Контент 16+ Obtaining a visa, any kind of visa, is always potentially -- if not true every time-- one of the most royal ass-ripping processes in the entire cosmos. Although, in case there actually IS life on other planets, I hope that they have evolved to the point where they haven't had reason to think up the idea of visas or else have found a way to get past this noxious form of inter-cultural bullying and nullification.
As an American citizen, I have to confess that such luxurious status confers a certain privilege, and, as a rule, I don't have to put up with all the bullshit that Russians must endure. For example, I can fly into any Western European nation (continental), as well as the UK, Canada, Australia, anywhere in South America, etc. without a visa. Of course, I cannot legally work in these countries without an official (and costly) work-permit. It is a moot point now, I guess, since, having freelanced in Russia for a number of years, I am set to do the same thing in Bulgaria. Therefore, I do not require an official badge of eligibility to wear on my lapel in order to procure a bit of action. However, it does irk me more than a little that a Brit can wander into any EU town and go to work immediately, whereas I, as an American, cannot. As I recall, it was the Americans who did more than their share to liberate these European bastards from the Nazis, right? But now some SOB from Manchester can grab any teaching job he wants, and I have to sell fake gold watches with the Ethiopians in the grand piazza and run like hell when the carabinieri spot us. Yes? Bring on Brexit !!! Let's make it a level playing field !! The Brits are in fact no more European in nature than people from the Philippines.
But again, I have outfoxed the Powers of Bureacracy in this regard and don't care anymore. Nevertheless, here is what I never could understand when I was in Russia. Every time my visa needed renewing, I had to leave the country to get it. In other words, I would pay somebody in Moscow and then travel variously to Kiev (the good old days), Vilnius, or Tallinn, whereupon I would plunk down some more money, take the new visa and promptly return to Russia. Of course, this meant airfare and hotel accommodation. More money spent. I always wondered why I couldn't just go to some office in Moscow and renew the visa THERE. I mean, why the need to leave the country and then turn right around and come back?. I realize that enduring Soviet mentality ensures that nothing can possibly happen without the most monumental inconvenience and dreary, mostly idiotic red tape (my wife once had to spend three weeks in Omsk (we lived in Moscow of course) just to change her maiden name to my family name (her new married monicker.). In Florida this would have been a piece of cake requiring only a couple of signed documents, a two-week wait, and then a change of driver's license with the new name on it. In Russia, poor Liuba had to cross four time zones just to get to the city where she was "registered." What a load of bollocks that was.
Once when we went on holiday to Turkey, we arrived at passport control only to find out that, while Liuba didn't need a visa (we already knew THAT), I, in fact, did. News to me. The bright side of it was that I could procure one from the string of cashiers set up by the front door especially for that purpose -- to flog visas to unsuspecting Brits and Yanks who didn't know they needed one. So. 15 euros. OK, no problem. Except that, being the refined gentleman I am, I had let my wife go through PP control first and now she was on the other side, officially in Turkey. And, as usual, she had all our money. Meanwhile, I was still officially in Russia. When I realized that I needed money to purchase the visa I asked the passport control guy if my wife could hand me the money so I could go back and pay for my visa.
No, this was impossible, he explained because....well, she was in Turkey and I was in Russia. Even though we were standing eight feet apart, only her on one side of the Turkish "border" and me on the other. When I went back and asked the nice, sweet cashier what I could do in the wake of my dilemma -- since my wife was not allowed to just hand me the money I needed -- she said I could "go back to Moscow". I felt like suggesting that she "go back to sucking cock", but luckily I was rescued by a young English guy who paid for me, and then we settled up on the other side. And, once I had my 'visa' the passport guy was just as nice as pie. Humanity didn't enter into it. Just the document.
For Russians, the problem can be much more extreme, especially in the wake of all the Cold War politics now being played back and forth. The American Embassy in Moscow is barely functioning since most of the staff was fired in retaliation for yet another tit-for-tat political spat, and therefore woe betide the poor Russian who is trying to get a visa for America. As I hear it, you must be prepared to wait, and there is no telling when Santa Claus will come. Just sit tight and WAIT. But even before that, there were problems, and what is worse, the various granting and refusing of visa applications never seemed to work on any logical basis bolstered by rational or even coherent policies. The decision always seemed to be an arbitrary one, left entirely to the momentary mood of the twerp or jerk sitting across from the hapless applicant, and who wielded the power to make or break one's holiday.
For example, I know a girl who worked in Moscow massage salons (happy ending included), who had no bank account, owned no property, had no official job, and who, on top of it all, was (and is) very young and strikingly good-looking. VISA GRANTED. She is still living in America. But how did she convince the agent? Some clever rhetoric with a happy ending perhaps?
Meanwhile a student of mine, young guy living at home with his parents, steady job, bright future, girlfriend in Russia, etc., -- in short, every reason to return to his homeland -- was denied a two week tourist visa, and the reason given him was that he had not traveled enough previously and did not possess a Schengen visa (WTF ?? Whatever did THAT have to do with going to America?) So he settled for a trip to Greece and now is vacationing in Amsterdam. Maybe next time the American visa goof will decide that my student and friend has sufficiently risen to the status of "man of the world." But there is no way to tell.
The Brits, as usual, are even worse in terms of being prigs and pricks. Not only is the visa application very expensive, but they can refuse without giving any explanation whatsoever. This, of course, has severe ramifications because if you are Russian and your visa is denied, the refusal is stamped on your passport -- which can lead to further problems the next time you try to go anywhere. Americans at least don't have to run around with TWO passports in their hands -- one domestic and one international -- as do my Russian friends. In fact, most Americans never see a passport in their entire lives. If they don't leave the country they don't need one. Most of them would rather sit on a hilltop in Tennessee shooting their guns at people in the valley below.
Tomorrow I will tell the story of when my Russian wife Liuba and I first went to occupy our newly bought apartment in Varna, Bulgaria. I needed a one-way transit visa to get through Belarus (Ukraine was dangerous for us both at the time) and Liuba needed a visa to get into Bulgaria. What neither Liuba nor I nor our two dogs understood was that Liuba also had to have a Schengen visa just to drive into Poland from Belarus. The result was what Americans call a "Clusterfuck." of the first order. I will tell this story in the next installment.
Till then, Arrivederci and Happy Trails to you, my fellow travelers and visa-seekers. I hope luck is on your side because justice, reason, and plain common sense certainly will never be if border officials and visa granting blockheads have anything to do with it. Better to plead your case to a family of raccoons or a pack of skunks.
===Eric Richard Leroy===