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Visa application

Does anyone happen to know if visa applications will be accepted more than 60 days before a planned trip? We are going to St Petersburg on our own, not a cruise, in September. (First Stockholm, then Helsinki, and the last stop St Petersburg). It makes us nervous to wait but according to RS book it seems that may be the case. Can't get anyone at the Russian consulate in DC to answer the phone. If you have gone thru the process and can give me any tips I would appreciate it. Thanks!
Marcia

Posted by
2936 posts

Forget trying to get them on the phone , I couldn't do it either , here in NYC . I'm assuming that the procedure in Washington is pretty much identical to NYC . go to the ILS website and the Russian Consulate website for the details http://ils-usa.com/index.php?id=index&lang=en#logo - http://www.russianembassy.org/ As far as the timing , I was , indeed ,able to get the visa around May for my September visit to St Petersburg , although the personnel at the Consulate were surprised that anyone would handle this without waiting until the last minute ;--) . Be aware that once you complete the online application ( which you print out and submit with your other required documents , the application has a shelf life of thirty days online , if you don't submit it within the thirty day window , you will have to fill it out again . Once you do the documents , you will probably need to make an appointment to visit the consulate to submit your paperwork . I did this last year and it was pretty simple !!

Posted by
150 posts

Thank you so much for all of your information . We live in Phoenix so visiting the consulate in person isn't going to be possible... Although we will be in New York over memorial day weekend so maybe we can do it then? How was your visit in September? We originally thought we'd go over winter break but decided the weather was too dicey. Hoping early fall will be better.

Posted by
11153 posts

Before you come to New York for the Russian Consulate, make sure they will accept your application. At least when I did it (in 2010), they were very particular; which consulate you had to use depended on which state you resided in, and you weren't allowed to use any other one than the one designated for your state. If you can't go to that one in person, and they won't allow you to do it in New York when you're here, you'll have to use FedEx, or a visa service.

Posted by
150 posts

We are going to NY to see Hamilton and American in Paris:) guess we need to do more research. I'm sure living in AZ won't be acceptable to the NY consulate. Using an agency might be worth the extra expense.

Posted by
2936 posts

I would heed what Harold said , I got the impression that you lived in DC and were submitting your application there . Look at the ILS site - you need to use the location that serves you , and that is Houston . You will then do this by mail via ILS , they are the contractor that directly serves the Russian Federation . There are other independent contractors , but ILS would be the simplest and most straightforward way .

Posted by
2936 posts

Almost forgot , Our visit to St Petersburg was spectacular . If you love history , great art and architecture , this place is meant for you.

Posted by
150 posts

We do! Sounds amazing. Do you think 5 days will be enough? And did you do any days with a personal tour guide?

Posted by
2936 posts

If five days is what you have, it will be a start . We were there for about three weeks , and there was much more , we are returning in the Fall of 2017 . ( be sure to apply for the three year visa - no additional charge in consular fees ) We did our trip independently , without any tours . Tours are certainly available if you desire one . An example of a real knockout that we visited - about a one hour trip from downtown , I'm still drooling !!https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kronstadt_Naval_Cathedral

Posted by
7169 posts

A Russian Visa application and process is not for the faint of heart. Chinese Visa was a breeze compared to Russian. We tried to do it on our own but was met with confusion, lack of interest, laziness and general ineptitude and avoidance when dealing with the DC Russian Embassy. Our many phone calls were only answered one time and that was obviously by mistake that someone answered because as soon as I said something to the lady in English she immediately put me on "hold" and never came back. We had to use CIBT for our Visa. Yes, they charge a fee but the alternative is maddening bureaucratic red tape like you've never seen.

Posted by
150 posts

Steven, how lucky you are to be able to experience 3 weeks in one place, that is very cool. I may have to pick your brain over the next few months! The naval cathedral looks gorgeous. Tim I think you are right, we will use an agency. Thank you all!

Posted by
1605 posts

I checked where to Russian consulates are and looks like the one that covers Arizona is in San Francisco. I know when we got ours, we needed to fix a few things, so being able to go in person, if possible, helps. Or use an agency, I guess. We ended up getting the 3 year visa and are very glad we did. We're heading to Moscow for the second time. We went to St. Petersburg 3 years ago and loved it! We have never used a guide and have had no trouble, though my husband did learn the alphabet.

Posted by
2936 posts

OOPS , It does look like San Francisco is the correct one , Sorry !

Posted by
150 posts

As much as I would love an excuse to go to San Francisco I think it will be easier to use an agency. We found out we have to wait though, they say 60 days out and we don't leave until Sept.

Posted by
144 posts

I returned from St. Petersburg a week ago, 5 great days.

A few thoughts for what it is worth from having done the visa process.

I drove to houston and went through invisa and paid about 40$ to "help" with errors and walk the paperwork thru. We did not get the 3year visa as they said we would need to provide proof of health insurance, bank account information were the 2 main things. We did not have that ready so we went with the single visit visa. Kind of disappointed about that, but hey we know the process for next time.

Stayed at the Pushka Inn, which I highly recommend, great service, perfect lovation and helpful with directions, setup drivers to take us to museums. Example - Pushka Inn to Faberge Museum 400 Rubles. The day before the same driver took several in our group to the train station and the following day the same driver drove the rest of us to the airport. Very friendly and convenient.

Since we went 2 weeks ago, there was no waiting time in lines or queus. Yes it was cold, low of 30 high of 40, but since we are from the South we live with heat the rest of the year.

Places we saw: Hermitage, peter and paul fortress, st. isaac's, kazan cathedral, church of spilled blood, gostiny dyor shopping center, lutheran church, faberge museum and plenty of shopping and just getting lost and wandering.

The food was very good and reasonable in my opinion. Most restaurant were pretty empty and it seemed we would be seated in a corner away from any other people. dining seemed to take a longer time that what we are used to here in the states, but hey we are in their culture and maybe that is the norm.

We live 5 hours from Houston consulate, and I drove there to turn in our 5 applications one month before our departure. We had the visas in our hands within 10 days.

If there are anymore questions, please let me know, I am here to help

Posted by
150 posts

Cliff, thank you so much! We decided since we are no where near a consulate we will use an agency for our visas per RS recommendation. Coincidentally we are staying 6 nights at the Pushka Inn as well. I am so happy to hear that you really liked it there. We signed up for a couple days of tours with Irina from toursbylocals but will have 2 full days exploring on our own. I think September shouldn't be as busy a time either. Originally we were planning on a Christmas visit but couldn't pull that off. And we love cold weather travel since we live in Phoenix and don't have winter. Did you make it to a ballet? I love Russian food! If you remember any special restaurants that would be great to know. Again thanks for sharing your St.Petersburg experience.
Marcia

Posted by
5700 posts

I am in Chicago and our consulate for Russian visas in in Washington DC; we were required to use the one assigned to our region. When you access on line they link you do the agency that handles their visas; my impression was that you had to go through the agency, the actual consulate does not process them anymore. If you go in person, it is still to the agency. We had no trouble doing it on line and got a visa for 3 years. You might as well get it for 3 years as it costs the same and then you have options for revisits.

We spent 9 nights in Petersburg and hope to return for a few days on our trip this fall.

Posted by
4 posts

We are lucky to live in a city with both a Russian consulate and an ILS office. ILS is set up to help people prepare their Russian visa applications, and or to do the entire process for you. We had one or two hiccups to be corrected on the application (the dates of travel are supposed to be the entire 3 year period if you are applying for a 3 year visa), but otherwise found the process to be shockingly easy. Available appointment times were ample and with very little waiting, and the staff at both places were helpful and courteous. So bottom line, we did our own application and took it to the consulate and everything is smooth. We did, of course, have to secure the letter of invitation with voucher reference numbers first.

Posted by
2936 posts

Rebecca , just saw your post and this section piqued my curiosity - (the dates of travel are supposed to be the entire 3 year period if you are applying for a 3 year visa) - We obtained a three year visa last May , and had done this by only indicating our trip for September 2015 . We are planning to return in the autumn of 2017 , and of course , there are no firm details as to exact time and location ( A return to St Petersburg , and a visit to Moscow are likely ) . How did you handle this when you did the application ? I would appreciate your input , Many Thanks , Steve

Posted by
7 posts

Each consulate has local rules, and some rules are Federal and others are for the the country so that creates some confusion on forums where everyone had a slightly different experience.
Forget consulates, the only time you can or have to deal with them is in case they require a in-person interview, which is rare. The visa process is complained about but it is really simple if you follow the instructions...MUCH simpler, cheaper and more successful than Russians applying for US visas.
The application is one on-line on a web site( http://visa.kdmid.ru ) operated by the Federal Migration Service in Moscow. Fill it out on-line and then print a copy. Send your copy of Visa Support(a hotel or tour operator sends that to you to print out for Tourist Visa), and get 1 passport style photo(I usually went to Walgreens for $6 and 5 minutes.)a copy of the Visa Support, the copy of your application form, your passport with at least one completely empty page and validity 6 months after the intended exit date, and your consular fee to ILS, a company that has the national contract for the US for submitting all applications to the Russian consulate.
Do not bother with any other middlemen, they can only cost you more and introduce mistakes, the only visa application center is Invisa Logistic Services (ILS at www.ils-usa.com . They charge $33 for their service so combined is $160 for the visa plus $33, for $193. You can drop it off at ILS offices in each city where there are consulates. Hint, San Francisco has the most cooperative local rules and will process any. The processing take 6 working days. If something is not filled in correctly, ILS will find it and can make corrections for a fee. They have been very helpful and pretty much assure that the visa will be granted.
Avoid visa agents outside of Russia, they do not have any official standing and can't get invitations in their own names, they pay a hotel or tour operator to sell them. It is not strictly legal and some of the 3rd parties are downright crooked. 3,000 visitors who "bought business visas through Travisa the chain in the US ended up getting tracked down and had real problems with immigration. It cost me thousands of dollars, hearings, fines and major stress when my business visa sponsoring "company" Travisa , used a fake company as sponsors. I was lucky and was not deported but that was before the new cold war started. Even minor violations are causing foreigners being banned for 5 years now. So don't use 3rd parties. There is no need to. ILS (usually called VISA CENTER by the consulate is the only official agent. I used to be able to use my FedEx account for sending the application but they charge a lot for the mail-in applications now. Get your invitations from your hotel or tour operator. Tell ILS that you want the 3 year multiple re-entry visa. You invitation will be for up to 30 days but it will be given for 3 years. It is a very liberal visa policy but only applies to American citizens.

Posted by
138 posts

We just went thru getting my son a Russian work visa. My son got his invitation which is required to apply for the Visa in mid June and his flight to Moscow was yesterday, July 26. We live outside of Boston so the ILS NY location is the closed but because the ILS website warned of delays at NY and most locations except Seattle, we used ILS in Seattle and paid for expedited service. ILS Seattle received his application package via mail on June 23rd and shipped it back to him on June 28th. The longest part of the process was the mail to and from Seattle. Despite what I read, I have to say I was very pleased with the service ILS provided. I did call before we sent the application package and the phone was answered as where my questions.