Getting a russian federation visa in nyc

 

i’m always amazed at how many people lose their shit in the visa office. While the main job of any visa consulate is to give you a bright shiny new sticker or stamp for your passport, i’m pretty sure the real reason is to subject you to a cultural crash test. you pass the test, you get to go somewhere new. if you don’t, you end up looking like an idiot screaming at a low level visa worker who could care less how public your meltdown is. you might think getting a russian visa in new york wouldn’t be as full of tragicomedy as some consulates around the world, but you’d be wrong. and it’s thinking like that that leads to public meltdowns. so don’t over think it, just show up, be as prepared as you can be and go with the flow.

While there is a russian consulate in midtown somewhere, when i researched online it looked like the Russian Visa Application Center down in the wall street area (80 Maiden lane, suite 302, New York, NY 10038) was the best bet. it’s primary function was handing out visas, and a lot of people who went to the consulate first where redirected there. the following are some useful tips:

1. you’ll need the application, obviously. it can be found online here. it can get confusing at times, but it does allow you to save the version you’re working on while you inevitably google some oddly phrased request.

2. if you don’t get there at 9am, plan on spending a good chunk of your day there. a confusing line forms pretty quickly and a lot of larger tour groups send their messengers there with group visa requests. so one or two of the windows might be fully occupied with that. throw in some language issues and almost everyone not having all the necessary paperwork and you have a lot of frustrated, confused people.

3. factor in the lunch hour shut down. if you haven’t taken care of everything you need by noon, you’re out of luck until they reopen at 1pm. this fact alone caused a few meltdowns on multiple floors since those who had left the building to get money or other items needed were not let into the building until opening time.

4. yes, you do need a letter of invitation. what’s that you ask? who knows, just make sure your hotel or travel agency gets you one. a lot of people finally got to a window and were sent right back out when they said they missed that detail. while a few of the hostels i looked into provided services for this letter, mine didn’t (still a good hostel) so i used the online agency real russia and they worked out fine.

5. no credit cards or personal checks. so if you get through all the paperwork and you owe 280 bucks for an expedited visa (like i did) you better have cash on hand or a money order/certified check handy. and if you leave the building to get either one, keep in mind point number 3. if not, subway sandwich is a few doors down.

6. i wouldn’t recommend smiling, joking or being overly friendly with the cashier lady. i’m pretty sure she operated on a points system and any overt attempt at humoring her into helping with something just loses you points and you end up at the back of a line. seriously, she is not to be trifled with.

7. i brought copies of airline and hostel confirmation, but neither were asked for. i’m not saying don’t bring them, just didn’t seem like a deal breaker.

if the gods of travel are on your side or you speak russian, then you can get everything done in one day, but most people ended up coming back 2-3 times. so be prepared for this outcome and when it happens try not to be one of the 3 people who ended up yelling at the visa worker or swearing into a cell phone. although, they were pretty entertaining and watching them did help pass the time.

 

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