Visa Fun

Posted: August 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

Today, I went to the Russian Consulate in New York City to apply for my visa. After a fun-filled, hour long, standing room only train ride to Grand Central (yay for Metro North and its incompetence at running enough trains) I arrived at the Consulate with my father a little after noon. According to the Consulate website, the Consulate processes visas from 9:30 to 1:00 and then from 2:00 to 5:00 Monday through Thursday. When we got to the Consulate, we stood in line outside the building for a good thirty minutes without moving. And there we stood, in the direct path of the noon day sun.

The line streched past the metal fence when we got on it.

Eventually, as it neared 1:00, a bunch of people left to come back after 2:00. Some people were also leaving because the security guard at the door told them to come back the next day. I really didn’t want to deal with getting up and riding into the city with all of the commuters to be first in line the next day, so I stood around for a while and gradually moved closer and closer to the door as more people were turned away. I just wanted to speak with the guard, and plead my case in Russian if necessary. Unfortunately for me, one tourist was rather high strung and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She kept berating the guard and yelling at him, which really didn’t get her anywhere. I was afraid that she would ruin my chances of getting in. Eventually, the man between myself and the woman calmed the guard down, although I did not hear what he said. The guard ventured into the building and came back a minute later with pieces of paper that would let us back in after the lunch break. Supposedly, after lunch, the Consulate only processes visas for agencies and not individuals – a nice bit of information that the Consulate website failed to mention.

My father and I took advantage of the lunch break to somewhat cash in on what was supposed to be a daddy and daughter day in the city after dealing with the paperwork. We walked from the Consulate to the nearby Guggenheim Museum and enjoyed a lunch of the finest kebabs from the Sabrett’s truck. Then, to my joy, I spotted a Mister Softee truck and indulged in a chocolate milkshake. While I didn’t venture into the Guggenheim, I did get to see a wonderful piece of art parked right next to it. Whilst enjoying the richly chocolate and refreshingly cooling milkshake, I spotted a 1979 Mercedes 300SD Turbodiesel in pristine condition parked down the block.

The one I saw today was brown with a matching brown leather interior. Oh the 1970s.

Upon our return to the consulate, the four of us who were given return tickets queued up at the door. We were also joined by a man waiting to pick up his visa. Eventually the guard came by and let us back in. I thanked him profusely in Russian and he smiled back at me. He led us through security to a few chairs, where we once again waited. After at least 10 minutes, the man behind the counter called the first ticket holder up to process his visa. Then it was the turn of the high strung tourist. She had apparently filled out a few sections of her visa incorrectly, and I noticed that I had done the same for one of the mentioned fields (which I’m pretty sure was a glitch with the online system). She also had failed to take into account that the Consulate did not accept cash for visas, only money orders. Finally she left.

The man in front of me had 19 visa applications. While this worried me greatly at first, he was quickly turned away. Again, a few of the fields were incorrectly filled out. At this point I was beginning to worry. I knew that there was one definite glitch with the computer application, and I was pretty sure there was another. I knew that I probably couldn’t “go home and redo” the errors, and I certainly didn’t want to wait around for hours and hours again. I was lucky, though, when it was time for me to do my visa. I handed over my documents and quickly explained the glitches with the online visa (one of which resulted in the visa application saying that I had previously been refused a Russian visa, even though I have not and clicked “no” for this question). The man behind the counter told me that he knew about the glitches and not to worry. I thanked him in Russian, he smiled back, and there were no more questions. He took my paperwork and the money and told me to come back on Friday.

It seems that the Consulate members are somewhat aggravated with processing the tourist visas, especially for people who don’t speak any Russian. I suppose it also helped that I was willing to pay almost double the normal visa fee to have my application expedited. I guess this was a good practice run for when I will have to do bureaucratic tasks in Russia. Armed with confidence, perseverance, and politeness, one can get through the rigors of the Russian government.

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