Find out the Russian student visa requirements for foreign students wishing to study in Russia, plus information on Russian student visa costs, processing time and application forms.
Most international students require a Russian student visa to come and study in Russia. In order to apply for a Russian student visa, you will first need to have been accepted onto a course at an officially recognised Russian college, university or place of higher educational learning. There are also some restrictions if you wish to work while studying in Russia, and in some cases you will need a Russian work permit first.
This guide to Russian student visas includes:
- Who needs a Russian student visa?
- Russian student visa requirements
- How to apply for a Russian student visa
- Russian student visa processing time
- Russian student visa application form
- Russian student visa costs
- After you arrive in Russia: mandatory registrations
- Working in Russia while you’re a student
- Foreign graduates in Russia
- Family members of students in Russia
Citizens from most foreign countries will need a Russian student visa to study in Russia. Russia is not a member state of the EU/EFTA, so there is no visa-free entry to Russia for EU/EFTA citizens.
Citizens from Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries do not need a visa to enter and study in Russia. These countries are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan plus the autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In 2015, citizens from these countries reportedly made up more than half of the 283,000 international students studying in Russia.
If you are a citizen of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or Ukraine you don’t need a visa but you do need a valid passport. If you’re a citizen of Abkhazia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Southern Ossetia, Tajikistan or Uzbekistan you can come to Russia to study without a passport or visa.
Several other countries have limited visa-free arrangements with Russia for short stays of between 14–90 days. Citizens of these countries can enter Russia without a visa but will need to sort out a Russian student visa from the Russian General Directorate of Migratory Affairs (GUVM) once inside the country. These agreements are more designed for tourists and, with restrictions of up to three months, for longer courses you should consider a Russian student visa instead. For more information on which countries can enter Russia without a visa, see our guide to Russian visas and residence permits.
For citizens of countries that need a visa to enter Russia (which includes most EU/EFTA states), a Russian student visa will need to be obtained before travelling to Russia. A Russian student visa is valid for 90 days but can be extended to a year and then renewed after that for the duration of the study. This visa is valid for study in any Russian college or university or for any short-term courses.
If you are travelling to Russia to engage in post-doctoral research or to attend academic seminars and require a visa to enter Russia, you can apply for a Russian Humanitarian Visa. It is valid for up to a year for purposes including those related to science or culture. See our article on Russian visas and permits for more information.
Russian student visas are initially issued for three months. You then have to apply to the local division of the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation (FMS of Russia) to extend your visa. The FMS will issue you with a multi-visa which will allow you to enter and leave Russia for a period of one year. Before the visa expires at the end of the year, you have to apply to extend the visa for a further year. You then continue in this way throughout your academic course.
You can start applying for a student visa up to 45 days before you plan to travel to Russia. You must apply through the Russian Embassy or consulate in your home country. There are also authorised visa centres in some countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States. You may be denied entry into Russia on a student visa if you are HIV-positive.
The complete Russian student visa processing time can be lengthy, taking from two to five weeks to process the visa, besides the time required prior to that to secure a study placement and receive the necessary invitation to apply for a visa. The requirements and application processes can be broken down into the following stages.
Step 1: Invitation letter to study in Russia
Before you can apply for a student visa, you first need to be accepted onto a course at a university so you can get an official invitation to come to Russia to study. A list of Russian universities, colleges and places of academic learning can be found here.
Invitations are typically issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and the Federal Migration Service of Russia. However, for most students getting places through the standard procedure or paying fees, the invitation will come from the university. Once you have an invitation, it is valid for three months.
Step 2: Financing your Russian studies and scholarships
You will need to make sure you can cover your course and study costs in Russia. If you are looking to study at a state university in Russia or a university with state-funded places, you may be eligible to apply for a government scholarship. There is also state funding available to students from CIS countries.
International scholarships are granted by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science and are limited to 10,000 per year. If you win a place at a Russian university and are awarded a government scholarship, you will be given a six-digit number to use on your application.
Step 3: Applying to study in Russia
You can apply to up to six Russian educational institutions (typically no more than two in each federal region). You may need to pass an exam, attend an interview or undergo a competitive selection process, depending on where you are applying to and where you are from.
If you are successful and accepted onto a course, you will then receive an invitation with which you can apply for a Russian student visa.
To apply for your Russian student visa, you need to visit the Russian embassy or consulate in your home country. A list of Russian embassies and consulates worldwide is available here (official list, in Russian) and here.
The documentation that you need to submit along with your Russia student visa application form varies from country to country. You should always consult the embassy, consulate or authorised visa centre before submitting your visa application but generally you will need the following:
- passport or ID, valid for at least 18 months from the issue date of your visa and with at least two blank pages, plus a photocopy of the front page.
- one recent passport-sized photograph (3.5×4.5cm)
- your official letter of invitation from the GUVM (it must be the original document, not a copy)
- medical certificate less than three months old showing that you are clear of HIV (AIDS). You may be asked to present the certificate in both Russian and your own language and include your passport details, information on the duration of the stay in Russia, details of the HIV test (date, medication series, official stamp of the clinic or hospital that carried out the test, signatures of the doctors and your own signature).
- An application form, which can be completed online but must be printed out so you can submit a hardcopy to the embassy, consulate or visa centre.
- If you are under 18 years old, you must also have a consent document signed by your parents or legal guardians which has also been certified by a notary.
All foreign visitors to Russia are required to register their stay at the local GUVM branch within seven days of arrival. If you are studying in Russia, this will often be done by the university or academic establishment where you are enrolled but you should check if this is done. Failure to register with the GUVM can result in a fine and in some cases expulsion from Russia. A list of local GUVM offices can be found here.
Your initial Russian student visa will generally be valid for 90 days. After arriving in Russia, you will need to arrange a Russian student visa extension through the GUVM to cover the duration of your course, up to a maximum of three years.
Russian student visa processing time
Visas are usually issued within two to five weeks, although visa centres often offer a fast-track service for an additional fee. The cost will vary according to where you live, so contact the Russian Embassy consulate or visa centre for confirmation.
You will need to take a completed Russian student visa application form when visiting the Russian embassy or consulate. An electronic copy of the Russian student visa application form can be found here, which you can fill out online and print a copy to take with you.
The Russian student visa costs vary from country to country, depending on whether the visa is single or multiple entry and whether you opt for standard or express service. As an example, Russian student visa costs for UK citizen start at GBP 165.
All foreigners entering Russia must complete a migration form. These forms are distributed on planes and trains and also before passport controls at airports and stations. As you pass through border controls, you’ll be handed a detachable portion of the form. This is your migration card and you’ll need to keep it until you leave Russia. It is valid for the duration of your stay (if you leave Russia you will need to complete a new form on your return). You’ll also need it to register with the Russian Federal Migration Service.
Like all foreign citizens, foreign students must register with the Russian Federal Migration Service within seven days of arriving in Russia. However, your university will generally organise this for you. You will need to go to the international students affairs department within three days of arriving in Russia, taking your passport or identity document, your visa (if you need one to enter Russia) and your migration card. You’ll need both the originals and copies of these documents.
The university will then give you the migration card stamped by the Russian Federal Migration Service. This allows you to stay in Russia for three months and then for a year. Two weeks before it expires, you must contact the international students affairs department to get the document extended. There’s no charge for registering or extending the arrival document.
If you lose or damage your migration card you have three days in which to apply to the Federal Migration Service with documentation, such as a passport, student ID card, etc., to be issued with a free duplicate. The international students affairs department will help you to do this.
If you don’t comply with the regulations or you don’t have the correct documentation, you will risk fines, deportation and may even be banned from entering the country again.
If you have a Russian student visa, you will require a work permit from the Federal Migration Service (FMS) unless this work is undertaken during the holidays or at the institution or organisation where you are studying.
You will only be issued with a permit to work if you are a full-time student at a state-accredited university and at least 18 years old. The permit will only allow you to work in the field or profession set out in the permit and in the city or region of your university.
The cost of a work permit for those on a Russian study visa is RUB 3,500 (USD 60). Foreign nationals caught working in Russia without a valid permit can be fined up to RUB 7,000 and potentially deported from Russia.
It usually takes about 10 days to get a work permit from your regional Federal Migration Service (eg. Moscow). You’ll need to submit the following documents:
- Your passport
- Your migration card
- Application form
- Your employment contract
- A medical certificate confirming your HIV-negative status, no infectious diseases or addiction to drugs
- Confirmation from the university that you are enrolled on a full-time course.
Russian work permits for foreign students are valid for one year and can be extended for the duration of the employment contract. You can change jobs during this time but you must inform the Migration Service. If you leave your university course, the work permit will be cancelled and you will no longer be able to work in Russia.
Read more in our guide to getting a Russian work visa.
Extending your Russian student visa
If you wish to continue your studies in Russia, you must extend your visa. If you stay in Russia with an expired visa, you risk a fine of between RUB 5,000 and 7,000 and possibly a five-year ban on entering Russia in the future. You should contact your university’s international office at least 30–40 days before your visa expires.
To extend your visa you will need:
- Your passport
- A completed application form
- A photograph
- A copy of your enrolment agreement or a referral from the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation
- A letter setting out the reason you need the visa extended
- Migration card (original and copy)
- The detachable section of the arrival notification form
- Fee (RUB 1,600 in 2017).
After finishing your studies, you may be able to stay in Russia if you have been offered a job or if you want to look for work or start a business. But in practice this can be complicated as it is not possible to change from one Russian visa type to another inside the country. This means that you may need to exit Russia and re-enter on another suitable visa (ie. work visa, business visa, highly-skilled migrant visa), which means securing an invitation from the GUVM via an employer or suitable organisation.
If you have been living in Russia for more than a year, you may be eligible to apply for permanent residence in Russia, which will give you the right to look for work without needing a visa or permit. Read more in our guide to Russian citizenship and permanent residence.
If you are intending to stay in Russia after your Russian student visa expires, it is advisable to visit your local GUVM branch to make enquiries and the necessary arrangements. A list of local GUVM offices is available here. You will need to do this with plenty of time before your Russian student visa expires.
The Russian authorities are quite strict when it comes to foreign residents overstaying their visa. If you are caught without a valid visa you risk a hefty fine and possible deportation from Russia. If you try to leave more than three days after your Russian student visa expiry date you will have to pay for a separate exit visa.
For information on different visa types, see our complete guide to Russian visas and permits.
The Russian student visa is one of the visa types that allow you to be accompanied by certain family members. The family member(s) will need an invite or be included on your invite from the GUVM and will be subject to standard Russian visa costs. See our guide to joining a relative or partner in Russia for more information.