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Please tell me about your Russian visa experience.

Please tell me about your Russian visa experience.

Old Feb 17th, 2015, 07:21 AM
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Please tell me about your Russian visa experience.

I finally received my letter of invitation from my hotel in St. Petersburg. It was a hassle.

If I don't want to go to the consulate in Seattle in person, I have to Fed Ex my letter, my passport, a photocopy of my passport, 3 passport photos, and my visa application to ILS in Seattle (at a cost of $75), then pay $265 to ILS for arranging the visa.

Does this sound typical? Is there a cheaper way to do this?

I wish I'd been able to arrange for that visa-free ferry from Helsinki to St. Petersburg.
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Old Feb 17th, 2015, 09:19 AM
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I did this for my trip to Russia in 2010 and I think the rules have changed somewhat since then, but I just checked my blog and it was $199 at that time to have a service in Miami do it for me. I also used them for my visa for China a year later and it was $150 then for that. I think that's pretty standard if you can't do it yourself.
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Old Feb 17th, 2015, 09:22 AM
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I don't understand why obtaining the letter of invitation was a hassle. All you do it send a copy of your passport info page to the hotel and in a few days they will send you the letter of invitation that will accompany your visa application. If fax doesn't work, a scanned copy in PDF format by email works fine too. Which part of this is a hassle?

There are several visa companies who can lodge your application with the consulate. What does the $265 include, is that including consular fee and ILS fees?

The visa process may seem like a hassle but it is alot easier now than it used to be. A visa free visit might seem like a good idea, which it is for a short visit but St Petersburg deserves more time than 72 hours or whatever you are allowed visa free. Places that require more effort to get to are often well worth the hassle.
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Old Feb 17th, 2015, 09:31 AM
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I tried to fax the required documentation to the hotel from my home printer/computer numerous times over two or three days but got no response. I also tried to scan and send it by email, but my printer said that my scan thingie didn't support that.

I emailed the hotel and asked them to let me know if they got the fax but got no response. This was surprising, since they've been very prompt with other replies.

I waited for a couple of days for a reply from the hotel and finally decided I'd go to a Kinkos/Fed Ex store and try to fax from there. It worked like a charm.

I asked for info about Fodorites experience because I want to see if the amount of money the ILS is charging is a reasonable amount.
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Old Feb 17th, 2015, 01:24 PM
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You don't need your printer to email scanned things for you (I know at work, the copier will automatically send email), you can always attach any PDF file you have to an email. Your printer doesn't have to "know" you are doing that.
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Old Feb 17th, 2015, 01:32 PM
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Christina, I think you are assuming that I have a moderate degree of computer literacy. I don't.
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Old Feb 25th, 2015, 04:07 PM
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I finally sent all my Russian visa stuff--application, passport-size photo, photocopy of front and back of my credit card, photo copy of the information pages of my passport, the passport itself, and a money order for $295--to Red Star Travel in Seattle. Much easier to work with than the visa center.

That's really a weight off my mind.
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Old Feb 25th, 2015, 05:09 PM
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How much time are you now planning to spend in St Petes?
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Old Feb 26th, 2015, 07:31 AM
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Just four days. I was back and forth with whether to get the visa or to go on the visa-free ferry, but as nearly as I could determine, the ferry schedule was such that I wouldn't be able to spend the actual 72 hours in St.Petersburg.

I would have had to 1)leave after 48 hours or 2)overstay my visa or 3)take a plane flight out of St.Petersburg.

I'd had a hard time filling out the visa form, but I decided I'd give it another try, and I finally filled it out successfully and got clear information from Red Star Travel.
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Old Feb 26th, 2015, 11:38 AM
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I'm glad you're getting the paperwork done...St Pete's is a lovely city. We really enjoyed our time there.
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Old Mar 6th, 2015, 05:32 PM
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We got Russia visa's last year and are now in the process of getting some again for our visit to St. Petersburg in July.

Yes, it was a hassle. Particularly filling out the online form and getting the special sized photos which few places make. You mentioned above that you had passport photos. Those are not the correct size.

We finally decided to us CIBT services and they handled all the issues and got us our visas in a timely manner. Here is there website... http://cibtvisas.com/

It is my understand they have added a service of re-sizing photos to the correct size for the visas. The Russian requirements go far beyond size...must look directly at the camera, cannot smile, so much of the had and shoulders must be showing, etc., etc., etc.

I recommend going with CIBT or another equally competent service. They have relationships with the local consulate/embassy so they can smooth out some of the troubling issues.

Good luck and wish us the same.
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Old Mar 11th, 2015, 12:37 PM
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My girlfriend did Russian visa last year and she paid around the same. Ridiculous, visa cost like half of the price of flight from US to Russia.
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Old Mar 11th, 2015, 01:49 PM
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I was looking into visiting SP and Moscow this summer, but the whole visa business
is turning me off. I don't wish to take a tour and prefer to book hotels through expidia
or booing.com. Not sure if that would even work with " host" requirements.
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 09:00 AM
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Danon: Filling out the visa application was the most frustrating part for me, as I didn't have all the information I needed when I started. Get all the information before you begin your online application because the site isn't easy to return to once you leave it.

You have to list all the countries you've visited in the last 10 years and the years you visited them. I take a trip pretty much every year, so I had to hunt through my online folders for the info.

You have to list the names, addresses and phone numbers of your last two places of work, excluding the current one.

The names, addresses, and phone numbers of all post-high school educational institutions.

You need to arrange for your hotel before you fill out the application, and you need to get a letter of invitation from your hotel. I had arranged my hotel through expedia, and I emailed the hotel to ask for a letter of invitation. They emailed it to me.

If you are in the EU, I believe your health insurance information is required. I did list my Travel Guard insurance, though I am not sure that Americans need to have insurance.

Some of this information was tricky because I'm pretty old. My undergraduate college is no longer in existence, and I needed to find an address that could verify my attendance.

Also, the job I had before my last one (1965--1970) was for the Department of Defense, at a school that is no longer in existence. I couldn't find an address for that one, so I just left it out. Since I'd worked for my last employer for 25 years, I figured I could get by.

Maybe it won't be as big a deal for you.

I tried to deal with the Russian visa office in Seattle, but the phone was often not answered, and the clerk there was curt and not especially helpful. I didn't get clear information from her. I finally called Red Star Travel in Seattle and received much clearer information. I recommend using a company such as Red Star.

In summary, I sent the completed application, along with a passport-sized photo which will fit in the space provided on the application, the letter of invitation from the hotel, and a money order or cashier's check for $295 (the figure I gave earlier was wrong) to Red Star Travel in Seattle.
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 09:27 AM
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Just look dup CIBT Visa service. Here are their prices. Seems like it would cost at least $237 pp for a visa to Russia! we're going in September Arghh.

CIBTvisas Fees:
The following prices are for CIBTvisas's professional services. CIBTvisas fees are charged per item. The final cost is determined by the number of business days allowed for processing and the services required to complete your order.

Standard (8 business days or longer) $114.00
Rush Surcharge (4-7 business days processing) $109.00

Consular Fees:
In addition to CIBTvisas's service fees, consular processing fees are included in the cost of your visa application. CIBTvisas submits payment for your application to the appropriate consulate on your behalf. A 5.7% processing fee is assessed on government agency fees when they are paid by CIBT. The fees for consular processing services, exclusive of a visa application fee when applicable, are as follows:

4 Business Days $283.00
10 Business Days $193.00
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 09:36 AM
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Oops I mean it will cost $337!!!!
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 02:58 PM
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OMG
Quote "You have to list all the countries you've visited in the last 10 years and the years you visited them. I take a trip pretty much every year, so I had to hunt through my online folders for the info."

Pegontheroad, We are planning on StP's in July for five nights- taking the trains from Helsinki.The visa situation looked like an expensive chore but now I'm realizing it's even more trouble than I thought. It sounds like more aggravation and more expense than applying for an Iranian visa in the US!
We travel so much and hop around between places that I understand exactly how tedious this having to list the dates and places you've been over the last ten years. ironically this is the only hassle standing between me and applying for US citizenship. Perhaps if I do bother to do all this for the Russian visa I should finally apply for my US citizenship as I'll have all the right data!

One thing I did notice was that for US citizens the costs where the same for a single entry visa as they were for a multiple year/multiple entry visa. So for some people it may be worth going for the longer option.
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 06:32 PM
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I usually go to one country for about 3 weeks, but in 2006, my sister and I did a sort of mop-up tour of various capitals. We visited 6 countries on that trip. I had visited a total of 12 countries in the 10 years.

What made that do-able was that I have a folder for each trip on my email storage. I put all my confirmations in that folder, so all I have to do is find the flight confirmation, which of course lists the date of departure.

Now that I've sent the application, etc., in to Red Star Travel, it doesn't seem like it was such a big deal, but at the time I was going back and forth/back and forth trying to figure out whether I should get the visa or just do the visa-free ferry from Helsinki, it was maddening.

Yes, once you have all that information compiled, it would be a good opportunity to apply for U.S.citizenship. May I ask what is your citizenship now?

This citizenship thing reminds me of a sweet memorial of my Danish grandmother--She wrote the pledge of allegiance in pencil on a crookedly torn off piece of paper. She misspelled a couple of words--"invisible" instead of "indivisible."

This must have been some time in the 1930's. My mother saved it, and I had it framed and hung it with the family pictures.
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