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.