We are back in Russia with new visas for the kids. As usual we met obstacles along the way.
Children's passports expire every 5 years, but you can't travel within 6 months of expiry. So 4.5 years maximum. Meanwhile, Americans can get a Russian visa for 3 years maximum. So it's a constant brainteaser trying to make things match up!
David and Sophia are 3 years into their passports, yet we applied for 3-year visas again as that was the best option for us with two years left on the passports. We were in touch with a visa agency and requested that they issue the visa for the maximum possible time period, within the terms of the passport. Visas cannot be transferred into a new passport.
It all seemed pretty clear and I worked hard to complete the visa application before arriving in the U.S., so we could submit it to the Russian Consulate as soon as possible and enjoy our summer break! A significant goal here was to submit early so we wouldn't have to pay for expedited processing, one of the few occasions this would be possible.
Within a week, we were hearing from the visa agency that we had a problem. The kids' visas were expiring in September since we arrived in Russia on those dates last time due to Sophia's birth. But we normally need to arrive in August due to the school year beginning. Turns out, the Russian Consulate will not accept applications more than a month BEFORE the old one expiring. So, we had to hit that window of submitting a month before for processing time, yet not more than a month before to be accepted. Since we were early, they had to put our application on hold.
Next we had to weigh our options as far as expediting the visa vs changing the plane tickets. Our itinerary had been formed with care and we wanted to get back in time to prepare for the academic year. Plus, finding a good flying route with 4 seats still available can be tricky. My preference and decision was to keep our travel dates even though it meant paying twice as much for the visas and possibly not getting them in time anyway, which would mean paying to change plane tickets.
Taking this risk was fruitful and we got the visas a good 3-4 days before traveling (2 of them being Sat-Sun). I believe the visa agency pulled some strings, which they were well paid to do...though I'm not talking about bribery, of course! Just paid well to check our documents carefully and communicate effectively with the Russian authorities.
Of course we knew God would work out the details even if we hadn't gotten the visas in time. It's always an expensive endeavor, but there isn't really a way around that. And I know a lot of international families have stories just like this, especially traveling with children whose passports need to be renewed.
According to our timetable, we need to be applying for residency for the kids by the end of this year unless we want to end up going through the visa process again next year.
HOWEVER, there's been a change! Some new laws are coming out in October. I've read them over, and this is what I gleaned that might apply to us:
1) Processing time will be reduced from 6 months to 4 (so we'd get them earlier in the spring, plenty of time)
2) Minor children of a parent already holding a permanent residency permit will be able to bypass the temporary residency process, which would be SO nice, basically save us a year or two of red tape. And some money and nerves.
BUT, the law isn't coming out for another month and then when will it actually be implemented? Taking a quick glance, it was finalized in August and will be implemented soon, but will all the government offices be up-to-date? When should we apply? Hmmmm....
I guess I won't amend my little checklist until I know more. Time will tell!
Fall 2019-apply for temp. residency for kids, confirm my residency (OR: apply right away for permanent residency and skip the next few steps?)
Winter 2019- border run, reregister kids
Spring 2020- receive temp. residency for kids, register
Fall/Winter 2020- get new passports in Moscow, transfer all stamps to new passports, apply for new passport and U.S. visa for Andrei
Spring 2021- apply for permanent residency for kids
Fall 2021- receive permanent residency for kids, register, confirm my residency
Spring 2023- take exam (?), renew my permanent residency and registration
Apply for green card for Andrei, if that's even possible???