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1. Types of visas that allow obtaining higher education in Russia

To visit Russia for any purpose, foreign citizens are required to obtain an entry visa before travelling to the Russian Federation (RF). The exception are countries that have signed a visa free agreement with Russia. In order to get a visa, all the documents have to be submitted to the Russian embassy or consulate depending on the place of residence.

An official invitation to Russia is the major document visa issuance is based upon. The list of other required documents and papers depends on the type of visa you are applying for. In order to visit Russia for studying purposes, one of the two types of visa must be obtained:

1.1. Tourist visa

This is the easiest and quickest type of a visa to obtain. It is issued for a 30-day period. Thus, it’ll only work for only short-term educational programs. Invitations to visit Russia with this type of visa are provided by tourist agencies that have a required certification.

The period of visa processing varies from half an hour to several days. There is a possibility to obtain a single-entry and double-entry visa. Tourist visa extension is not possible.

1.2. Student visa

Foreign citizens have to obtain a student visa for a long-term study in the Russian Federation. In this case, the invitation is issued by an educational institution where a foreign student intends to study. The educational institution must be registered in the State Register of the Russian Federation.

This visa is issued for a period of no longer than one year with the possibility of its subsequent extension in the Federal Migration Service (FMS) of Russia. This visa is also of two types, i.e. single-entry and double-entry.

Any foreign visitor to Russia can receive emergency medical help for free by dialing 03. All the other medical services, including rehabilitation after first aid, are provided upon medical insurance or due payment.

2. Types and features of student insurance in Russia

Applying for any type of visa to Russia, foreign visitors are required to buy medical health insurance. Foreign students will be charged for all the medical services in Russia. Thus, Russian legislature strongly recommends purchasing health insurance before entering the territory of the Russian Federation. The exception are foreigners who hold a temporary or permanent residence permit in Russia. They are can receive free medical treatment within the Obligatory Health Insurance (OHI) scheme as full-right citizens of the Russian Federation.

For the rest of cases, foreign students have to hold a valid health insurance over the whole period of their stay in the Russian Federation. There are several ways to insure medical expenses for the period of studying in Russia.

1. Purchasing a health insurance policy within the Russian Insurance Program for People Travelling Abroad.

Most big insurance companies offering services on the territory of the RF recommend purchasing an insurance policy within this program.

It’s designed for foreigners entering the territory of the RF. The program offers a number of advantages compared to analogous insurance programs in foreign companies. These advantages concern the following aspects:

  • Any issues related to providing medical care within the insurance plan are managed by an assistant company located in Russia. As local assistants are familiar with hospitals and healthcare centers, medical attention and relevant treatment will be provided really fast. The insured person will be immediately referred to the appropriate hospital or medical facility.
  • Purchasing a health insurance policy in a Russian insurance company guarantees that it will be successfully submitted by an embassy or consulate when applying for a visa. What is more, such a policy needn’t be translated or notarized.
  • A flexible system of selection of coverage benefits and policy conditions. When purchasing an insurance policy, it’s important to consider personal preferences and length of time of the journey. This will help devise an insurance policy that will include additional coverage benefits or exclude all the unnecessary ones. As a result, the insured person is provided with an individual insurance plan. An insurance policy with a maximum set coverage benefits (legal advice, loss of documents insurance, civil liability insurance, search and rescue, emergency helicopter evacuation) purchased in the Russian insurance company will cost much cheaper than in a foreign one.
The quality and terms of receiving medical care within the insurance policy depend on the assistant company. In case of the insured loss, the insured person has to contact a representative of the assistant company as soon as possible. The way how quickly and professionally the assistant will do his/her job directly affects the time and costs needed for medical treatment. (More about Assistants).

The biggest insurance companies in Russian are “Alpha Insurance” («Альфа страхование»), “Liberty Insurance” («Liberty страхование»), “Russian Standard Insurance” («Русский стандарт страхование»), “VTB Insurance” («ВТБ страхование»), “Renaissance Insurance” («Ренессанс страхование»), “ZETTA”, “ERV”, etc.

2. Purchasing a policy in an insurance company in the country of residence. Health insurance plans analogous to those of Russian Insurance Program for People Travelling Abroad can be found in many foreign insurance companies. Buying an insurance policy in a foreign company is easier and more convenient for those not speaking Russian. However, such insurance has a few considerable disadvantages.

First and foremost, it tends to be more expensive. Apart from that, an assistant company working on behalf of the insurance company isn’t usually located in Russia. To save money, foreign assistant companies often sign agreements with Russian assistants. The whole procedure becomes more complicated. In case the insured person suffers any health problems, he/she has to contact a foreign assistant company to request medical help. Then he/she will be referred to the Russian insurance company. Only after that the patient will be instructed on where to go to get medical attention. Thus, it takes more time to process every medical help request. Russian assistant companies actively cooperate with a wider network of medical centers and facilities.

In contrast to them, foreign assistants cannot always ensure appropriate medical care within the policy plan. The insured person has to pay independently for his/her treatment in the medical facility that the assistant doesn’t cooperate with. All the medical expenses incurred by the insured person will be covered after the course of treatment is over. For that, the insured person has to make a claim and provide supporting documentation to the insurance company. Such an alternative seems to be less convenient because the insured person must consider having additional costs for the time of the journey. With this type of health insurance, the insured person is strongly advised to find out the name of the assistant whom he/she will contact in Russia to ask for help.

The biggest and most reliable foreign insurance companies working in Russia are “CORIS International”, “Global Voyager Assistance”, “EIVIA-Assistance”, “Euro-Center Holding”, etc. The full list of foreign insurance companies is available here.

3. Purchasing an insurance policy within the student scheme. Some Russian educational institutions suggest that foreign students purchase student health insurance. Its main advantage, compared to a standard insurance plan, is that it offers a couple of essential benefits in addition to common ones. For instance, such policies often cover receiving dental treatment or requesting a home visit by a physician in case of minor health problems. In each insurance plan the amount of medical care covered by the policy may vary significantly. Therefore, terms and conditions of the policy must be thoroughly specified in the educational institution or insurance company cooperating with it.

The main disadvantage of this health insurance alternative is high price. Such policies tend to include a number of costly insurance benefits (a home visit by a physician, dental care, etc.). The total price of such insurance plan is, as a rule, much more expensive than that of a standard insurance policy.

Health Insurance Program for People Travelling Abroad allows both Russian people travelling abroad and foreigners visiting Russia to secure their medical expenses. The purpose, length of their journey and the country of their destination don’t really matter. However, the above mentioned won’t work for the country of residence and the residence permit; in such cases the insurance policy becomes invalid.

3. How to Use Health Insurance?

In case of any health problem the insured person should immediately contact the assistant company using the number on the insurance card. The operator will request to provide personal information (policy number, full name of the insured, his/her location, type of the problem) and then refer him/her to the appropriate medical facility.

Medical expenses are covered by the insurance company only if the insured loss is included into the list of benefits. For instance, dental care and treatment of exacerbation of chronic diseases won’t be covered in a standard health insurance plan. Thus, it’s better if a health insurance policy includes a wide range of insured losses.

Remember that the insurance company covers only a limited amount of medical expenses. If the total sum of the claim exceeds the limit of health insurance coverage, the patient has to compensate the rest of it from his/her own pocket. The limit of insurance can be selected individually when applying for a health insurance policy. It’s better to set a higher coverage limit if a foreigner intends to stay in Russia for a longer period of time.

If an insurance policy is not purchased in Russia, it could have a franchise. Every time the patient requests medical help, he/she has to pay for treatment independently within the certain money limit (a franchise). Once it is exceeded, all the expenses are covered by the insurance policy.

This option is less convenient, as a tourist is expected to have additional costs to pay for treatment. With some rare exceptions, insurance policies bought within Russian Insurance Program for People Travelling Abroad don’t have a franchise.

Student health insurance policies are used in the same way. Insurance benefits generally include home visits by a physician, which depends on the type and acuteness of the health problem. On the whole, using this type of insurance is much easier.

4. Purchasing Insurance Online

Nowadays it’s common to purchase insurance online. It works for both purchasing a policy within Russian Insurance Program for People Travelling Abroad and choosing to buy a policy in a foreign insurance company. Purchasing an insurance policy online takes around 15 minutes and consists of two steps:

  • Filling in an insurance application form. It’s important to fill all required spaces including full name, dates and duration of the journey. Then one has to select the insurance company, choose the insurance plan and its features, and add optional buy-ups to the insurance policy if necessary (the sum of coverage, additional insured losses, etc.).
  • Paying for the insurance policy with electronic money. The purchased policy has to be printed out and taken everywhere over the whole period of stay in Russia. Such insurance has the same legal validity as an insurance policy purchased directly in the office of the insurance company. It is also possible to purchase a new insurance policy after the old one has expired online while staying in a foreign country.

5. Additional Insurance

Even the cheapest standard insurance policy purchased within the Insurance Program for People Travelling Abroad covers a wide range of insured losses. This policy will cover the majority of common insurance benefits. Some benefits may be included into the policy plan individually considering the length of the journey, its purpose and the country of destination. When visiting Russia, we suggest adding the following coverage benefits:

  • Prevention of pre-existing illnesses / chronic conditions. If health problems are caused by exacerbation of a chronic disease, a standard insurance policy won’t cover any medical expenses incurred by the insured person. As the climate in Russia is mostly chilly and even cold, it’s desirable that people suffering from chronic / recurring diseases include this benefit into their insurance plans.
  • Adventure / sport activities. If this benefit isn’t added to the insurance plan, any injuries experienced during adventure / sports activities will have to be treated and paid for by the insured person independently. Football, hockey, gym workouts, bicycle riding, rollerblading, swimming in an outdoor pond or indoor pool are all regarded types of sport activities. As sport injuries are expensive to treat, it’s desirable that the benefit is included into the insurance plan.
  • Loss of documents insurance. In case valuable documents (e.g. a passport, military ID, tickets, etc.) are stolen or lost, the insurance company will help replace them temporarily. This benefit is incredibly helpful since arranging replacement / emergency documents in a foreign country often takes much time and effort. With the level of petty crime in Russia being high, this benefit will secure the insured person from possible inconveniences.
  • Accidental disease / death of a relative. If a relative of a foreign student suffers an acute health problem and subsequent health deterioration, the student has to contact the insurance company assistance as soon as possible. The insurance company will cover repatriation of the relative as well as the student’s return to Russia.

The total price of the insurance policy depends on some relevant factors, such as the set (total number) of insured benefits, maximum limit of coverage, the insurance company, etc. You can look through all the possible options, compare prices of different insurance companies and purchase the most suitable insurance policy in the section "Get a Quote".

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