Visa requirements

With few exceptions, most foreigners wishing to visit the Russia Federation must hold a valid visa. Similarly, most foreigners wishing to work in Russia must hold a valid work visa. Over the years, the requirements for working legally in Russia have changed. What follows are the most recent changes that have been implemented as a result of a new interpretation of the law concerning the employment of foreign teachers in Russia.

In accordance with Russian Federation law, foreigners wishing to work in Russia must have work permits.  This law, however, makes an exception for ‘teachers’. Therefore, if you wish to work in Russia as a teacher, more specifically, a teacher of English, you should seek employment with an institution e.g. an educational company such as Language Link that is registered with the authorities to invite foreigner teachers to Russia.  Only teachers whose visas are sponsored by such an educational company, thus providing them with a work visa, have the right to work in Russia and then only for the visa sponsor.  The system explained:

Applying for a work visa involves two steps:

  • Obtaining a letter of invitation (LOI)
  • Obtaining a work visa

So as to make the system understandable, each step has been explained below.

Step 1: Obtaining a Letter of Invitation

In order to apply for a letter of invitation, Language Link will need to receive a scanned copy of your passport details page (see Passport Validity below for further details).  Once received, Language Link will apply to the General Directorate for Migration for the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for a letter of invitation which, when received, will be sent on to you by post (usually FedEx or DHL) or as an electronic invitation. The latter is, at this time, gaining in popularity as evidenced by the last few months. Regardless, Language Link still requires a postal address should the General Directorate for Migration for the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia decide to send the invitation via the post. That said, the teacher will be notified by Language Link as to how the lewtter of invitation will be sent.

Receiving a letter of invitation can take anywhere from two weeks up to a month depending upon the location of where the invitation is being applied for. As letters of invitations are prepared at the local level, the actual time that it takes for the company to receive it can vary. In Moscow, preparation time is about two weeks; and in St. Petersburg a month. Regardless, as a general rule assume this process will take about one month.

Step 2: Obtaining a Visa

As noted above, once Language Link has received your letter of invitation, it will be sent on to you by post or email. Along with the letter of invitation, you will also receive a letter of support from your visa sponsor (Language Link).

For those unfamiliar with the aforementioned documents, the letter of invitation is about half the size of an A-4 piece of paper folded lengthwise (8 1/2 x 11 for you Americans). The Letter of Support is on an A-4 piece of Letterhead stationery. Both of these documents MUST be sent or brought to the Russian Consulate in order to process your visa.

Obtaining visas may be done either in person, by post or via an authorized visa agency. As Russian consulate appear to be country specific, please check the website of the Russian consulate in the country where you will be applying for your visa. Should you wish to submit your visa appication in person either to a consulate (where permited) or to the authorized visa agency, then be advised that you will be required to visit the agency or consulate twice- the first time to drop off your paperwork (application, letters of invitation and support, etc) and the second to pick up your passport and visa. At this time, the term ‘quick processing’ i.e. same day or next day processing does not apply to visas being obtained by teachers and students in certain locations. As processing times vary from country to country, please consult the applicable visa processing procedures found within the visa procedures pages of this website i.e. ‘Visa Application Procedures for US Citizens’.

Again, as noted above, if you wish to process your visa by post, restrictions may apply. By way of example, in the US, all mail-in visa applications must be sent to one of three intermediary visa agencies for forwarding to the appropriate Russian consulate.  Many Russian consulates no longer accept applications that have been mailed directly to them. If you are uncertain as to the proper procedures to follow, then it is best to check the website of the Russian Consulate nearest you.

In order to apply for a visa, the following items should be brought or posted to the designated Russian consulate:

  • application form
  • passport with at least two clear pages
  • letter of invitation (the original)
  • letter of support
  • HIV test 
  • one passport size photo (black & white or coloured)
  • applicable fee

Teachers working for companies with the right to invite AND employ foreign teachers in Russia will be issued with three-month single (or double) entry work visas. Rather than being concerned by the ninety-day nature of this visa, teachers should find comfort in the fact that this is the visa issued by the General Directorate for Migration for the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for foreigners coming to work in Russia. After your visa has been registered in Russia (following your arrival), the employer has three months to fill in the mandatory eight documents necessary to have this visa converted to a multiple entry visa and registered for a period of up to one year. 

Companies without the right to invite and employ foreigners i.e. non-Russian residents have, in the past, opted to bring their teachers into the country on one year multiple entry visas.  Unfortuantely for these companies, the law has now changed and a recent decree (Decree 635 signed into law on October 4th, 2007) states that holders of the aforementioned one year multiple entry visas may only be present on Russian territiory for a maximum of three months in any six month period.

Migration Cards: Travellers to Russia are now required by law to 'fill in' a migration card prior to passing through customs. Less a card and more a piece of paper, the migration card is currently 'filled in' in one of two ways. For teachers arriving by plane, the migration card is completed electronically at passport control. The teacher only needs sign the two electronic copies, one which is kept by passport control and the other which is given to the teacher for submission to Language Link along with the teacher's passport for registration by the authorites.

Teachers, entering the country via train, will usually have to fill in the form themselves. This form, which is given out on the train before crossing the border must be filled in prior to going through passport control AND must be stamped by the passport control official and one copy of it returned to the voyager. Please note the form has two identical sections: A and B. The section on the right is identical to that on the left. Both sections must be filled in. Section A - Entry will be kept by passport control. Section B will be returned to you by the customs official. On leaving Russia, you will need to surrender Section B.

Registration: Within seventy-two hours of your arrival in Russia, your visa sponsor must submit your passport with attached visa and migration card to FMS (or a local office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs) for registration. These documents will be returned tot he company within two to three weeks after which time the teacher can drop by Language Link and pick up their registered passport. Previously, your visa sponsor was required to submit the appropriate paper work detailing the address where the teacher would be living during their stay in Russia.  This is no longer the case, and all teachers who are working legally in Russia should be registered at their companies legal address.

As is obvious from the foregoing section, those companies that have made the effort to employ their teachers legally deserve a pat on the back. Should it not be obvious, the reason why many companies have chosen not to work in accordance with the law is purely monetary. Considering that native speaking teachers are offered more money per hour than Russian speaking teachers and that many are given a package deal (accommodation, travel allowance, visa reimbursement, health insurance, holiday, sick time, etc), the additional burden of taxation is just too much to bear. Unfortunately, a new teacher to Russia who is hired legally will cost his employer 30% in income tax until such time as that teacher has spent 183 days in a calender year in the Russian Federation (thereafter the income tax rate drops to 13%). In addition, the company must also pay 34% social welfare tax on each teacher. Given the need to pay 64% on each new teacher, it is easy to see why many employers hire illegally which though good for the company, places the teacher in great riisk with law enforcement officials.

Passport validity: As previously mentioned, Language Link is accredited to invite and employ foreign teachers to Russia. In accordance with the regulations of the General Directorate for Migration for the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, Language Link invites its teachers to Russia on three-month single entry business visas which are thereafter converted to a multiple entry visa and registered for a period of up to one year. In order for Language Link to prolong a teacher's visas, as stated above, certain passport validity dates applies.

Simply speaking, for Language Link to be able to apply for a work visa, the teacher's passport must be valid for at least eighteen (18) months from the teacher's intended entry date to Russia. If a passport is valid for less than the required eighteen months, then Language Link will be unable to have a work visa issued.

Of interest, teachers wishing to stay on with Language Link in Russia for a second year do not need to obtain a new visa for their second year. Language Link can prolong the teacher's visa provided sufficent time remains with regard to passport validity.

The Language Link Commitment

Since 1995, Language Link has placed the welfare and well-being of its teachers before all other considerations. This we have always done; this we shall continue to do.