If you’re hoping to study abroad in Russia, you’ll probably need to apply for a student visa. Russian student visas are initially granted for 90 days but can be renewed year upon year.
Although most Russian visa applications take roughly 10 days to process, you can begin the application up to 45 days before your planned arrival. Processing fees vary from country to country. As a benchmark, UK citizens can expect to pay £165 and US citizens will be charged $160.
Students from the Commonwealth of Independent States, Belarus, and South Ossetia won’t need a visa to enter Russia.
We’ve broken down the Russian visa application process into ten simple steps. Following these carefully will give you the best chance of application success.
- Accept a place at your chosen university: Receive confirmation of your successful university application and pay any enrollment fees.
- Receive a Russian travel invitation: Your university will get in touch with the Ministry of Interior of the Russian Federation on your behalf. The Ministry will then send you a travel invitation, also known as a visa support document.
- Complete the online visa application form: Visit the official website of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and complete the electronic visa application form.
- Save and print your online form: Make sure you save changes as you go along and double-check that your personal information is accurate before printing. You should glue a passport-sized photo of yourself in the form’s labeled box.
- Gather supporting documents: You must submit several documents along with your visa application form, so it’s best to get these in order. You can find a full list of what you’ll need in the next section.
- Submit your application and documents in person: Visit your nearest Russian consulate or visa processing center to submit hard copies of your documentation.
- Pay the application fee: You’ll need to pay before your application can be processed. The cost will depend on your nationality.
- Await a decision: The turnaround time for applications is normally 10 days, but it can take up to 30 days in complex cases. You can pay an additional express fee if you need to receive a decision more quickly.
- Travel to Russia and get an immigration card: At the border, you’ll be asked to fill in what’s known as an immigration card. The authorities will keep one part of the card, and you’ll carry the other part with you.
- Register your student visa: You must register your visa within seven days of arriving in the country. This is the responsibility of your accommodation provider, but they’ll need a copy of your visa, passport, and immigration card.
What documents will you need?
Submitting accurate and valid documents is the most important part of the visa application process. Here’s a list of what the Russian authorities typically ask for:
- A Russian travel invitation/visa support document
- A completed and printed visa application form
- A passport that’s valid for at least six months after the expiry date of the visa you’re requesting
- A passport-sized photo (glued to the printed visa application form)
- Details of your accommodation
- Evidence that you have the financial means to cover your living expenses
- HIV/AIDS certificate that’s been issued within the last three months
- Health insurance policy document
Can your family members join you in Russia?
Under Russian family reunion rules, your spouse and dependents (children under 18 and sometimes elderly parents or grandparents) can be granted an accompanying family member visa.
A separate application will need to be submitted on behalf of each family member. If your loved ones are awarded a visa, they will not be permitted to work or study in Russia. The length of their visa will not exceed yours.
Can you work while studying in Russia?
Under a new law that came into effect on 4 August 2020, international students studying in Russia can now work up to 20 hours per week without having to apply for an extra work permit.
The previous law only allowed international students to work at their university’s facilities during their free time or holidays. Now, students are entitled to find part-time employment outside of the institution provided their contract ends at the same time as their studies.
What if your application is denied?
If you follow the application process strictly, it’s unlikely that your student visa will be rejected. That said, there’s always a small possibility that you could receive a denial.
The Russian authorities aren’t obliged to provide a reason for rejection, but it’ll probably be because you’ve submitted incomplete documentation or your application contains inaccuracies.
If this is the case, there’s no need to panic. As long as you fix the errors and attach the requested documents, you can reapply at your nearest consulate. However, you’ll need to re-pay the visa application fee.