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LJ Idol IX - 12. Barrel of Monkeys

"To have more fun than a barrel of monkeys" means to really have a lot of it.

Everyone who has ever had credit, made expensive purchases, had their documents stolen or in any other way encountered the bureaucratic machine knows how very much fun it is to run in its wheels.

Let me introduce you to yet another facet of it which is applying for visas. Specifically, the British visa application process for Russian citizens. British visa has a reputation of being one of the more difficult to obtain. Just this morning my mother and I have successfully submitted our applications, but whether our trip will happen or not will not be known for at least two weeks.

Step one, gathering documents. You will need:
  • two recent pictures of your face (colour, 3.5 x 4.5 cm, light background, head height no less than 2.9 cm, no smiling, wearing glasses that may reflect camera light or covering your face with hair);
  • a letter from your employer (stating your position, the date you were hired, your mean salary for the last 12 months and you being allowed paid leave for the duration of your stay), an English translation of the letter and copies of both the letter and its translation;
  • your bank account statement (proof of your being able to afford the trip, with operations detailed for the last 3 months), an English translation of the statement and copies of both the account statement and its translation;
  • copy of property acts, if you have property (having some in your country is somehow supposed to indicate you are not going to become an illegal immigrant in another one), English translations of the acts and copies of both the acts and their translation;
  • booking of a hotel for the duration of your stay, and a copy of the booking;
  • booking of plane tickets there and back again, and a copy of this booking;
  • two copies of your travel insurance;
  • copies of all the pages of your internal passport with any information on them (such as the first page with your photograph and your name, the page with the information about your children, or the page where you blood is stamped, if you have learned it);
  • you current and you expired foreign passports;
  • copies of all the pages of all the foreign passports you are submitting;
  • any other documents you may have that prove your honest intentions and ties to your country (a letter from your college if you are a student, for example).

Step two, filling in the online application and scheduling an appointment at the Visa centre.
  • Find the correct site among the swarm the offers tourist companies make to gather the correct documents for you, charging more for their so-called services than the visa fee;
  • open an account on the Embassy site (after having to try out several passwords, because a modern password absolutely needs at least one of each of the following: a capital letter, a number and a punctuation sign);
  • create a new application either for yourself, or for someone else (good idea, thoughtful idea, easy on applicants like my mum who need help with the application);
  • answer pages upon pages of intrusive questions (I get it, you need my salary, I get it, you need to know I have enough money for the trip and hence the bank account statement (even though 3 months' worth of operations is none of your business). What's it to you how much I spend in a month though, or give away to family members? I am not telling);
  • check the completed application. Twice, or three times. Find an error in an essential phone number or passport information on the third go. Mildly panic. Find nothing wrong during the fourth check;
  • hit "submit application";
  • panic that you still have missed something, like mistyping your passport number or family name (which I did only once in the seven years I have been going abroad without the dubious help of tourist companies, but a big time: I mistyped a friend's name and had to withdraw the complete application and start anew to correct the error. Twice. To the same person);
  • sign the application digitally;
  • pay visa fee online;
  • register on the site of the firm that carries the documents from the Visa centre to the Embassy and back;
  • look desperately through the firm's site in search of additional obligatory service fees;
  • find none but those for "extra" services such as a VIP waiting lounge, ability to attend the Centre during "prime time" and more expedient processing of the documents (3 days instead of the regular 15 and more);
  • book an appointment (neat surprise, there are slots available for the day after tomorrow. You see that, American Embassy with your two weeks and more wait time?);
  • print out the completed application.

Step three. Submitting the documents (needs to be done in person every time).
  • Arrive at the Visa centre with a few minutes to spare;
  • wait in line with no chairs offered even for the elderly;
  • squint at the documents of others in the line. Panic that their visa appointment confirmation pages hold a barcode neither of the two emails you have received to the same effect had;
  • pass through the metal detection arch;
  • register at the welcoming counter;
  • avoid showing your growing nervousness as the person behind the counter checks your data using the barcode on the first page of your visa application and ignoring the appointment confirmation page;
  • pass through the turnstile into the Visa center proper, sit on some comfortable chairs, and wait for you name to appear on the screen together with the number of the counter you have to go to;
  • find out that your counter is on the opposite end of the room;
  • reach the counter and fumble with your documents before giving them over for inspection of completeness: let the photographs flutter to the floor perhaps, or need the simplest of questions repeated to you twice for the first couple of minutes;
  • learn that the 60-something pages in your document package are still not enough, that you need to copy all the pages of your expired foreign passport as well;
  • pool all the small cash you and your mother have and barely manage to pay the exorbitant fee of the copier that does not accept either large bills or credit cards;
  • go back to the counter and get a confirmation that you have submitted everything you needed to;
  • be sent to the biometry section of the Centre (and the reason why documents need be submitted in person);
  • fumble with the fingerprint scanner ("Straighten your fingers, please, put more pressure on the fingertips. Press all the fingers together. No, they are too dry. Here, there's some gel. Oh, you left hand has dried up wile we were scanning your right. Here is some more gel");
  • look at the camera on the ceiling wearing your glasses, then look at another camera to your left after taking your glasses off;
  • finally get out of there after being given a confirmation that you have indeed submitted your documents. You will need it later to retrieve your passport.

Wait for two weeks at least for the result.

I have never yet been refused a visa I have submitted the documents for myself (touches wood, thinks up contingency plans to go to Belarus if the trip the the UK falls through. Cringes and whinges at the idea) but there is little wonder I need a real insensitive like a friend's anniversary or a transient event like a theatre play to go abroad. Going for the sake of going and seeing sights that have always been there and will be there for years still is not really worth the effort.

Letting a tourist firm do the work for me? Generally not worth the risk, since I have been refused a visa because of trusting one.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 19th, 2014 06:34 pm (UTC)
ConCrit is welcome.

I fear the wording may be awkward in places, because I do not read many things or talk on this subject very often.

I also hope that this came out somewhat humorous.
Jun. 19th, 2014 07:09 pm (UTC)
God, it's even worse than the Irish visa. At least the Irish don't ask for an employer's letter like this...
Jun. 19th, 2014 07:16 pm (UTC)
I have never gone to Ireland, but I guess the requirements depend on which country you live in, and on how well the politicians of the two countries get on.

Also, while all these facts are true, I have deliberately tried to be dramatic :-)
Jun. 19th, 2014 07:32 pm (UTC)
Well, still, I know how the French bureaucracy works,it IS dramatic. But comparing to this the French visa is a walk in the park...
Jun. 19th, 2014 09:52 pm (UTC)
I'm tired just reading this and i can't imagine wanting to go anywhere that badly. That's incredible!
Jun. 20th, 2014 05:23 am (UTC)
Well, not all visas are that bad. I could say I worked up to this one after getting used to a simpler process.

But it's true that some people refuse to go abroad because the process offends them.

Thank you for suffering through this with me :-)
Jun. 20th, 2014 02:03 pm (UTC)
It is actually much more complicated for you coming to the UK than what we Brits have to do to get a tourist visa to visit Russia. Yes we have a (two page) online application form which includes hotel and employment details. But we don't need supporting documents other than submitting our passport plus one extra recent passport sized photo, and don't have an interview. And yet for those of us in Europe used to just travelling across borders without any pre-arrangement, this still seems like a big obstacle requiring massive effort!

Of course, arranging a private visit via the private invitation visa system is more complicated – but again I think more so for the Russian host than for the visitor. :-/

Anyway, I hope that all is well and your visas are forthcoming. I'm sure all will be well. :-)
Jun. 20th, 2014 02:51 pm (UTC)
There is actually a long-standing joke among those of us who often go abroad: that it's a pity few of you citizens of Schengen countries and the UK need to visit Russia and Ukraine or Belarus in the same trip, for then the joke would be on you, you'd feel the two-visas pain we do if we want to go to continental Europe and the UK at the same time.

But anyway, I am glad that your process is easier, even so that less people balked before it, because what you describe is somewhat similar to what we have to do to visit "the easiest" countries, so more complicated processes are not very daunting in comparison.
Jun. 20th, 2014 02:52 pm (UTC)
Well, I hope that the documents are OK, too, but don't want to jinx it. Thank you!
Jun. 21st, 2014 02:26 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah, that sounds like tons of fun! Hahaha. My Mama passed away in September 2012. I'm STILL dealing with all kinds of government and official things that need copies of her death certificate and whatnot. It sucks.
Jun. 21st, 2014 01:02 pm (UTC)
I have a friend who married about 20 years ago, and took her husband's name, and because it was not necessary that her name change everywhere at once, it took her, like, ten years to slowly do it on every account, property act and whatever, lol.

I am sorry for your loss, and that the process might remind you about out it.
Jun. 23rd, 2014 08:30 pm (UTC)
At least marriage is a pleasant reason to have to do that.
Jun. 21st, 2014 01:51 pm (UTC)
Wow, so complicated. This is one of the reasons why I never want to go to another country -- I hate struggling to get all the paperwork together.
Jun. 21st, 2014 01:55 pm (UTC)
It is very exasperting at first, but I concentrate more on what might come after if I do it all right. Maybe you will yet go, if there is something really interesting happening somewhere :)

Jun. 25th, 2014 12:23 am (UTC)
Maybe! :)
Jun. 23rd, 2014 05:38 am (UTC)
Oh! I hope it's worth the effort in the end..and we get to hear about the Trip you planned and enjoyed some where down the lane..:) Yeah it was Funny to read especially step 3.."Oh, you left hand has dried up wile we were scanning your right. Here is some more gel"..made me LOL..:D

Edited at 2014-06-23 05:38 am (UTC)
Jun. 23rd, 2014 11:22 am (UTC)
Haha, thank you for quoting this. I noticed a typo in this part.

It will, if it takes place, and I will see if any of the prompts allow the description. Thank you :)
Jun. 23rd, 2014 05:57 am (UTC)
Wow. That is arduous.

I wonder if it's this bad for citizens of other countries? I can see why there might be a fear that some people have the goal of coming to the country, seeking asylum there (or just to disappear), and then becoming either trouble between Britain and the home country or just a burden on social services.

But still. Wow.
Jun. 24th, 2014 07:48 pm (UTC)
Well captivebird says that the return processes, the one for the UK citizens going to Russia, is somewhat easier. On the flipside though, we are usually granted a multi visa for 6 months or 2 years, and they, a single-visit one just for the period of the trip.

Personally, I believe the process is such so that the Embassy could refuse entrance to anyone without any reason (because it is not possible to prove an absence of anything, they teach it in 1st year law). Everything else is more or less a smokescreen.
Jun. 23rd, 2014 07:02 pm (UTC)
That is quite a procedure and I think I would be nervous if I had to use this fingerscanner and it somehow did not work ;)
Jun. 24th, 2014 07:41 pm (UTC)
If you have, I'd recommend to use it while standing up, so you could use your body weight to press your fingers down. I had to do it three times now, and I fumbled two of them :)
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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