A few weeks ago my beloved handed me a plastic folder assuring me that it contained everything he needed for his Russian visa application for a forthcoming trip. Now, it’s not that I didn’t believe him, I’m sure it contained everything he thought he needed. But it’s been awhile since we had to apply for a Russian visa, plus the process is made more complicated with our French residence and my husband’s inability to be separated from his passport for more than a day.

In years past we’ve been able to obtain the visa the same day from either the Russian embassy in Marseille or the one in London. The plan was to pop into the embassy in Marseille on our way down to the Basque country. I felt however that it was incumbent on me to check exactly what was required. I discovered that while the embassy still handles applications, it can no longer turn them around in a day and, such has been the demand for visas, that they’ve outsourced the process to a Russian-manned visa handling service in Marseille which has the advantage of longer opening hours than the Embassy. I booked my beloved an appointment for the Friday and started to complete the new on-line 15-page application form which seemed to require an amazing amount of information.

I had to give details of my beloved’s degree a BSc (Hons) in Chemistry and Management and then, later on in the form, had to assert that he had  no competence with chemical processes! My problems began when the form asked me to list all his earlier Russian visas. I have details for the last seven years, but no further back. I was also required to list every country he’d ever visited in the last ten years giving the date of visit day/month/year! Now if he hadn’t lost his passport back in 2010, I would have been able to at least list all those countries who’d stamped his passport.

Just to be on the safe side I contacted the visa service who didn’t seem to fussed and told me to list what I could remember. I had to complete the form, all 15 pages of it, 4 times before everything was correctly recorded as it kept logging me out after 20 minutes. I thought I could retrieve saved data but that turned out not to be the case. I could only save it once fully and correctly completed. I carefully checked through the documentary requirements, I had everything they appeared to be asking for, so I checked what I’d done last time. I’d had to get an “attestation” in French and Russian confirming that my beloved had the appropriate level travel insurance. So this was requested from our insurer and it arrived in time for our departure to Marseille.

We arrived early in Marseille and decided to head straight to the office of the visa-handling service ahead of our appointed time. Just as well we did. Although my husband had booked his hotel and flight, the hotel was required to send him yet another form to complete which he had to return to the hotel who would then issue him with a duly stamped tourist voucher. We struck lucky, the lady processing our application assisted us with obtaining the missing paperwork which took three calls on my beloved’s mobile to expedite. Noting that we lived in France she demanded proof of our residence such as an electricity bill. This would have been no use whatsoever as it’s in my name. Luckily the insurance “attestation” stated my husband’s address! Almost home and dry.

While all this was being dealt with at least four people came to request a visa and were sent away as they did not possess the correct paperwork. Finally we paid and left in the belief that it’ll be waiting for us on our return on 8 April. If not…………….My beloved will have to spend a day at the Russian embassy in London trying to speed up matters otherwise he won’t be going to Russia. So far we have expended 10 man hours – excluding travel time – Euros 80,00 on petrol and tolls plus Euros 134, 00 for the visa itself.

The agency has set up a special desk for the handling of visas for those going to the winter Olympics in Sochi next year. I have a few words of advice, start the process now!

Postscript: On the way back from Spain we popped in to the Visa Agency to collect my beloved’s Russian visa which had been processed and was happily waiting for us – success.

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