I finally got my visa application to FedEx yesterday. I thought I’d post everything I needed/did here just because:
(Disclaimer: this assumes that you are employed in Russia and that your employer will be providing you with an invitation. This is not the procedure for getting a tourist visa, which is far less complicated)
1. Apply for/renew your passport. Your passport must be good for at least six months after you plan to leave Russia. Recommended: make scans of all your passport pages, since it will be out of your hands for a couple of weeks while your visa is processed.
2. When you get your passport, ask for extra photos if they don’t already give them to you. You will need two for your visa. However, if you are using an existing passport, go have extra photos taken.
3. Gather official documents, including:
a. Diplomas for all baccalaureate/post-bac degrees
b. Marriage license for accompanying spouse
c. Birth certificates for accompanying children
All of these documents need what is called an “apostille,” which certifies these documents as legit for all Hague Convention countries. Apostilles in the United States are obtained through the Secretary of State/Commonwealth for the state in which you live (some documents, such as marriage licenses and and birth certificates have to be apostilled in the state in which they were issued, but I was able to get my BA from a college in Virginia certified by the Texas SOS, and it was no big deal). In general, what you need to do is:
a. Make photocopies of your diplomas (you do NOT want to send your originals) and have them notarized. You can have this done at the UPS store for seven bucks.
b. Obtain copies of children’s birth certificates and marriage licenses from the state in which they were issued. These do not need to be notarized because they come from the issuing authority.
c. Write a cover letter that explains what you need the apostille for and which country you are travelling to. Include contact information in case there is an issue. Also make up a self-addressed, self-stamped envelope.
d. Send it to the Secretary of State’s office in your state along with any required fes. It took about two weeks to get our stuff back from Texas, one week for our Virgina marriage license.
Put this stuff in a file and hang onto it.
4. Get an HIV test (both you and your spouse). This was the biggest surprise for me, but you need a negative HIV test no more than three months old in order to work in Russia. Since I am away from Austin and my usual doctor, I went to a local women’s clinic and got the results in 10 minutes.
5. Once you get your invitation, apply for your visa (spouse’s and children’s come later). Use a travel service and you will not regret it, though you will have to pay. You will have to mail your passport, the original invitation, HIV test, and extra photos along with the application itself.
Getting all of this stuff together wasn’t exactly hard but did require quite a bit of legwork and a lot of trips to FedEx. Get on it early because it will take a lot longer than you think.
I’ll be back with more interesting stuff next week. I’m headed to NYC this weekend to see the sis.