Getting a Russian Visa takes a bit of determination and persistence. Having filled in the application forms (you give them your life really, parents dates of birth and death, NI no, your employment history, your housing history, plus the names, DoB, passport numbers and addresses of your children) and sent them off to the travel agency, and paid to have visa appropriate photos taken, the day came when we could see a free slot to travel up to London. You can’t apply on line as you have to be prepared to give them all 10 fingerprints in person. We waited for the forms to come back to take with us, but despite repeated assurances that we would have them in plenty of time, there was no sign of them.
The day before there was still no sign of the promised completed application forms from the travel agent with the relevant front page in Russian. After somewhat fraught telephone calls, they came through attached to an email, but the information we had supplied had been copied incorrectly, and that meant more phone calls.
Come the day, we printed everything off and set off for London.
Not a very exciting building, we almost walked past it, but we found it at 15-27 Gee St, London EC1V 3RD. There are two others, in Edinburgh and Manchester, if one of those is nearer for you.
Walking in through the door, we were eyed up and down and waved our forms, passports and photos at the man inside the door. He gave us a ticket, just like Argos, and we sat down to wait.
When our number flashed up we approached the desk and handed everything over. The lady behind the desk gave them a quick scan and said ‘where is the invitation letter, I can’t do anything without that’! We pointed to the Russian worded first page with our names on, wasn’t that it? No apparently we needed a letter signed by the hotel we would be staying at, inviting us to come. Great!!! To be fair the lady, seeing our frustration, said ‘if you can get the document out of your travel agent by email, we can still do it’.
We sat down again on the Argos type chairs and tried to get through, had to be pretty insistent that this was not something they could ring us back on a few hours later. After some difficulty I got through and was promised it would be emailed over. Nothing appeared, more phone calls, eventually I got an email with an attachment. Back to the man at the door, another ticket, back in the queue. We triumphantly approached the same lady with the invitation letter open on my phone and smiled broadly and hopefully.
‘I can’t accept it on a phone, you must get it printed off’. Surprisingly I didn’t have a printer in my pocket, and my smile faded rapidly. She waved us over to a corner with three computers and a supervising member of staff. ‘We need to print off a letter’ we said. ‘You can do it here, it will cost you £8.00’ was the reply. Even solicitors don’t charge you that for a simple copy!
Logging into my email, it occurred to me that every keystroke was likely being logged, but we were really past caring by now, we felt we had handed over all our privacy already. (These photos were taken off the internet by the way, no photos allowed inside)
Back to the desk, a man this time, who told us he didn’t want to see two people together, it had to be done individually. Rog handed over everything, I sat back down. Was getting to know the chairs rather well by now. Eventually it was my turn, and fingerprints captured, we paid over £100 each. Apparently it is £40 cheaper for one person to pay for two, than to pay individually, so that is what we did. A few minutes later we were free to go, leaving our passports behind to have the visas inserted You have the choice of another return trip to London the following day to collect them, or waiting 10 days to have them sent, at £9.00 each. Somewhat to my surprise and relief, 10 days later having been told we had to wait in all day and produce identification to receive them, the courier thrust them into my hand without even asking my name, and he was gone.
So if you are going to Russia, you need a suitable pair of photos each, passport, application form returned by your travel agent and an invitation letter from the hotel. Oh, and a fair amount of patience. Don’t leave home without them!