As you may be aware, I’m in the US on a visa-renewal trip. According to Plan A, I was to be back in Russia a week ago. But here I am in Dallas, wait-wait-waiting out the visa process. Why all the dilly-dallying? Because prior to this week, the all-important Letter of Invitation had yet to be issued by the Rostov Office of Visas and such. That office usually requires one month wait time for that document although the form could be completed in ten minutes. But such are the ways of bureaucracy.
Plan A had been to return to Russia, new visa affixed inside passport, last week on Thursday, May 8th in time for the all-Russia Christian Conference in Moscow. What a lovely plan, eh? But alas, those days came and went and I was still Stateside, visiting – as I recall – in Atlanta and Knoxville instead.
Thank goodness for Delta and their willingness to work with me on this. We postponed my return flight and the airline is allowing me to keep the date open-ended until we have more information. All for a 150-euro penalty plus any fare increase.
But there is hope. (Insert music) Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Word has it that the Letter of Invitation is in the mail, yes, it is being Fed-Ex-ed across the big pond at this very moment. After it arrives early next week, the next step is to collect the various papers required for visa application, including the $350 fee for 2-day processing, and express mail it all to a Russian consulate. Either that or make a personal visit to the new Russian consulate office in Houston.
Sounds as though I could have that new visa in hand by the end of the month. And then head on back to Rostov-on-Don.
But, oh. . . if only it were that simple. The thing is, new visa laws went into effect January 1st. Now, the law for (most categories of) one-year visas, allows a person to be in Russia for a maximum of 90 days before exiting the country for 90 days. And then repeating the process. This is not news to us and we’ve had a plan in place to deal with it. Our plan was to request a 3-month visa and, when it expired, exit Russia and try to renew in Eastern Europe somewhere, probably Kiev. And then repeat that for three months as long as necessary. What a lovely, lovely plan that was.
Problem is, thanks to (what at this point, at least, appears to be) a royal blunder, sounds as though my Letter of Invitation is for the one-year-two-trips-out visa. Boo hiss. So, looks as though I might well be serving on Plan B for 2008-2009. Talk about being in the state of flux.
And so today I’ve made numerous phone calls to Rostov-on-Don to talk with co-workers there and to St Petersburg to talk with Igor Egirev, our former preacher and OVIR (bureaucracy) guru, currently enrolled in graduate school there. Thanks to Igor, we do have some ideas on how we might deal with this. In the mean time, may I request your prayers for wisdom and patience. Wisdom in saying what needs to be said and handling someone else’s major blunder. Creativity for somehow using this inconvenience in a positive way. Creativity for coming up with a better option. Somehow.