Abstract : Virtual braids are a combinatorial generalization of braids. We present abstract braids as equivalence classes of braid diagrams on a surface, joining two distinguished boundary components. They are identified up to isotopy, compatibility, stability and Reidemeister moves. We show that virtual braids are in a bijective correspondence with abstract braids. Finally we demonstrate that for any abstract braid, its representative of minimal genus is unique up to compatibility and Reidemeister moves. The genus of such a representative is thus an invariant for virtual braids. We also give a complete proof of the fact that there is a bijective correspondence between virtually equivalent virtual braid diagrams and braid-Gauss diagrams.