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 hadn’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. Since they did not manage this process by main, 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.