Update as of August 04, 2020
Russian universities are, as of now, largely conducting in-person classes. However, study abroad is still on hold as visas are not yet being issued and foreigners are, in general, still barred from entering Russia. Certain exceptions remain, such as for diplomats, pilots, and foreigners who need to visit immediate family members in Russia.
Russia is currently negotiating bilateral agreements to reopen its borders. While agreements have been reached with Turkey, the UK, Zambia, and Tanzania, visa issuance even for these countries is has not yet begun. Russia has set a number of requirements for beginning these bilateral negotiations which would require that the COVID situation in the US would have to be brought fully under control before anything could be discussed.
Much of the world, in fact, remains closed or with restricted travel, especially for Americans. For these reasons and for safety concerns, most US universities have cancelled Fall 2020 abroad.
SRAS is looking forward to 2021 and as of now, we are planning on Spring 2021 abroad. To allow for maximum flexibility, deadlines have been moved to November 1 and deposits will be fully refundable up until it is necessary to process visas – approximately 3-4 weeks prior to arrival.
In the meantime, SRAS Online is launched! Join us for a range of courses on regional studies, art history, Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish languages – and more!
Update as of June 04, 2020
Many economies are beginning to reopen as the global health crisis begins to stabilize.
SRAS has cancelled all regular summer programs abroad and is offering some online experiences instead. However, we continue to actively monitor travel-related developments in our locations for our colleagues and clients who may be interested in traveling to or researching abroad.
Poland, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine are all expected to resume international flights as of June 15. Most have made statements that this reopening is currently only planned and may be subject to review before that date. All three countries have not lifted a mandatory two-week post-entry self-quarantine period. All three have introduced smartphone apps used to enforce self-quarantines and may require those entering the country to utilize these apps for the first two weeks of their stay.
Thus, while travel will reopen for these three countries, tourism and other short-term travel is not likely to be viable. Longer stays may still be worthwhile.
Russia has not made any announcements on the subject of reopening its borders. Aeroflot has indicated that it assumes it will resume regular ticket sales in mid-July. However, Russia’s Association of Tour Operators has indicated that they do not expect the borders to open before October. Russian government officials have made many recent statements encouraging citizens to consider domestic tourism, leading some to assume that borders may be held closed in an attempt to jumpstart that section of the Russian economy. Most Russians seem to have gotten the message. According to a recent poll, only 4% are still planning a vacation outside the country this summer. Meanwhile, 11% are planning a domestic trip while 61% are planning stay-cations at home.
Federal regulators have opened tourism selectively. Currently, only resort areas with medical licenses are open and clients must present a negative COVID test, issued within the past three days, at registration. Other hotels and housing options remain closed.
No solid indication has been given as to when Russia’s visa services, shut down since March, will resume. From current policies, it is possible that, when it is reopened, additional requirements could be added: a negative COVID virus test or positive COVID antibody test. Depending on when borders open, a two-week self-quarantine may also be required upon entry.
It is additionally likely that quarantine restrictions will also remain controlled at the regional level. Thus, individual rules will need to be monitored for each location a traveler intends to visit. Some Russian cities are currently almost fully reopened for domestic business while others, such as Moscow, are remaining much more cautious with generously spaced phased reopenings.
Most of our locations, we believe, will likely be open by the start of the fall semester for 2020, judging by current policy trajectories and messaging. A larger question remains what form education will be delivered in within those locations – online or in-person. Other questions still to be answered is if self-quarantine measures will remain in place by that time and, in the case of Russia, if additional requirements for a visa will be instituted. We will continue to monitor the situation, plan for the conditions carefully, and keep our students and clients informed.
Update as of March 29, 2020
The situation for travelers to Russia remains highly fluid. As the virus and protective measures against it are still in their initial growth stages, we should expect continued elevations of travel restrictions for now. If you have general or academic travel interests to Russia, please keep in mind the following five points:
- Russian Visas – No new Russian visas should be expected until at least May.
The government has ordered the visa service closed. No applications for Russian visas are being accepted. Processing for visa applications is also suspended. Thus, no new Russian visas should be expected to be issued before May 1. On that day, the order will lose force. However, May 1 is a holiday and most of the first week of May is celebrated as holidays in Russia. We also cannot exclude the possibility of an extension of the original order to close the visa service. We will update this page as new information becomes available.
- The Russian border will close indefinitely on March 30.
Russia has applied increasing restrictions to border crossings for several days including blocking the entry of foreigners as of March 16 and announcing an end to international flights as of March 27. Some flights have been allowed to continue to allow foreigners to leave and Russians to return home. Special measures were also put in place to allow foreigners with valid visas to enter Russia if they are a close relative of a Russian citizen. As of March 30, ALL border traffic including train, car, and even pedestrian crossings will be blocked. While we can probably expect the enforcement of the order to allow for foreigners to leave and Russians to return for a short time, if you are not prepared to extend your stay in Russia indefinitely, we recommend you plan to leave Russia as soon as possible.
- Stays may be extended in-country under a special process.
Extensions of stays in Russia is now possible via a new emergency process. This process will have four steps. 1) One week before the expiry date of a visa, the holder should visit the police office serving the location at which that visa is registered. 2) The visa holder will need to submit a statement, in Russian, about the situation. The visa holder will be fingerprinted and photographed. 3) Then, an application may be submitted to the migration office (which are usually within a larger “multifunctional document center”), again, which serves the area in which the registration is held. Note that this does not actually prolong the visa. No new or revised visa will be issued. The result of this process is only permission to stay in Russia after the visa’s expiration. 4) Before leaving Russia, anyone who has taken advantage of this process will need to apply for a transit visa after booking tickets and not later than 10 days before the scheduled departure. In Moscow, this can be done at the Migration Head Office at Pokrovka, 42.
- Russian archives and libraries are closed.
In accordance with the government’s announcement to close all non-essential work, Russian libraries and archives are closed. Some, however, are working on new online services in response to the current crisis. SRAS will update its Guide to Russian Archives (hosted on our site, GeoHistory.today) as news becomes available. We will also reopen our remote archive assistance services once it is safe to do so.
- SRAS is currently planning for summer and fall study abroad.
Additional information on summer and fall can be found on separate entries on our site. The situation is fluid and information will be updated. All planning will be done with health and safety as the top priority.
Update as of March 16, 2020
Dear SRAS Students,
Thank you for your patience as we have evaluated the very rapidly changing information in our study abroad locations. Following an SRAS team meeting and assessment of information from all available sources, we are currently recommending that all students consider returning home in the next several days. Despite our study locations having relatively low numbers of COVID-19 and taking precautionary steps, the rate of new travel restrictions each day is concerning and unpredictable. We believe that while you are on an SRAS program abroad, you should be able to, at any time, depart on a commercial passenger flight. We are no longer certain that this will be the case in the coming days and weeks.
Many of our partners have temporarily suspended programs and/or are making arrangements to continue online. As you know, we will work with our host institutions to continue your studies online to the extent possible. We are committed to being able to provide you with a minimum number of credits to ensure your academic continuity. We are not requiring you to depart but do strongly recommend it at this time given the unpredictable circumstances worldwide.
Should you decide to stay, you should understand that you will be subject to any host institution limitations and country mandates which may affect method of study and provision of housing. SRAS will continue to support you as long as you are in country within the limits allowed by the host country. We will also require that you sign a waiver releasing SRAS and your host institution of responsibility.
Following are the immediate steps you should take:
1. Speak with your parents and co-decision makers about this immediately.
2. Notify SRAS, your host institution and your home institution no later than Thursday, March 19th at 9am local time about your decision. If you have questions or want to discuss please reach out.
3. If you decide to depart, look into flights, book ASAP and send us your itinerary. Please try to book the most direct flight, avoiding European capitals if possible.
We continue to strongly believe in our local partners and understand this is a worldwide, unprecedented situation during which we all have to abide by and make very difficult decisions.
Thank you for your patience during this time – we are ready to support you in your next steps.
The SRAS Team
Update as of March 14, 2020
The situation continues to develop globally.
Russia has now instituted an air traffic restriction by which all international travel with EU countries, as well as Switzerland and Norway, must connect via capital cities. This means that all international flights connecting to Moscow in other cities will need to be rerouted. The measure is due to go into effect at the end of the day on March 16.
Moscow is also taking additional measures, having placed itself on “high alert.” The measures announced are unlikely to affect our students, but include measure like handing out face masks to people visiting hospitals, restricting patient visitation hours, and making public school attendance optionally available online.
Kyrgyzstan has recently announced that all educational institutions will be closed for three weeks. This will affect our students at London School in Bishkek. SRAS is clarifying the repercussions of this for our students as soon as possible.
Ukraine has also taken the very strong measure of announcing the cancellation of air traffic for two weeks. All land borders will also be closed. The period will begin March 17. In addition, the border into Ukraine will be closed to all foreigners starting March 16. The US Embassy in Kyiv has additional information on their site.
Poland has banned all passenger flights for two weeks starting March 15. The border will be closed for the same period, and returning Polish citizens will be subject to 14-day quarantine.
As always, our student’s health and safety remains the top priority for SRAS. We are working with our students and partner institutions to help them make and implement the best decisions for themselves.
We are currently mobilizing, with our partners, to provide online instruction, ensuring academic continuity for our students who have returned home.
Update as of March 12, 2020
SRAS has sent the following letter to students in response to the recent restrictions placed on foreign nationals entering the US from the Schengen Area of Europe:
In light of the Wednesday announcement from President Trump we understand your concern.
The announcement is new and everyone is looking for clarification on it. We have as many questions as you do and our entire team is working diligently to get answers. Please note that the proclamation does indicate the following:
Section 1. Suspension and Limitation on Entry. The entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States is hereby suspended and limited subject to section 2 of this proclamation.
Sec. 2. Scope of Suspension and Limitation on Entry.
(a) Section 1 of this proclamation shall not apply to:
(i) any lawful permanent resident of the United States;
Study abroad offices are also understandably overwhelmed and many have recalled students home overnight. At this point:
- Please forward us all recent communications/directives from your university, along with specific questions you have. We will address each one on a case by case basis and help you with next steps.
- Remain calm. This is very new information and additional guidance will likely be issued from the US government and universities on Thursday (U.S. time). Please reference the Department of Homeland Security site.
- We are in contact with the US Embassies and will be working to verify information and get guidance from them.
- If you feel you need to move forward in making flight arrangements, please be sure to clarify ALL information and scenarios. We recommend trying to contact the airline directly. An airline won’t run a flight if they believe the passengers won’t be allowed in. Please forward your flight information to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
- The decision on whether or not to return home is yours, along with advice from your parents and home university. We will support whatever decision you make. At this time, we do maintain that our study abroad locations are safe and taking precautions. Once you are in transit and in countries where SRAS does not operate, our capacity to support you is limited.
- You can expect ongoing communications from us as we receive information. We will use WhatsAp groups for each location for ease of communication. We do not have all the answers to all the questions, but will do what we can to provide the best information available and get answers.
Again, your safety, health and peace of mind are our top priority. Both our local and US teams are working on this and here to support you. We appreciate your patience during this time.
Update as of March 10, 2020
Russia, including the city Moscow where elevated precautions are being taken, has not yet applied any restrictions to US citizens traveling to Russia.
US citizens arriving to Moscow or any other location in Russia can expect to have their temperature taken at the airport, potentially multiple times, to be photographed, and to be asked for extensive contact information so that the city authorities can update them on any changes to the situation. Moscow, and Russia in general, has maintained very low virus rates by taking such precautions.
Although at least one news report has emerged saying that the travelers from the US have been placed on Moscow’s “self-quarantine” list, the Moscow mayor’s office itself has denied these reports to SRAS via its hotline set up specifically to disseminate information on Moscow’s coronavirus policies. The mayor’s office has also stated that all official changes to policy will be posted to Mos.ru and Sobyanin.ru, two official sites of the Moscow city administration. Neither of these sites currently list travelers from the US as affected by the coronavirus policies.
The mayor’s office also stated that, as of March 10, 2020, those travelers with connecting flights from affected countries are subject to “self quarentine” if they are staying in Moscow. Thus, a passenger traveling from New York to Moscow with a connection anywhere in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, China, Iran, or South Korea, will be expected to self-quarantine for 14 days within Moscow. This list of countries will be updated as the global situation evolves.
However, travelers connecting in Moscow for travel to other Russian cities are not currently affected by Moscow city policies of self-quarantine. So long as the passenger does not intend to exit customs control in Moscow and spend time in the city itself, the passenger will be allowed to continue his or her flight to another location. Currently, Moscow is the only Russian city with specific travel-related policies.
The situation remains fluid. SRAS will continue carefully monitoring this situation through the Moscow mayor’s office and continue to update this page as developments occur.
Update as of March 03, 2020
SRAS’s top level staff, located in America and abroad in our geographic regions, are in constant discussion about how to best serve student health and safety, which are our top priorities.
We take into careful account all available information. These include official guidance from the CDC, WHO, and OSAC. We also monitor information from host and home countries and institutions, feedback from partners, students, and local staff, as well as other trusted medical and security professionals.
As of this writing, SRAS has not cancelled any programs. Coronavirus instances in our region remain low and local governments are taking extensive measures in their efforts to maintain that status. No U.S. State Department elevated travel advisories related to COVID-19 (coronavirus) have been issued for our region. That said, we also understand very clearly that the situation remains fluid and must be monitored continually. We will help our partners to implement their decisions and will remain in constant contact with and offering 24-hour support to our students. This includes those on the ground and those currently applying to future programs.
SRAS has worked for more than 20 years to help students grow and learn abroad, including through some dramatic events. We will notify all affected parties swiftly of any changes to programs and update this page with additional information. We will continue our mission to encourage students to think, explore, and broaden their world views while placing as our absolute top priority student health and safety.
Update as of Feb 28, 2020
As providers, study abroad offices, faculty, and students alike scramble in the face of restrictions posed by the spread of COVID-10 (Coronavirus), we are also monitoring the situation in our region.
Resources for monitoring the virus:
- Online Map: Johns Hopkins University is offers a global online map for tracking the virus.
- WHO Travel Recommendations: The World Health Organization has a page of continually updated travel advice.
- CDC Guidance: The official CDC page for the disease.
- For Russia: the Moscow Times is providing an extensive summary in English of Russia’s continually developing measures to keep the virus out of Russia.
Summary of situation as of February 28
All locations below have taken precautions including developing quarantine facilities and imposing travel restrictions from heavily affected countries or conducting airport screenings.
Central and Eastern Europe:
- Russia – 2 confirmed cases; both recovered.
- Ukraine, Poland – no confirmed cases so far.
- Georgia – two cases reported. Several people have been quarantined.
- Azerbaijan – reported first case, a national traveling from Iran.
- Armenia – no confirmed cases so far. Has closed passenger travel to Iran.
- Kyrgyzstan – no confirmed cases so far. Entry restrictions imposed.
- Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan – no confirmed cases so far.
- Cuba – no confirmed cases so far. Entry restrictions imposed.
We will continue to post updates on this page as the situation changes.
We are aware that many programs are displaced and where possible we have extended deadlines to accommodate students looking for alternate study abroad plans. While these programs cannot offer Chinese or Italian language, they can offer excellent instruction in other fields. The following summer programs are broadly applicable:
- The Art and Science of Museums (St. Petersburg, Russia – museum science and management)
- Cuba-Russia Connection: Studies in Cultural Diplomacy (Havana, Cuba and St. Petersburg, Russia – international relations, diplomacy, history and culture)
- Central Asian Studies (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan – cultural and linguistic anthropology
- Security and Society Summer School (Warsaw, Poland – security, democracy, terrorism, genocide, science fiction, research internship)
For Faculty Led Groups that have been displaced, we can cover a wide range of topics within our geographic region. While, language-specific programs for displaced groups might not be possible in our locations, a wide range of subjects can be covered – from economics and diplomacy to culture and history. We are happy to discuss the possibility of developing an appropriate program for your group to meet your goals abroad.
We hope that the situation will improve and that disruptions to study abroad can be minimized. We will continue to provide updates on this page with any significant developments in our region.
Update as of Feb 03, 2020
SRAS Statement on Coronovirus and Study Abroad
SRAS has been following the news on the coronavirus carefully. Cases have now been reported in the Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America. Governments across the globe are also taking extraordinary measures to contain the virus.
Russia, for instance, is closing border crossings with China and restricting travel from China. Greatly increased security and screenings are being taken at airports. News reports repeatedly discuss the measures to be taken to prevent the spread of the disease. A majority of Russians in a recent poll have reported taking precautions such as washing their hands more often or wearing facemasks.
There is frequent coverage of precautions and cases in individual countries online – in both English and the local languages. Sample English-language reports can be found here for Russia, Poland, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan.
Given the global nature of the event and the level of local precautions being taken, SRAS still considers all SRAS locations to be safe.
All SRAS programs are currently running as scheduled.
Safety is SRAS’ top priority and we will continue to follow developments and advise our students accordingly.