Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Getting a Russian visa in Paris (or trying to!) (

mlaffitte Jan 18th, 2011 12:55 PM

Getting a Russian visa in Paris (or trying to!)
If you live in France and want to travel to Russia, it may be worthwhile paying through the nose to have an agency get your visa for you. This is my sad conclusion after trying to get a tourist visa for an upcoming trip to Moscow. As I always do when applying for a visa, I printed out and very carefully followed the instructions on the website of the Russian Embassy .. assembled all the requested documents... and arrived a few minutes before the embassy opened. All to no avail. On my first visit, there were already several dozen people ahead of me in line... after 2 hours in the rain and cold I was still outside, and the guards announced that they were not accepting any more applications that day. Returning the next day -- much earlier -- I managed to get inside after only an hour's wait. However, the clerk refused to accept the application because, among other things, I had not submitted a duplicate of the application form (even though the website said only one copy was needed), the official invitation from my Moscow hotel did not include the exact job title of the person who had signed it, and ... my personal favorite, the white border around my photo was not the exact same width on every side (and no, of course they would not let me use a pair of scissors). I hasten to add that not all Russian embassies are this bad: I have gotten visas previously from their embassies in the U.S. and Finland, and British friends who will be traveling with me got visas in London with no difficulty. Unfortunately for us Parisians, the apparatchiks here seem to have been trained at the Franz Kafka School of Tourism.

NeoPatrick Jan 18th, 2011 03:02 PM

Maybe they were simply trained in the French Tourism industry?
I still remember the time we followed a guide book route walking up the river to Chenonceau where you are to enter from the back way. But the guard there (letting people back in who had come through to the gardens and wanted to reenter) refused to allow us in that way. There was no way to get to the other side and the main entrance except to go north nearly a mile and cross a regular bridge then come back down river. I kept saying, "just hold my passport while I go get the ticket" and "one of us will wait here while the other one gets the tickets", but the rule was that we couldn't get in that way (despite the guidebook recommending that route). Sometimes people in authority like to show their power regardless of how silly it all is.

Odin Jan 19th, 2011 12:27 AM

Unfortunately if you get your application wrong, this is what you get. The Russian visa application process gets the most publicity on how difficult it can be, but other countries behave in the same way. French visas generally speaking, can be difficult to obtain for Russian citizens.

Lining up outside the consulate is quite normal, at the London consulate the lines started at about 4-5am, if you did not make it through the gate by 1200 you were turned away. Using an agency can bypass these lines, since they have a pass to let them in. Also an agency can employ a Russian national to handle the applications which is helpful in smoothing things over when necessary and even getting the consulate to accept an application with small mistakes. Nowadays in the UK, you can only apply via an agency, which means they filter out the errors before they reach the consulate.

It is also true that different consulates can behave differently and sometimes even set their own rules, or change the rules from one day to the next, as you have experienced. There are rules however, about applying for visas outside your own country, unless you have residency status, so best check.

mlaffitte Jan 19th, 2011 09:14 AM

Well, good news ... I went back for a third try today, and they accepted my application. I consider myself lucky: Another person who was standing in line said he was on his FIFTH try. Each time he came back they would find something different that was "wrong." Odin, I take your point that you have to complete the application carefully, but when the people processing applications keep coming up with new requirements that aren't written in the official guidelines, you have to wonder what is going on.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:45 AM.