Getting a Russian student visa and other travel arrangements for foreigners who want to study in Russia

Author: Dimitry Paranyushkin (on 11 Jan 2010)
Russia requires visas for nearly all visitors. Anyone seriously considering a long stay in Russia should read the Russian visa section of WayToRussia.Net so as to understand the different types of visas, who is eligible for them, and what restrictions may exist.

Getting a Student Russian Visa

This type of visa is issued only for students, who come to Russia for study programs or enrolling on a course to a Russian university / school.
This is the best kind of visa in terms of flexibility, but you can only get it if you applied to a Russian university, school or an institution and will study there.

Studying in a university:
If you are thinking about doing an exchange with one of the Russian universities (also known as "visiting scholars" or "stazhirovka" in Russian), you will need to submit your data to the university and the "foreign department" of the university will take care of all the formalities. They will submit all your data to the immigration officials and have your student invitation ready in about 2 to 6 weeks (may take longer at MGU - Moscow State University). After that, the "foreign department" of the university where you will be studying will either send you the invitation by post, by fax, or send the invitation by telex directly to the consulate where you will apply for your visa and you'll just need to know the telex number when you apply.
Usually, the student visa doesn't have a limited validity, it is extended all the time, depending on how long you study.

photo by eole@FlickR

photo by eole@FlickR


Studying in a language school: If your language school is attached to some Russian educational body you will get a student visa and the process will be about the same as the one described for universities above.
However, if it is a private school, they will most likely make a normal tourist (up to 1 month), or so-called "business" (which is a name for a long-term visas) invitation, which you will need to submit to a Russian consulate to get a Russian visa. Read more about tourist and business visas in our Russian Visa Types guide.

Seminars, internships: Most likely, if your seminar lasts just a few days, the best way will be to get a tourist or business visa. Actually, officially business visas are created for people who visit Russia for seminars, so it is a very appropriate type of visa for you to get. Your inviting organisation should assist you in getting this type of visa, or you can apply for it online.

When you apply to the consulate for a student visa, you'll need to pay a normal fee, which will be about the same as for a tourist visa ($50-$150, depending on processing time).

Russian Visa Registration

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Once you arrive to Russia, you will need to register your visa within the first 72 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) after your arrival. It is very important to get the registration done right, so we recommend you to read our Russian Visa Registration page as well as the Status of Foreign Citizens in Russia page for comprehensive information.
It is always the obligation of your inviting party (university, language school, business organisation) to arrange your visa registration, because if they don't do it, you will have to pay fines and may be deported from Russia, and they may lose their education license. So, check beforehand that the place where you're going to study can provide your visa registration without a problem.
It is very easy for universitites to get your visa registered: you will just need to bring them your passport with Russian visa and migration cards (that you get at the border) and the university's "foreign department" will submit your documents to OVIR (immigration officials) to register your visa. It will take about 1 week and you will have a registration stamp on your visa. Normally, the registration can be done for the period of your visa, however, if it is not, it will be relatively easy to prolong it if you're still studying in the university. Just don't forget to submit your documents again when the time comes.



Other Travel Arrangements

If you want to find the cheapest flight: check out STA travel agencies in your country — they usually have the best fares for people up to 25 years old. You will need to purchase ISIC card, which makes you eligible for their fares as well as gives access to various discounts throughout the world.

Arrange your accommodation beforehand: it's not very easy to find cheap accommodation in Russia, especially in big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, so read our Student Accommodation guide and try to find something reliable before you board your plane.

Make sure your visa registration will be fine:
before arranging anything about your studies in Russia ask about your visa registration and what documents you will need. If your university requires some letter from the person you will be living with in Russia (or renting an apartment from), make sure this person can provide you with this letter, otherwise, search for a different accommodation option.

You're not only going to be studying, are you? Russia is quite an interesting country in terms of entertainment you can get, so pack your best clothes (and warm, too, if going in winter).



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