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 your purpose for traveling to Russia as well how much time you will need in Russia.
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 process cannot be started (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
- Visiting Scholar Status available with Research Travel Packages
Scholars arriving to Russia to perform research (archival, sociological, etc.), should arrive on a student visa or a special business visa designated as humanitarian/scientific-technical exchange. Both require an invitation from a Russian university or research institution. Visiting Scholar Status is available with available with Research Travel Packages.
- Tourist and Business Visa Invitations Contact Us to Apply
For general (not research) travel, a tourist visa or a business visa are most common. For Americans, as of 2012, both are issued as three-year, multi-entry visas good for stays of up to six months at a time. Both types of require an invitation. A tourist invitation takes the form of a "voucher" issued by a registered travel company. A business invitation may either be issued by the host organization on letterhead (only in the case of the 3-yr multi-entry) or by the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs by application of the host organization (in the case of shorter business visas). Either is delivered to you by email or fax. The original is available upon request (an international shipping fee may apply) should the consulate request it. As of this update (January 2017) the US consulates are not requiring the originals.
For most other nationalities, tourist visas are 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 out of any 180 consecutive days.
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.
The major difference between tourist and business visas is that invitations for tourist visas tend to be processed faster. Invitations for business visas are technically 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 a business visa.
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
Please contact SRAS for assistance in obtaining these visas.
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.
Please contact SRAS for assistance in obtaining these visas if needed.
- 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. More about working in Russia.
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, often 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 and other visiting scholar visas through SRAS, SRAS provides full visa support, helping you manage the following process.
For tourist or business visas, you must apply at the ILS office for a particular Russian Consulate, physically taking the invitation, visa application, and other required materials to them. If you do not live nearby it is still feasible to send by post to ILS although not advisable if you are under any time pressure. Usually during peak season they refuse to handle rush orders by mail. You can also mail your material to a visa agent. These agents usually charge about $100 plus shipping in addition to the consular fees. SRAS currently works with a trusted agent called Travel Document Systems in Washington D.C. In general, unless it is a budget concern, we advise using a visa agent who is at the consulate daily and can expedite solution of any issues that might come up.
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, and have two opposing pages free of any stamps.
- One passport photo. Have these taken at your local FedEx Office location. Do not attempt to make them yourself.
- Invitation. At present (as of January 2017), it appears to be OK to use a fax or scanned copy of the invitation in the US for tourist or business visas.
- Student visas necessitate HIV test results as well.
- Consulate fees. These vary somewhat 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 usually 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 7 business days after arrival. 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 $50) 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 seven business days, you do not need to register - but you should be able to show a train/plane/bus ticket to prove that you arrived less than seven days 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 seven business days of your arrival. You should plan at least a layover within the first few days of your stay in Russia - a night in a hotel or hostel will get you easy registration.
If you leave your city of registration for more than 72 hours, or if you leave Russia at all, you need to 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. Legal changes made in 2007, however, have ended this.
If you encounter any problems in registration, contact SRAS.
Find Out More!
History of Russian Holidays
Internships in Russia
Health and Safety in Russia
The SRAS Newsletter
The SRAS Library on Russia
Journal for Students
More Free Resources!
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