One of my mother’s bucket list of countries to visit had always been to visit Russia. So we decided to go ahead and visit Russia this year. Applying for the Russian visa is a very complicated and lengthy process, so we decided to apply through our travel agent at Travel Fast. It was so much easier for us. However, we still had to endure a process, which wasn’t fun.
The visa requirements for a Pakistani passport holder are (this is for Tourist visa- for Business visa, there are extra requirements):
- Passport must be valid no less than 6 months after the date of visa expiry. It should contain at least two blank pages. The signature or the thumb impression of the bearer should be on page 2 of a Pakistani passport. If an applicant has previous passports, he should submit all of them. If a previous passport was lost, FIR in English language from the nearest police station should be attached.
- 02 photographs. The photo should be 3.5 x 4.5 cm on a white background.
- Original Police Character Certificate with the contact number of issuing authority.
- Last 06 months attested personal bank statement with account maintenance certificate (stamped & signed)
- Letter head for visa request
- Copy of NTN
So while we submitted all these documents, the wonderful staff at Travel Fast filled out all the forms on our behalf. We were advised to apply three months before our travel dates.
The easiest thing applying through the agent is that they have all the right connections in Russia and affiliations with the hotels. We were given a choice to choose between 3 stars and 4 stars hotels, accordingly which they made the bookings for us.
The only thing I had to do was purchase the train tickets from Moscow to St. Petersburg, which I then submitted to my travel agent.
Once the application was submitted online, we got a call from the Russian consulate in Islamabad. I was told that I can go and my mom and aunt can stay back. So I make my way all the to Islamabad (four hours road trip) and meet up with the travel agent representative, who then took me to the diplomatic enclave.
Once I got there (we were there 30 minutes earlier than our designayed time). There were 3 more people along with me who had applied. I was the only one applying for the tourist and they were all businessmen. Once my turn came, an hour after my designated time, I walked up to this black window. I can’t see inside. The guy behind the black window can see me. There is an intercom through which I had to speak. He told me to submit all the passports and application forms through the slide out drawer.
Few minutes later, he asks me where is my mom and aunt. I told him in Lahore and I am representing them. He refused, and said to bring them with you. Argh. This exercise turned out to be pointless.
So the following week, I take my mom and aunt, and we go through the whole process all over again. Road trip to Islamabad for four gours, ,meet with our travel agent, drive to diplomatic enclave and again wait for an hour. When we were called, I slid the documents again through the drawer and told the guy behind the black window that my mom and aunt are here. He just said ok.
Few minutes later, he started asking me question: Why are you going to Moscow? What will you see there? Which hotel you are staying at? How are you funding your trip? How are you going to St. Petersberg? What will you do there?
I was very well prepared, and I had prepared my mom and aunt too. However, the guy didn’t ask anything from them. Just me. I was so annoyed that I had to drag my mom and aunt for nothing, but I guess he just wanted to confirm the presence of the applicants.
The guy was actually very friendly and his tone was stiff and serious but courteous. It was a pity I couldn’t see him through the one way window.
We all got our passports with the visas in a month’s time. Thankfully. It felt like such a mission to apply for a Russian visa but we got them!
This is what it looks like:
They were very strict about the travel dates and so as you can see, they issued the visa for the exact dates we are to be there- 7 days. They don’t do a 30 days, or 90 days visa at all.
IMPORTANT: In addition, we also got two documents which we were told we have to show at immigration in Russia. They are proof of admission to the country.