If you have been following me on facebook you know how much fun I have had in obtaining all the various visas required for my upcoming trip. (Read: not)
In my experience there are three basic “visa situations” when visiting a country:
- The type where no visa is required for entrance
- The type where a visa is required but it can be purchased for a $20-$30 fee at the airport
- The type where a visa is required and it will require massive amounts of pain and energy to procure said visa
(Note: Please keep in mind that the same country might be a type 1, 2, or 3 depending on what type of country YOU are from)
Well, guess what? We had three major “Type 3′s” on our trip: Russia, China and India. Today I’ll cover the process of getting our Russia Visa.
Russia was by FAR the most painful. The paperwork was long and complicated and we needed to provide a lot of information we didn’t have. One example- I had to list every country I have ever visited along with the dates. (*cough cough*)
Next up you need a “letter of invitation.” As I mentioned before – One does not simply walk into Russia. You must be invited. With a letter. With an official seal.
Yeah. This can be provided by some hotel and tour operators and luckily Real Russia (who we bought our Trans-Mongolian tickets from) was able to provide us with our letters. Next up you need entrance and exit tickets as well as the names of all your hotels. Basically you need to have your entire itinerary with proof. The dates of your tickets and hotel stays must line of exactly with your paperwork.
The Russian Embassy has outsourced their visa processing to a company called ILS and all your paper work must be brought to their office (http://www.ils-usa.com/). You must bring the following:
- Copies of your Visa application – signed with 2×2 passport photo
- Your passport
- A copy of your passport
- Your official letter of invitation
- Copies of your entrance and exit tickets
- A “cover letter” with your name, itinerary and purpose of visit
Shannon, Tejal and I all applied together with Shannon dropping off the paper work. Apparently we had mis followed many of these directions and she was at the embassy for several hours updating and changing our paperwork. Finally it was given the okay and we were told we would get an e-mail when it was done.
Sadly, Tejal got a very different email stating that her date of departure was off by one day. VISA DENIED. If this were Gymnastics I think it would have gone down like this:
Luckily, after plunking down another $170, she had her dates sorted out and was on her way to a visa.