For Americans, the Russian visa technique is complicated, lengthy, and high-priced. It’s also a form of a thriller—one of these things without difficult and rapid policies, in which there aren’t necessarily clean steps or clear answers.

It becomes three weeks before my journey to Russia—right inside the window of while you must follow. First, I filled out an internet form that took about forty-five mins to finish. Apart from preferred questions which are on each visa application, there had been a few deep dives. Where had been my parents born? Where have been my husband’s parents born? (He wasn’t even touring with me!) I had to list each united states of America I’ve been to within the ulast1tenyears, and I without a doubt ignored some because I have a terrible reminiscence and journey loads. But I did my best, and as soon as my online application became submitted, I changed into able to make an appointment with the Russian Consulate.

I confirmed up with my passport, my motel reservations, and my visa assist letter from one in all my accommodations. I had with me two passport images that I had taken for $26 at a drugstore for the duration of my lunch smash. I also introduced $350 in various bills, due to the fact I examine online that you have to pay cash, you have to have the exact quantity, and you don’t understand how plenty it’s going to cost because of random extra charges (will you be charged $12 to make a copy of your passport? TBD).

I arrived at the consulate 10 mins early for my appointment. The door become locked and no person turned into there. After loitering around outside, anyone needs to have ultimately observed me on the security camera and allow me in. I had to test my phone and any other cameras in a tiny locker and undergo a steel detector. Nobody spoke English, including the person processing my visa application. It turned into a fast manner, and I was quickly approved, however when I went to the cashier to pay, she rejected my cash. I needed a cashier’s take a look at, so they sent me to the closest financial institution. The bank wouldn’t provide me a cashier’s take a look at because I didn’t have an account there, so I went to the alternative region they suggested—an Office Max. They don’t do cash orders either, so I finally observed a Western Union and got a money order for $270.

Attempt #2
I was turned away by way of the cashier due to the fact my money order became made out for $271, for a few causes. I was like “Just preserve the trade!” and they had been like “I’ll get arrested for embezzling!” (or something—I don’t communicate Russian beyond saying “thanks” and “cheers”) so I needed to pass again to Western Union.

Attempt #three
I sooner or later succeeded—or so I idea. I had submitted my application with the ideal dates, in conjunction with my resort reservations and letter of aid. I was to choose up my passport with the visa in 10 business enterprise days at every other address, their visa pick out-up middle.

Attempt #four
The date to select up my visa rolled around, and I went to the office with the Russians. I double-checked the dates on my visa, and my coronary heart sank—they have been incorrect. My visa didn’t start till three days into my journey. I showed the passport administrator my software and my hotel reservations with the precise dates, but there was not anything she should do. She said she’d ship my passport again to the consulate to be fixed and I may want to choose it up once more from her in two days.

Two days later, it was drawing near to the begin of my journey, and I nonetheless didn’t have a visa. I went to the pickup center, and the passport administrator stated the consulate couldn’t restore it. Although the dates on my software were accurate, I had handiest gotten a visa aid letter from the other motel wherein I changed into staying, so that they made the visa simplest based on the one’s dates. She stated my excellent chance became to take my passport and visit the consulate without an appointment so that you can plead my case.