More Russian Fuckwittery

As I said in this post, I’m planning a trip to Sakhalin in August and am going through the process of obtaining a visa.

I got the letter of invitation without any problem once we’d agreed I’m not going to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, this document being compulsory and of such importance to the security of the Russian nation that they can be ordered over the internet for $30 and emailed to you within an hour.  I then filled out out the application form, which is completely different from the one which is available for download on the embassy websites and if you arrive with that one you get told to fill in the proper one.  Fortunately, I knew about this from the last time I applied so had a spare copy with me and could fill it out at home.

Which is just as well when faced with questions such as:

“List all educational establishments you have ever attended, except high schools.” Twenty character spaces are provided for writing the address and phone number of each.

“List your last two places of work, excluding the current one.” and include the name, address, your position, phone number, date of joining and dismissal, and “Your chief’s surname”.  Presumably that last one is for native Americans.  For your current  job, they give you two small lines in which to enter your position, company name, address, phone number, fax number, and email.

“List all countries you have visited in the last ten years and indicate the year of visit.” Three small lines are provided for this information; mine looks like this:

Azerbaijan (2008), Cambodia (2008), Canada (2000), Hong Kong (2010), Ind0nesia (2007, 2010), Japan (2008-09), Kazakhstan (2008), Kuwait (2003-06), Malaysia (2002, 2009-10), Netherlands (2005), Oman (2003, 2006), Philippines (2008), Qatar (2005-06), Russia (2004-10), Singapore (2001-2, 2007, 2009-10), South Korea (2005, 2007), Spain (2008), Thailand (2007, 2009-10), Turkey (2007), UAE (2003-06), UK (2003-06, 2008-09), Ukraine (2005), USA (2000, 2004), Vietnam (2008).

Needless to say, I needed a separate piece of paper and it took a couple of hours of nosing through old passports looking at smudged entry and exit stamps to figure it all out.  Not something you want to have to do when you arrive at a Russian consulate.

Anyway, I filled out this ludicrous form and went to Malaysia, where I am sitting now.  Why the hell did you go to Malaysia? I hear you all asking.  Because there is a daft rule the Russians have invented which says you can only apply for a visa at an embassy in a country in which you hold a residence permit of more than 90 days, which for most people means you can only apply in your home country.  But for some reason the Russian embassy in KL accepts visa applications from Brits even if they don’t live there (I blogged about the inconsistency and unpredictablity of Russian embassies when I was last here).

Sure enough, today was no different.  I walked in, the admin lady said it would be ready either today or Friday depending on how much I paid.  The embassy is closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays so no chance of getting it tommorow, so I chose today.  I submitted my documents, then ten minutes later the lady behind the counter came out saying it would take seven days.  Seven days?!!  Where the hell did that come from?  That’s what the consul said, apparently.  So I asked why it was going to take seven days and not the usual 1-3, and suddenly the consul burst into view shouting “Vot is ze problem, I say seven days, feeneesh!” and slammed the door shut.

The admin lady looked very apologetic and said she didn’t know why this has happened, and I replied that I did: these are Russia authorities and they are being typically hopeless.  As I gathered up my documents with the intention of flying back to Thailand and sending them all off to a visa agent in London (which would probably have been cheaper in the first place), she whispered that maybe I should come back tomorrow because they usually do express visas on a Thursday morning.

“Huh?” I replied “I thought the embassy was closed on Thursdays.  And that dickhead in there said it would take seve…”

“Yes, I know,” she said “but call me at 9am tomorrow and we might be able to get your visa for you then.”

Somebody should produce a reality TV show set inside a Russian consulate.  It would be certain to generate both entertainment and wide-eyed amazement in equal measure.

I’ll call ’em up tomorrow and see what happens then.


7 thoughts on “More Russian Fuckwittery

  1. I recall trying to get our pet cat out through Sheremety’evo.

    Phone up the Vet’s office at the airport to check that they will be able to issue the pet licence. “Has the cat had the rabies injection?”

    “Yes, but it’s not 30 days since she had it”.

    “Ah, that is a problem, it should be 30 days”.


    “Which day are you flying?”


    “Oh, that will be fine, the boss isn’t here on Sundays. We’ll be able to issue the certificate”.

    And they did.

    mmm yeah most of russian authorities love to fuck things up (or at least they try to make it that hard…or make it look hard)…
    embassies are in the first three i think.
    1. Politicians
    2. Customs
    3. Embassies
    There are a few more but i’d rather keep it quite…don’t want to be charged with a “giving away governmental secrets” crime =)
    Hope all will work out well for your visa tho ^__^

  3. If you would only know how many posts dedicated specifically to Russian consulates, their ornate rules and the manner they treat customers (especially their own citizen) appear all the time in LJ!
    In one community (“inostranki”) it’s practically every 3rd post – even though it’s not a “theme” it was create4d for.

    Consider yourself lucky…

  4. Tim, this is more of a post in itself but it relates to yours so I’ll share it.

    I’d accounted for a 10 day turnaround when applying for my “tourist visa”, I thought it would be plenty if I paid for the 2 day option; you have got to love the Russian governments mentality of paying more to process it quicker, if only the Australian government followed the same format, and as I needed to get there ASAP I was more than happy.

    I didn’t account for the 2 day Russian public holiday, the additional 2 days the consulate takes to process by mail and the weekend, plus Australia Post Mission Statement/fine print. “When it positively has to be there overnight” (as long as it’s not a holiday or weekend), ok thats DHL but they run on the same premise. When I added all this up it seemed that my passport would be somewhere over the Australian desert when I would need it. I hadnt done myself any favors by booking non refundable flights and Nats rating of me being close to zero on a scale of 0-10 on the broken promises scale so you can see how it’s starting to get tricky….

    Now the consulate was closed for the next 4 days so I couldn’t call them to inquire about my application, I checked post tracking…. nope the return hasn’t been processed. Next step was to ring Australia Post and although I had used Express Post which is a next day service they only deliver on working days, anyway after talking to the Australia Post Supervisor she doubted my passport would be back in time for my flight.

    OK can you see where this is going?

    So I booked a flight to Sydney to head it off at the pass and when the consulate opened on the Wednesday there I was, first in line, or I would have been but Russians don’t seem to have a concept of queues, lesson learnt be more assertive in Russian queues as they think nothing of lulling you into a false sense of security with idle niceties and dobra utras before digging in the elbow when the gate opens. So in I shuffle to the front desk. Holy shit, whats this, maybe I dont need my passport after all because I swear I had just been sucked into a vortex and appeared on the other side of the wormhole standing in the departures foyer of Yuhzno Airport. Double blink. and then I realized that bottlenecks are engineered into all Russian Government buildings. My original pole position was now somewhere on the third row but luckily for me the Russian expats where there for passport queries but my window “visa” was empty, my first break!!

    Now with the information I had gleaned from their website I was still a day early so I had planned a 2 day stay in Sydney, no problems if its not ready today Ill be back tomorrow. When I enquired about my passport the very courteous gentleman behind the counter remembered my application and informed me that it had been approved. Great I said, Spasiba can I have it? No it was posted 5 days ago.

  5. Ha ha! Great story, Martin! Funny thing is, I reckon every expat who worked in Russia has a story like this.

  6. Ha, yes, I fell for the trick of filling out the wrong version of the visa application, too. I got the visa in Odessa, Ukraine and they only took U.S. dollars for payment. They didn’t like one of my $10 dollar bills and I had none left. Fortunately, a kind Ukrainian traded my crappy bill for gryvnas for a really lousy exchange rate for him, and I managed to pay for the visa successfully. For some reason, they could do it in about 3 days, so overall, despite the ridiculousness of the whole process, I got fairly lucky.

    Something else I found out about when I arrived to Russia is that if you have a tourist visa for a hotel, you can’t pay off the hotel for a smaller fee and stay in a friend’s place anymore. They’re cracking down on that now. You have to pay for all nights you will be staying there. Fortunately, again, I found a ridiculously cheap hotel that could register me, but I had to bring a special receipt to the bank to be able to officially register. The bill was 14 cents! Gotta love it.

  7. “for some reason the Russian embassy in KL accepts visa applications from Brits even if they dont live there”

    Must be something in the KL water that makes them exceptional, they were like this 25 years ago. Back in the early 80s when I was after a visa for Russia the KL embassy turned it round in 3 days. All other embassies I spoke to quoted a minimum of 6 weeks. London added a special Russian catch-22 – “Your visa application must include proof of a place of residence for the duration of your trip, a confirmed hotel booking is sufficient” – But at the time the only way to book a hotel in Moscow was through Intourist and they wouldn’t take a hotel booking as I didn’t have a visa.

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