Sunday, February 15, 2009

Russian visa questions for ex-pats

I am going to post some questions here related to passport renewal. If you are living abroad, this might relate to you. I'm hoping we can have some information exchange.

My current passport expires in March 2010. I still have a full year. It seems like it would be convenient to just take an extended Christmas break to renew it.

Unfortunately, that won't work for stay in Russia. When I apply for a Russian visa, the passport must be valid for 6 months AFTER the next exit date from Russia. This means that I cannot order a visa that will be valid beyond September 2009, until I get a new passport.

Additionally, when I order a visa, I must have the number of the passport that I will be using to get the visa. Therefore, I must have the new passport before ordering even a letter of invitation, a potentially long process.

In the worst case scenario, I could spend up to two months waiting for documents (okay, I didn't really do the math, but you get the idea):

-2 to 3 weeks for a new passport,
-3 to 4 weeks for a new invitation to Russia,
-1 to 2 weeks for a new visa

Since I've just spent 3 months out of Russia, this makes me want to look for a quicker option. Of course, all of those services could be expedited, so that it would only take 3 weeks or so for all the steps. But that's a lot of money and a lot of expediting, with potential for delays. Keep in mind that airline tickets also have to be purchased in advance, corresponding to the visa dates.

Here are a few options:

1) Order a second or temporary passport which I can use to get my next invitation and visa. Then, the next time I'm in the U.S., get the real new 10-yr passport.

I'm not sure if this service is even offered right now. If it is, does it apply to travel in Russia?

2) Renew my passport while in Russia. On the website of the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg, it states: " The American Citizen Services Section at the Consulate General accepts applications to renew expiring or expired passports or replace passports that have been lost, stolen, or mutilated (damaged)...Overseas posts accept passport applications and electronically forward them to the National Passport Center in the United States. The full validity passport is then sent back to the Consulate to be issued to the applicant. The turn around time for this process is usually 5-7 calendar days."

That sounds too good to be true. So here's a question: What happens to the visa that is in the old passport?*

If anyone has any experience with this or thoughts, please let me know!

Balance all this with the 90-day visa rules and you've got yourself a complicated situation. If I had known I was going to be here for 3 months, I could have done it. But I thought I would have a visa any day, so I didn't have quite enough information to make the use of this time. Too late now.

*Update here:

**Another update:


  1. Hey Liz, for the longest time I wanted to tell you about a site that has many answers that concern you. It's not a Christian site and maybe you have seen it before, but I think you can find relevant answers on it. I used to be part of the forum there at one point. There are some really dedicated to Russia travel people there.

    Check it out:

    The forum there is in Talk Lounge. And Dima (the owner) has tons of other answers throughout the site.


  2. Thanks, Vitali. I do like the forum on their site. I will post an update soon.


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