Russian Visa Roulette

The relief I felt when signing for my special delivery package containing the long-awaited Russian Visa was indescribable. Granted it doesn’t compare to the relief of the passing pain after childbirth (so I’m told) or the relief of being given the all clear after a turmoil ridden wait for test results (I can luckily only imagine), but relatively speaking I was VERY relieved, not simply for the  reason that I’ve read – and heard – more than a few nightmare tales of visa refusals, applications being returned for incorrect paperwork and delays in processing preventing the best laid travel plans!

Planning for Christmas closures, but having unaccounted for the 10 day break at the start of the New Year, I had been growing increasingly concerned, yet was strangely comforted in the interim when the money was taken out of my account (purely as I knew it had arrived and was “going through the correct channels”).

And, with this week’s horrific suicide bombings at Moscow Airport – where thoughts go out to all those killed and terribly injured and their families – I find myself (incredibly selfishly) even more relieved that it was granted in advance of the inevitable border control clampdown that will ensue as a result of the latest terrorist threat. On the bright side, it has been pointed out to me by several colleagues that Russia is likely to be the safest country to travel to in the coming months as they give the two finger salute to terrorist tantrums!

So, in the spirit of imparting some newly discovered travelling tips for fellow Russian novices, here’s what I did and what else you could try:

General info:

Many websites offer advice and guidance about what you need and how to go about getting a Russian Tourist Visa – http://www.russianvisa.org/howto.html is one of the most comprehensive, the Russian Embassy and http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk/ pops up more often than not.

In the end I opted for applying through the Russian National Tourist Office. I ended up paying a bit extra I think, but it seems to have been worth it for a hassle free experience and it has the easiest step by step application process.

Costs

£111 including tourist visa fee, processing fee and special delivery return postage. There were options ranging from £75 to much more through specialist visa agents.

Application

As well as a passport with six months plus validity and an extra passport sized mugshot, each application requires a very complicated application form. In parts this asks for details of previous employers, educational establishments attended and personal details of spouses and next of kin. It was very handy to have a CV close by to check details!

You also need a visa invitation letter from your Russian host. On an organised trip your travel agent should sort this out for you with your pre-departure gubbins but if not you can apply for one for about £15 through a number of websites.

Timing

Depending on how much you want to pay and how far in advance of travel you are applying, times vary and estimates given can range between 5 and 8 working days, unless you select the urgent express processing option which promises to turn around within 2-3 days but you pay extra.

Anyway, its arrived and (other than freaking me out slightly that the only thing I could understand was my first name and the word “Visa”) with this one in the bag, the rest should surely be plain sailing…

Here’s hoping, as last minute Lil has struck again and I’ve left it sphincter twitchingly close to getting my passport back from multiple foreign embassies in time for the big trip! Next one China – fingers crossed!

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