The following information is provided to assist those traveling to Russia for long or short terms and on a tight budget. You may use this to find your own visa solution or you may contact SRAS about our Research Travel Packages.
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Visas for Scholars
to Research Abroad in Russia
Your visa is the first and most important step in planning your trip. Which visa is right for you depends mostly upon how much time you will need in Russia. Research trips of up to 90 days are relatively easy to arrange; trips of 90 days or more are not as simple, but possible.
To get the right visa for you, perform the following steps:
- Obtain a Passport
- Apply for the Invitation
- Apply for the Visa
- Register your Visa
Obtain a Passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months longer than your intended trip to Russia. Your passport must also have two clean opposing pages in it, so that they can affix the visa. Those who do not have a passport or who have a passport that does not meet these two conditions, should apply for a new passport. American citizens can do so at the US Postal Service. Keep in mind that standard processing for passports takes 4-6 weeks and the Russian visa cannot be processed (another 2-8 weeks depending on type) until you have a valid passport. If you will be traveling within the next 4-5 months, we recommend you pay the rush fee and include a prepaid airbill with your passport application.
For more information about applying for a passport, click here. You can also track the status of your passport online.
Apply for the Invitation
A scholar traveling independently to Russia for archival or other research will most often arrive on either a tourist visa or a business visa. Americans can apply for either under a special regime that will issue a three-year visa, good for stays of up to six months at a time. The standard regime, open to Europeans and most other nationalities, offers tourist visas good for up to thirty days and business visas good for up to two years and entitling the holder to stays of up to 90 days at a time. For those needing more than 90 consecutive days in Russia, two options are available. The first option is "back-to-back" business visas, which carries some risk and added expense. The other option is a student visa (good for up to one year), which requires you attend university classes while in Russia.
Note that for tourist and business visa invitations, you must indicate which consulate you want to process your visa with when you apply for the invitation. There are five consulates in the US. For US applicants, we recommend that you use the Washington D.C. consulate, as they seem to be the most "user friendly."
- Tourist Visa Invitation terms and conditions apply now
Under a special regime passed in 2012, Americans can now get multiple-entry tourist visas good for up to three years and entitling the holder to stay in Russia for up to six months at a time. Standard tourist visas, available to most other nationalities, are good for up to 30 days (single or double-entry). Both types of tourist visas require an invitation, which may be issued quickly by authorized commercial organizations. The invitation is processed by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and is delivered to you by email or fax. The original is available upon request should the consulate request it, which is not known to happen in the US.
If you believe a tourist visa is right for you, read the terms and conditions, and apply now.
- Business Visa Invitation terms and conditions apply now
Under a special regime passed in 2012, Americans can now get multiple-entry business visas good for up to three years and entitling the holder to stay in Russia for up to six months at a time. Standard business visas, available to most other nationalities, are good for up to 90 days out of any 180. Thus, for any six-month period, you will be allowed in Russia for a total of 90 days. A one-year business visa allows you a maximum of 90 days during the first six months, and another 90 days during the second. Invitations for business visas are issued by a "business partner" and are designed for those visiting for business negotiations (but can be purchased from third party vendors and the Russian embassy site acknowledges that they are used for extended tourist stays and family visits). You may not be legally employed in Russia with these visas. The invitations are processed by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and are delivered to you by fax or email. Originals can be sent upon request but an international shipping fee applies.
If you believe a business visa is right for you, read the terms and conditions, and apply now.
It is possible to leave Russia at the end of one three-month business visa, receive another, and return. However, in most cases, under Russian regulations, you must return to your home country and process the visa there. Ukraine (Kiev) can also process these under a special regime, although you must first obtain residency in Ukraine (additional time and expense). Please note that you are never guaranteed to receive a visa. After leaving, you may be denied re-entry. For these reasons, we recommend that scholars intending research of more than 90 days (or six months in the case of Americans) strongly consider a student visa.
- Student Visa Invitation available with Research Travel Packages
Student visas are supported by a Russian university on the basis of a tuition-paid academic program. These visas are good for up to a year and may be easily extended.
Above: traditional Kyrgyz hospitality. Explore and research all of Eurasia with SRAS!
CIS Visa Support
The following Eurasian states require Americans to receive a visa:
Azerbaijan; Belarus; Kazakhstan; Moldova; Tajikistan; Uzbekistan
The following require Americans to receive a visa only for trips of certain lengths:
Georgia (free for 365 days)
Ukraine (free for 90 days)
Current EU states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) also allow visa-free travel for 90 days.
Additionally, Kyrgyzstan will issue a visa at the airport without a letter of invitation for trips of under 30 days.
"Tuition-paid" means enrolling for a minimum (usually 10-12 hours per week) amount of classes. For those wishing to improve their Russian or make academic contacts while in Russia, the cost of tuition (varies by location) can easily even out if you consider your savings (several hundred dollars) in not leaving Russia to receive a new visa, and the amount you can save on housing (university dorms are very cheap and open only to those enrolled at the university). However, for those who will not value the classes, this is not an option. If you do not attended your courses, the university is legally obligated to expel you, which means your visa will be cancelled and you will be evicted from the dormitory.
Student visas also somewhat restrict your travel. While most universities will allow you 1-2 weeks to travel, and allow you to make short weekend trips (if they are informed in advance) you will be expected to remain in your university city and regularly attend classes.
If you believe a student visa is best for you, sign up for SRAS's Research Travel Packages.
- Other Visa Types
There are two other types of visas which SRAS cannot help you obtain:
Work visas apply only to those arriving in Russia to work under a legal contract. You must also have a work permit to legally work in Russia, though there are some exceptions for unpaid internships under a student visa.
Personal visas can be obtained from family or friends in Russia, but if you or they have not had past experience in doing this, the process is highly discouraged as it is complicated, slow, involves lengthy background checks, and will require that the individual also personally register you in an apartment they own, etc.
Apply for the Visa
For student visas through SRAS, SRAS provides full visa support, helping you manage the following process.
For tourist or business visas, you must apply at the Russian Consulate, physically taking the invitation, visa application, and other required materials to them. If you are not near a consulate, you may mail your material to a visa agent. These agents usually charge about $50 plus shipping in addition to the consular fees. SRAS currently works with visa agent Travel Document Systems in Washington D.C.
Consulates can vary in their requirements and can change them without notice. You should contact your visa agent and check the website for the particular consulate you indicated to make sure you have all the latest information.
The usual list, with some pointers from SRAS, runs as follows:
- Completed visa application (download the application for Americans). Be sure to complete all fields, even if the answer is "no" or "n/a."
- Passport. Must be the original, not a copy.
- One passport photo. Have these taken at your local FedEx Office location. Do not attempt to make them yourself.
- Cover letter. If you are traveling yourself, it is from you individually. If you are traveling on behalf of your company, then from your company. If you use an agent, they will generally have a form letter for you to fill in. It should just briefly outline your dates, destination and purpose. Nothing extensive.
- Invitation. So far, it appears to be OK to use a fax or scanned copy of the invitation in the US for tourist or business visas. Others generally require the original invitation.
- Student visas will need to submit HIV test results as well.
- Consulate fees. These vary widely based on your type of visa, how soon you need it, and your country of citizenship. Again, please see the embassy website for exact information. Only cash or money orders are accepted
The visa will be glued directly into your passport.
Registering Your Visa
Student visas through SRAS will be registered at the university upon arrival.
Business or tourist visas must also be registered within 3 business days after arrival. If you arrive on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday your visa must be registered on the first working day. It is your responsibility to make sure this happens. How to do so depends on where you will be staying.
- For stays at hotels or hostels, the reception desk will register you. Reputable short-term apartment rentals will also provide this service upon your arrival. In either case, a registration fee (ranging from about $10 to $35) may be assessed.
- For stays with friends or in rented apartments, your visa is registered by the apartment owner. This person needs to go to the local police station or post office, present his/her passport registered at the same apartment, fill out a form, and submit a copy of your passport photo page, visa, and migration card. Generally, registration through the post office is less troublesome.
If you be in a city less than 72 hours, you do not need to register - but you should show a train/plane/bus ticket showing that you arrived in the city less than 72 hours ago. Failure to carry all documentation (original passport, visa, and registration and/or the hotel card or train ticket mentioned above) can result in fines, denial of future Russian visas, and other unexpected inconveniences.
If you will be traveling in Russia after arrival, your visa must still be registered within three business days. We recommend that you plan a layover in your arrival city of at least one day so as to get registered by a hotel or hostel there.
If you leave your city of registration for more than 72 hours, or if you leave Russia at all, you need to de-register and re-register when you return. Contact your visa invitation provider to find out how this is done (see below).
Before 2007, it was quite common for hotels to sell registration to people not staying at the hotel. Recent legal changes, however, have ended this.
If you encounter any problems in registration, contact IntelService (the agency which processes the invitations made available through this site). If you have received your invitation not through this site, you will need to the organization that assisted you in obtaining the invitation. Make sure your inviting agency provides you with local contact information in Russia!
29 Leninskiy pr., bldg. 8,
tel. (495) 956 4422,
fax (495) 956 2244.
|St. Petersburg (Partners):
78 Nevsky pr.,
tel. (812) 400 2240,
tel/fax (812) 400 2250
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TERMS OF SERVICE
(Return to Invitations)
- In order to provide visa support, you have been referred by SRAS to IntelService Agency (”the Agency”). The Agency is fully authorized by and registered with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian Internal Affairs Ministry.
- The function of SRAS is limited to introducing this service to you in order to obtain the necessary visa support documents, which will be forwarded to you so that you may obtain an actual visa from the Russian Embassy or Consulate.
- The function of the Agency is to process your request for an invitation and to issue the invitation. You may contact SRAS for services in securing the visa itself if you are located in the USA.
- The Agency was chosen by SRAS because of its flexibility, low prices, experience in assisting travelers to Russia, and the Agency's care in dealing with security. SRAS accepts no responsibility and no liability for any loss or inconvenience sustained by the applicant in securing your invitation. The Agency provides the invitations, and all questions and requests regarding your invitation should be directed to the Agency.
- After you submit the application form for an invitation, you will work with the Agency in securing the invitation. The payment for the services of the Agency will be made to the Agency and the Agency will send the invitation directly to you.
- The Agency will keep all information strictly confidential.
- The Agency provides all services according to its price list valid on the day of accepting the customer's order.
- Prepayment is required for every order.
- Once the order is accepted and paid by the customer, a specified fee must be paid for any changes in and / or cancellation of the order.
Return to Invitations