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Russian Visa

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Jan 15th, 2011, 11:14 AM
  #1
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Russian Visa

I'm still a little confused about the Visa for Russia for US citizens. I understand the application ant that you must have a letter of reservation or "invitation" from a hotel, but must all nights there be approved in advance or simply one or two of the hotels with a few blank nights in between? The Russian Embassy site seems unclear to me on that issue.

And is it possible to get the Visa in person in New York at the consulate office on East 91st? I'm having trouble finding that you can do that -- yet I was told that's how friends got theirs. Since I'll be in NYC for the full month of May and not going till the end of July -- that seemed ideal (and I'll also need to get a Ukraine visa).
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Jan 15th, 2011, 11:15 AM
  #2
 
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Get a visa agent to do it for you...saves making any mistakes
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Jan 15th, 2011, 11:36 AM
  #3
P_M
 
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Hi Patrick, I used Visas International. Not the cheapest way to go gut probably the easiest.
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Jan 15th, 2011, 12:18 PM
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NP:

A US citizen doesn't need a visa for Ukraine. For Russia and Belarus, I used the above...very efficient and easy to deal with. In the SSR days of 70's and 80's I once found out I was on a "no entry list" after arriving, but I was well-prepared...and after an anxious grill/show/tell, the surly inquisitor actually "welcomed" me...

I found so many changes on my return visit in '08, it was quite overwhelming. Since Ukraine and Belarus pix are rare on this forum, here are some,...if Belarus bores you, just scroll down to the "Welcome to Kiev" sign. If I can be of any further help, please indicate...I have Russian pics going back to the 70's as well as the pix from Viking Volga trip Moscow to St. P. in '08. I'd be happy to share, since I did not write TR's.

Best wishes for a meaningful, educational and excting journey, Patrick! I know it will be for you.
Stu Tower

http://picasaweb.google.com/stuartto...raineKiev2008#
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Jan 15th, 2011, 12:22 PM
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p.s. give yourself plenty of lead time for the Russian visa...
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Jan 15th, 2011, 12:35 PM
  #6
 
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You can't give yourself too much lead time, you can't even file until 60 days before your arrival.

I'm not sure about "days in between", are those when you're not sure where you'll be staying or you'll be out of Russia? Both of my hotels made invites for me, covering all my days in Russia.
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Jan 15th, 2011, 12:57 PM
  #7
 
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I think you need reservations for each night you will be in the country. We just sent ours in and got them back quickly - and it was in July. No visa service ro anything.
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Jan 15th, 2011, 01:36 PM
  #8
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I'm trying to figure out why it is easier to send all the information to an agency that you'd be sending to the consulate and pay them extra to get it for you. I'd still be the one filling out the forms, getting the "invitations" or paperwork from the hotels, etc. What am I missing here and why is it "easier" and worth the extra money to have someone else as a middleman? Surely if something is missing the consulate would let you know just as the agency would. No?

Meanwhile I liked the idea of taking my passport in person in New York if that's possible. I hope to make a trip or two into Canada this summer and would prefer not to have my passport missing for a few weeks.

Interesting that you can't apply until 60 days before arrival. I sure didn't see that anywhere on the consulate site or other information -- including the directions from an agency which matches the information on the consulate site, although I did read you MUST apply at least 3 weeks before going.

By days in between, I meant that I'm undecided yet about going for a few nights to stay in a town outside of Moscow. I have 8 nights between when I fly into Moscow from St. Petersburg and the time I fly from Moscow to Kiev. I was thinking of not staying in Moscow all that time, but a couple of nights in the Golden Ring or somewhere rather than just doing that as daytrips. I will be IN Russia for 14 nights total, then Ukraine for 4.
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Jan 15th, 2011, 02:00 PM
  #9
 
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I used a visa agency in Florida. They were the ones who said not to even attempt to apply until 60 days out. They also sent question-by-question instructions, and were available to answer my questions. For example, one question was list all the countries you've ever visited, then they give you space for about two words' worth. I've been to 20+ countries, what to do? They don't want attached sheets, it turns out, just list the most recent that fit in the space. I would have attached pages and gotten it returned to me had I not asked. I'm all for saving money, but it was helpful to me to have people to ask questions of and then do the dirty work for me here. I agree that it is quick turn around when done right; I got mine back within 7 days of sending it to Florida.

Given that each hotel you stay in is required to register you with the police, I think you'd need an invitation from wherever you stay in the Golden Ring (or wherever in between).
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Jan 15th, 2011, 03:14 PM
  #10
 
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Amy:
I would call 60 days a sizeable lead time. I started the process six weeks before scheduled to arrive and got it back with over two weeks to spare. As I said in my post, I have an "SSR history" and I was relieved to see no hangups this time.

stu
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Jan 15th, 2011, 03:27 PM
  #11
P_M
 
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Hi again Patrick,

I should start with the disclaimer that it was 10 years ago when I visited Russia so it's possible things have changed since then.

At the time I was uncomfortable traveling around Russia on my own so I went with a group tour. I gave Visas Int'l the name and date of my tour and they took care of all the paperwork for me except a short form with some of my personal info. I sent in some passport photos and that short form and they did the rest. I did not send in my passport. I applied thru Visas Int'l about 4 months before my trip but they probably didn't finish the process until 60 days beforehand as required. A few weeks before my trip they sent me a loose leaf visa which I used upon entry to Russia. They also did my Belarussian visa and it was a similar process.

For me this seemed easier than doing it all myself.
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Jan 16th, 2011, 03:34 AM
  #12
 
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I have known people who applied for Russian visas personally. However, using an agency makes it easier.
You can get a lot of information how to do it in the official website of the embassy - http://www.russianembassy.org/Embass...rist_visa.html
The earliest one could apply for a tourist visa used to be three months and the latest is three days (but then it costs more). You could just indicate one hotel for Moscow and one for St. Petersburg in your application and then go to the towns of the Golden Ring from Moscow or/and to Novgorod/Pskov from St. Petersburg if you like, as long as the duration of your total stay in Russia does not exceed the dates in your visa.
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Jan 16th, 2011, 09:32 AM
  #13
 
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For me this seemed easier than doing it all myself.

I did the same, P_M....(for both Belarus and Russia)..would do it again. Patrick, again, I strongly advise.
stu
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Jan 16th, 2011, 01:10 PM
  #14
 
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I would also budget quite a bit of time to actually fill out the app. It took me over an hour...it's not as simple as the US Passport application. Have your resume handy for last jobs and dates, places you've lived and dates. It was the single most involved application I've ever filled out about myself!
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Jan 16th, 2011, 01:20 PM
  #15
 
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We visited both Saint Petersburg and Moscow a few years ago. Did not use an agency. No problems whatsoever doing it on our own.
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Jan 18th, 2011, 01:18 AM
  #16
 
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With over 20 visits, using an agency everytime would be too expensive. I only used one when a) it was a multi-entry yearly business visas and hence a company was paying b) could not get time off work to lodge the application in person. Otherwise I do all the legwork myself, including getting the letters of invitation from the hotels I booked. However now in the UK, there is no choice but to go through a 3rd party. If this is not the case in the US, I would give it a personal application a go, unless you are not near a consulate.
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Jan 18th, 2011, 05:42 AM
  #17
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Thank you swisshiker and Odin. I guess I just don't understand the difference. If I still have to fill out the applicaton/paperwork and get the invitations to forward to the agency, why not just send them to the consulate? Is it easier to fill out the address of the agency on an envelope than it is to fill out the address of the consulate? And if I forget something or make a mistake, I guess I don't get the difference between the agency sending them back to me to correct or the consulate sending them back to correct. But maybe I'm missing something -- like the agency magically knowing the details and where I'm staying so they fill out all the details and their contacting hotels without my telling them. How could that be?

All the guides seem to suggest that the Russian Visa system is very good and very quick --whether they are dealing with an individual or with an agency. And certainly not having to go to an agency first should actually speed the process up -- not slow it down.

I already downloaded the application, and frankly it's a whole lot simpler than the typical information I have to fill out every time I go to a doctor!

I did use an agency for my Asian Visas, but only because they were coordinating getting three different ones all on my passport.
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Jan 18th, 2011, 10:01 AM
  #18
 
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Patrick, ultimately it's your decision, obviously. I think good cases have been stated above on both sides of the equation. When I do this again next year, I'd do it the same way. Personally, I felt better that I had someone working it on my behalf. I had read on TripAdvisor numerous stories around the time I applied last summer of people applying on their own and not hearing, having thought their application was lost in a black hole, or they were getting conflicting stories depending on which consulate they went through (at one point there was a rumor of a "quota" being filled and no more visas being processed for a month). I was pleasantly surprised, when, as I said, the agency turned it around in a week, when people were lamenting 3 or 4 week waits themselves.

You must have some pretty thorough doctors if they make you fill out more than that! LOL!
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Jan 18th, 2011, 10:27 AM
  #19
 
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The agencies can get the letters of invitation for you. It won't be from the hotel, it will be from another company, basically they are made up but they are official documents with the correct registrations. In part that makes it easier, however I've not found getting the invites an issue - the Russian Marriotts and Sheratons of this world are well used to providing this support. Last time I applied, I asked the hotel to send me the form to start the visa support process, they sent it over and I completed my details eg passport no/DOB dates of reservation etc and send it back, they then prepared the letters of invitation and sent back to me, it was in 2 parts. Need to check the details carefully as sometimes there are mistakes in dates or nationality (difficult if you don't read Russian, not for dates obviously. They got my spouse's nationality wrong so sent it back to be reissued). The letter of invitation is then taken to the consulate with the completed application form and any other supporting documentation (eg a travel insurance certificate for example), photo and whatever else they require as per the website. In my experience the consulate staff check the application and if there is a mistake they do not accept the application, working out whats wrong can be an issue, esp if they just throw it back and shout in Russian, then you are none the wiser on what to correct - if they accept the application then you are almost certain to be issued the visa. Again the visa should be checked, even if processed by an agency, as they too can make a mistake on the dates or other details. Indeed it is a risk either way, since the rules can change with the wind and without notice. If it is straight forward eg a US citizen applying in the US and a single entry tourist visa, I would give it a go. There is no right or wrong, just what one feels most comfortable doing.

Hotels generally only issue an invitation for the duration of your reservation and don't cover days you are not staying with them. Some will say that you need only one invitation and you automatically get 30days on the visa - not sure if that is correct or not I'm afraid.
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Jan 18th, 2011, 11:56 AM
  #20
 
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We received our invitations directly from the hotels. Simply requested them and shortly thereafter received them. The dates of the invitation specifically stated we were arriving on such date and departing on such date. No extra days were allowed.

Living in Texas, we don't have a nearby consulate. So we just mailed everything off to the specific consulate handling Texas.

That was it. Can't exactly remember how long it took to get the return envelope from the consulate, but knowing how I usually do things, it was way ahead of time.
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