Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Russia: Picky consulate in Montreal....

This application, considering we were only applying for the standard 30-day tourist visa, was more complicated than it seemed it should have been. There were a few particulars about it that others applying for it might like to know:

1) Russian visas can only be applied for through the embassy/consulates of your country of origin. Luckily, it's one of the first countries we are visiting, so we could apply for it from Canada and still be within the 90-days you are allowed to apply for the visa before your arrival date. Had we have been doing our loop in the other direction and arriving in Russia later in the year, this one would have been a real mess to apply for.

2) Russian visas, even the standard 30-day tourist visa, require a letter of invitation. We got lots of info from and used Visa to Russia for the letter of invitation, and got excellent, very fast service. We got both of the required letters with stamps emailed to us almost immediately after payment, and even got them re-issued with different city names (you need to list some cities you will be visiting) for free, even though it was our mistake.

3) The consulate in Montreal seems to be very picky. We originally applied to them and, if you use the default settings for printing out the application form, the size of the box to attach your photos to comes out about 1 cm too wide. As a result, they ended up (after keeping our application for a decent amount of time) returning our application to us saying that it was not allowed to cut the photo but that it was too big. We snipped off 0.5 cm of white space on either side of the photo, re-printed the application form and sent it to the Consulate in Toronto and got the visa no problem. (Canadians are all allowed to apply to the Toronto consulate, but I think you need to be a resident of Quebec or the Atlantic provinces to apply to the Montreal one.)

All said and done, though, we ended up eventually getting our 30 day visa which should give us plenty of time.

The one remaining question mark is something called a border permit. Our Lonely Planet says that it is required for the area of the Altai region that we will be visiting, the road from Aktash or Kosh-Agach to Mongolia in particular. They recommend that you get help with that from your Letter of Invitation provider, but Visa to Russia didn't know anything about this. We've followed other blogs of people biking in the area and didn't read anything about a border permit, but that's something we'll have to deal with when we get there, if it is in fact a requirement.

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