It’s a Cold Day in Moscow

So before Christmas, there were some low fares to Moscow on Aeroflot. Sure, it’s not the airline that is top of mind when one thinks about flying, but that is ok. I haven’t had an adventure in 3 weeks when I pulled the trigger.

So I got the ticket for a quick three days in the city in March. I was pleased.

Then I looked up the visa details, after I had the ticket. Well, well, well….Turns out I need to complete a multipage, online application that asks for everything from my secondary school to at least two former jobs I have held. UGH. Then I see that I need a formal invitation from a travel agency or something similar. I prayed something was lost in translation but alas, it was true.

I emailed the Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow, my hotel chain of choice, asking for help. I was informed that I needed to provide them details and send back a completed credit card authorization form. They need to complete paperwork on their end, and if I end up canceling the reservation for any reason, I am on the hook for 4.000 RUR.  I did the conversion, and while this can’t be right, it comes to about .06. So, maybe it is a few pennies, maybe it is $60 USD. I just can’t be sure.

Awful lot of running around so far for a three day trip.

After sending the hotel a litany of information, I got back a PDF complete with multiple signatures and many stamped seals of approval. I go back to the on line application I had initially started with the Russian Consulate, enter the confirmation numbers and new approval numbers and I am done.

The consulate details were confusing with many links here and there, including a visa processing service. I had read that applications are not accepted via mail so I needed to visit the consulate in one of 5 major cities around the country. None of which I would be in before March, one of which is a complete pain to get to. So I decide that is ok, I will go to New York and handle in person in the event I have somehow screwed this up and need help.

So I went to the ILS, (Invisa Logistic Service) who work in conjunction with the Russian Consulate, with a 9am appointment on a Friday morning. I brought all my papers, printed, signed, and even had my additional passport photos ready to go. It was my understanding that they did not accept applications via mail, so I needed to go in person both to submit and pick up the visa. As soon as I sat down, I read a print out taped on the glass that featured the message “We now accept applications through the mail.”

While the office was not open when I arrived promptly at 9, a few employees flew in the door not long after. The girl who helped me was very nice and even had a glue stick for my picture. I had originally filed for a one time entry, but she encouraged me to make it a three year entry in case I decide to go back. To be honest, after all this hoop jumping, I may go back twice if not three times just to justify the aggravation.

The visa was to cost $160,I decided that I was not going back  to pick it up, so I paid the extra $70 plus whatever processing fee to have it sent back. $263 dollars later and it was worth every penny.

And now, i wait. I was told it should be no problem and I can expect my visa by January 28. Not a bad deal. What I didn’t love was that they keep my passport and affix my visa directly to it. Makes me nervous but I guess we will see how this goes.

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