Saturday, June 23, 2012

Russia Visa Application Saga...Part III

I'm happy to report the visa processing company's office in Washington, DC received my visa application package at 10:28am on Friday.  YIPPEE!

I'm even happier to report I had an email from the company Friday afternoon.  The email stated my application package was received.  Of course I knew that because being the "anal retentive" travel planner I am, I checked the UPS tracking website to find out if the package was delivered.  And now the company has started the visa application process for me.  Double YAY! 

And the BEST news of all, the anticipated completion date of my visa application is July 9th.  Fingers are still crossed that I will have my passport with Russia visa in my hot little hands by mid-July!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Russia Visa Application Saga...Part II

After settling into my morning routine I clicked on the UPS tracking website to check the status of my returning visa application package.  At 9am I was thrilled to see the notation, "out for delivery", so I thought I'd have the package before the end of the day today.  My passport is flying more than me, think I could convince Delta airlines to give me the miles my passport has flown in the last 48 hours?  :-)

I was doubly thrilled when the UPS envelop with my application appeared on my desk just after 10am.  When I opened it I wasn't as thrilled.  The San Francisco office of the visa processing company returned the original application but not the copy they required me to send, which meant I had to make another copy to send to the Washington, DC office.  Not the end of the world, but an inconvenience.

In less than an hour I had the revised application and a full copy ready to go and the shipping label the San Francisco office provided me for the Washington, DC office in my hand ready to be applied to the shipping envelop.  Are you following all this?  I barely can!

Fortunately there is a UPS store close to my office and I popped over there at lunch and handed the kind gentleman behind the counter the envelop with the application package lovingly secured inside.  Now it's in the hands of UPS...let's hope the second time is a charm and I don't get any calls tomorrow from the Washington, DC visa processing office telling me there is another hiccup in my application!

Keeping fingers crossed, but not holding my breath!  :-)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

And The Saga Begins...the Russia Visa Story

I counted back 45 days on the calendar from my scheduled arrival day on Russian soil.  I meticulously indicated on the visa application form my application would be submitted to the consulate on June 21st, exactly 45 days before arriving in Russia.

I painstakingly checked and double and triple checked all the materials to be submitted with the visa application....

Invitation Letter.....................................Check
2 Passport Sized Photos........................Check
Original Passport...................................Check
Signed Visa Application.........................Check
Visa Processing Company Order Form...Check
Duplicate copy of above mentioned items.Check


I called the visa processing company in San Francisco to confirm that yes, in fact I did need to send my application "package" to San Francisco instead of Washington, DC because the San Francisco office issued my invitation letter and their representative happily confirmed, YES, my application should be mailed to the San Francisco office.

I took an early lunch from work at 9am when the local FedEx office opened for business.  I walked through the office door, filled out the shipping form, forked over $37.10 to ensure delivery by the afternoon of June 20th and left with a tracking receipt and a smile on my face.  The arduous visa application process was behind me.  I followed the instructions from the visa processing company to a tee, now all I had to do was wait for my passport with the Russia visa to be returned to me before my early August departure...or so I thought.

The day after shipping the application to San Francisco I consulted the FedEx website to pleasantly find my "package" arrived at it's destination by 9am.  I continued with my morning routine with a bounce in my step knowing the application was received, that is, until 1pm rolled around and the phone on my desk rang.

I wasn't even going to pick up the receiver because I was about to go to lunch, but my responsible self said to pick up the phone.  On the other end was a representative from the visa processing company calling to tell me my visa application package had been received...great I thought...then he said,  "but there was a mistake".

DUM-DUM-DUM...I could hear that foreboding music playing in my ear...

He told me I had sent the application to the wrong office, it should have been sent to their Washington, DC office.  I was flabbergasted, because I had called the San Francisco office, in May when I began to fill out the application, to ask the question...which office to send the application to.  I was not a happy camper.

Then he broke the news that I had 2 items on the application which were incorrect.  The first was the entry and exit dates..silly me, I thought my actual entry and exit dates would be required, but no, apparently on the invitation letter it allows for the entire month of August, not just my specific dates, and the visa application has to match the invitation letter.  It would have been nice if, in the 15 page "application guidance document" the visa processing company issues it said that somewhere!  The second incorrect item was where I had misguidedly entered San Francisco Consulate as the place the application would be submitted and not the Washington, DC office, well, come on here...if I was sending it to San Francisco, why would I put Washington, DC?

So now, the application package is being shipped back to me via overnight mail and I have to go online to my application, correct the 2 items that are wrong, reprint the revised online application, sign it and ship it to the Washington, DC office.  Of course when I contested having to pay more shipping charges the representative said he would include a shipping label I could use to send the application to the Washington, DC office, let's see if I'm not charged for that! 

I could probably buy a plane ticket to DC, and sit on the steps of the Russian consulate waiting for the visa to be processed and it would be less aggravating.

I will admit, this whole incident had me riled up, had I not called before sending the application package I'd be more forgiving of this SNAFU, but really?  I called to confirm the process and followed the directions the visa processing company gave me.

Let's hope I actually do make it to Russia in August, because from where I'm sitting today, it doesn't seem very promising!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June...A Travel Planning Month

Aside from coping with the whole Russia visa process, June is shaping up to become a travel planning month for me...   (NYC in September and December, Atlanta in September and California in November)

I'm gonna be a busy girl!

It all started a few weeks ago with a discussion about when mom and I should go to NYC this year and we decided since we have Christmas Eve and Christmas days off from work, that's when it would be, and plane tickets were purchased.  Then I found out about the  Il Volo concert in Atlanta at the Fox Theater and how could we pass up seeing these young gifted singers from Italy?  And it helps that they are incredibly handsome in that youthful sort of way.

But, then a week later there was a 24 hour fare sale on Delta airlines and how could we let that opportunity pass us by? So after consulting calendars and calculating how much vacation time we'd have available tickets to NYC in September (Labor Day weekend) and California in November (the week of Veteran's Day) were purchased.

Now, NYC is  a no-brainer for us, we just love it so much and planning a visit (or two) there is a snap for mom and I.  But when I saw the deal on a flight from Savannah to San Francisco I just had to say something to mom.  The issue was that we've been to San Francisco twice in the last 3 years and although we enjoy spending time there, it really wasn't calling our names. 

Then I got to thinking...we frequently said we wanted to see the Sonoma & Napa wine country.  Doing it as day trips from San Francisco always seemed to leave us unsatisfied.  What if we go to California for more than a long weekend?  What if we stretch it out to a week?  What if we rent a car and drive to Sonoma and Napa Valleys and actually spend a whole week there?  Mom was really diggin' that idea...soooo...tickets to San Francisco for a week in November were purchased!

Now with airfares for three trips purchased the hotel hunting can begin and then of course there is the digging through the list of Broadway shows we want to see and the wineries we want to visit.

Ah yes, June is going to be a heavy trip research month!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Russia Visa...It's an Adventure

Who ever said travel is an adventure must have been speaking about the process to obtain a visa to visit Russia.

To be fair, when you break down all the steps in the process it really isn't too difficult, it's making sure all the steps in the process are followed correctly that is the challenge.

First an invitation letter must be obtained and the cruise company I am booked with for this upcoming trip does not issue those letters.  So another company, whose specialty is obtaining these letters, must be employed to do the "leg-work" to get this invitation letter on my behalf.

Once the invitation letter is issued there is an online application form that must be completed.  Be prepared to delve back into your personal and business records to dig up addresses and phone numbers of past employers and educational institutions attended.

When the online application form is completed then it must be printed.  Not always easy.  I had to convert the application to a .PDF format before it would print, good thing I know a little about computers.

Don't forget to have 2 passport sized photos taken because they are needed for processing with the application.

As of a couple months ago, individuals can no longer submit the visa application directly to the consulate for processing.  Now, as with the invitation letter, the application must be submitted to a company specializing in securing a visa to visit Russia and they then need to submit the application to a company authorized by the consulate to submit the application.  Can you follow this so far?  It took me a little while to process the whole application "trail".

And, when using the San Francisco consulate, the application cannot be submit more than 45 days prior to the date of arrival in Russia. 

So what it all comes down to is I'll be paying a company that specializes in the visa acquisition process to handle my application and pray I receive the visa before my August departure date!