I’m headed to Moscow in 2 weeks and because of reasons that aren’t important I was quite late getting started with the whole Russian visa process. What Russian Visa process? Oh, the one that involves a multi-page application (what countries have you been to in the past 10 years and on what dates?), photographs, an interview, an official invitation, etc. And apparently if you have any discrepancies between the various materials you have to submit, you will be rejected.
I had a bit of a freakout when I realized that getting to the Consulate in New York for the required interview (yes, interview) was not going to be possible. Also, I’d read that even if you go early they won’t necessarily take you that day. Lovely.
There is an official alternative: a company called Invisa can help you through this process, and they only charge $30 to submit the application for you. That’s pretty great, but you need to schedule time to go down to Lower Manhattan and visit with them, which wasn’t possible in my timeframe (because of Russian holidays they were closed for 5 days in May).
After a bit of digging, I saw a recommendation on FT for Visahq. There are lots of other visa-expediting services out there, and I haven’t used any of them. I can tell you, however, that Visahq was fantastic. I printed out everything I needed and brought it to their office in Manhattan (though you can mail it to them, of course), and a guy named Val kinda laughed when he saw my application, which was missing information and, in general, a mess.
His first comment was, “you don’t need us to do this for you” which I appreciated but, it turns out, I did need them to do it for me because I was not going to run around New York city getting this processed. Also, I forgot to mention: if you go to the Consulate to drop off your visa application you need to have an interview. But for God-knows-what-reason if you go through a third party, no interview is required.
Anyway, Val said not to worry (it was clear I was worrying, because I didn’t see how they would possibly get this done in time) and said he’d fix everything and deal with it.
Lo and behold, in a week the visa was in my apartment. Visahq charged $90 to expedite which, in my book, was more than worth it.
I’ve now learned a bit about the whole ridiculous process so I’m happy to answer any questions.