suggest using the Russian Visa Centre but this feels like it is to cut their workload further – there seems to be no strong advantage in so doing.
A couple of travel agencies can also help with the process, including CIS Tours on the same floor as the consulate and Global Union Transportation Limited, rooms 22-23, New Henry House, 10 Ice House Street, Central.
Types of visa
The website explains the different types of visa available and requirements. Be aware that some may be harder than they seem – for example, the transit visa requires actual tickets for inbound and onward travel, not simply a booking confirmation for those tickets.
The website sets out timing but this seems to vary according to the type of visa and country of passport.
Although it is not clear from the website, it is possible in some circumstances to get a same day service. You need to apply at the start of the morning and the visa should be ready after three o’clock. This service attracts a surcharge of approximately $600.
There is a pricing chart and you can ask to view it at the consulate. Prices vary quite widely. As an example, a single entry tourist visa for a U.K. passport on normal timing costs about $640.
Payment is in cash at the time the application is accepted and the consulate does not accept $1,000 bills, but can give change. Upon payment you will be issued with a receipt – keep this as you will need it to collect your passport once the visa is issued.