My Adventures in Visa Applications

According to my Dad, I have learned a valuable life lesson today. A sad lesson, but a true lesson.

Life Lesson #3459:
If you throw more money at your problem, your problem has a better chance of going away. 

After weeks of deliberation on how I should handle my visa needs for Russia and China, I decided to visit an expedited passport and visa service in Dallas during their walk-in hours and see what they could do. I brought with me everything I should need for my applications:

  • Passport
  • 2 Passport-style photos (taken at Walgreens photo center)
  • Hostel booking confirmation in China
  • Flight booking confirmation for all flights
  • Copies of my drivers’ license (as proof of US residency)
  • Knowledge of my trip itinerary

There are various reasons I waited so long to apply for my visas. The main reason is that Russian visas require an invitation from a party in Russia to be approved. Maria’s mother graciously put in a request for a private visit invitation for me at the immigration in office Russia. However, it takes a very long time to process these private invitations, and quite a bit more time to mail them from Russia to the US (they cannot be scanned or e-mailed, they must be the original copy). As weeks passed after the request was put in, I began to realize that the invitation may not come in time for my trip. Even with the invitation in hand, it can take weeks to process a visa application through the Russian consulate, and at least 3 days to process an application when using an expedited service. After a little internet research, I found out that most expedited visa companies can work with the Russian consulate and a Russian tourism company to create an invitation for you, for an extra fee.

Anyways, back to my visit with the visa service in Dallas.

The ladies at the service were very helpful, and were able to help me finish my visa applications in a little less than an hour. The assured me that my visas will be done by August 2nd (2 days before my trip departure!!!) and that they would call me when my passport is ready to be picked up. They really put my mind at ease. (I plan to leave them a stellar review on Google…)

However, getting a visa expedited or “rushed” is not cheap. Between the fees for the visa service, the Russian invitation fee and the consulate fees for both countries, I racked up quite a bill. I’m not comfortable sharing the exact cost on my blog, so I will leave the actual numbers to your imagination. I am fortunate enough to have been able to put a lot of money in my savings account over the past few years as well as to have the support of my parents when it comes to many (most???) of life’s financial necessities (I can’t thank them enough). I have also been working two jobs this summer in order to save money for my trip and my future living expenses.

If I didn’t pay the fee, I would have lost the trip of a lifetime (not to mention the cost of 3 different plane tickets.) KakaoTalk_Photo_2016-07-14-19-07-47_85Either way I’d be paying the price.

I think I learned several important life lessons today…

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