What’s in my bag? [Russian work visa edition]

I’m seriously into the “What’s in my bag?” posts. Call it nosy, call it a way to discover someone else’s much-loved products, call it what you will… I love it. I’ve never done it in the past because I’m frankly not that interesting and my bag usually resembles an explosion more than a curated collection.

But tomorrow’s my visa interview for what feels like the 10,000th time and I thought it might be interesting for you guys to see what’s in my bag for that. Luckily for you all, I switched out to a larger bag so you can miss out on all the receipts and various detritus that’s usually in there.

The Non-Essentials


Sony tablet (highly recommended!) for those boring down times.

The Visa Essentials

Letter of invitation from my new employer
Visa application (available here since it’s kind of hidden in the Russian Embassy’s website)
Criminal-looking passport photo
Cashier’s check ($250 for a 3-day rush)

So that’s my bag! The visa process is kind of tedious but really not that difficult once you get the hang of it. It’s mostly just a time suck if anything. I’m interested to know about all of you other expats working abroad — what’s the difficulty level of the whole process? I’ve only ever worked in Russia, but I’m thinking of new places to go in the upcoming year and I really have no concept of how other countries’ processes work.

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  • http://expateyeonlatvia.wordpress.com Expat Eye

    Haven’t really had to deal with it! EU citizen working in the EU! My bag always looks like a bomb hit it though 😉

    • Polly

      Oh, you lucky EU-ers. Lots of foreign countries with not much hassle.

      I cleaned out my old bag… Lots of shame about what a slob I am :/

      • http://expateyeonlatvia.wordpress.com Expat Eye

        I threw out a receipt today. Yay me!

  • http://ladyofthecakes.wordpress.com ladyofthecakes

    Good luck :)
    Can’t contribute to the visa discussion as I’ve never had to do it, I’ve only ever worked within the EU. Officially, at least. Ahem. 😉

    • Polly

      Oooooh. Sounds like something far more interesting happened. Do tell! Where did you “visit”?

  • http://beingzhenya.wordpress.com BeingZhenya

    You go girl! Good luck at the interview! I love reading your blog, helps me feel closer to Russia :)

    • Polly

      Thanks! It went pretty well and the people were quite friendly — it didn’t feel like Russia at all! 😉

  • http://zhongguojumble.wordpress.com gkm2011

    China work visas require all kinds of fancy stamped documents and the first time a copy of your diploma and the company business license. Then when you arrive you’ll spend about another month getting the residence permit and work permits. Not the friendliest process.

    • Polly

      Wow, that sounds like a major hassle. I do like the Russian system where most of the burden is on the employer to provide documents, register you, etc.

      Is the process costly, or just time-consuming? I ask because I’ve always had a hankering to work in China. I’d love some first-hand insight. (Aside from your WONDERFUL blog, obviously!)

      • http://zhongguojumble.wordpress.com gkm2011

        It’s a pretty expensive visa, but not too bad – just time consuming and assuming you follow everything legally it is a very safe place to work. No violence, pretty straight and narrow. Come visit!

        • http://agirlandhertravels.com Polly

          I’d looooove to take the Trans-Siberian. Actually getting around to doing it is a totally different story…

  • http://everywherebuthome.wordpress.com everywherebuthome

    The Embassy took care of my Mongolian visa, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been – just time-consuming! Though it didn’t help that my primary contact in Mongolia didn’t speak enough English to really explain what she needed from me in order to get the invitation.

    I’m looking to go to Russia in October or so, though – I mean to take the Trans-Siberian through to Europe. How long do you think it’ll take me to get a tourist visa? There’s a consulate here in Erdenet, so I imagine that’ll help, but I’m having trouble finding exact information.

    • Polly

      Oh wow, the Embassy must have been a huge help, regardless of language barrier.

      I think it shouldn’t be too difficult to get a Russian visa. My experience is that rush orders are more costly but very quick (think 2 days) and you can reasonably expect to get a non-rush in 10-14 business days. I’m under the impression that this is pretty universal.

      And, if you make a stop in Moscow, I’ve got a lovely couch that would be happy to see you! (Nobody ever comes to visit me, so I’m constantly issuing invitations!)

      • http://everywherebuthome.wordpress.com everywherebuthome

        I will most certainly be visiting Moscow and would love to meet you in person! I’ll mostly likely be making the journey in October; that’s all the info I’ve got at the moment.
        Mongolia, alas, is not on the list of countries available on that list. I guess I just need to find a Mongolian friend to accompany me to the consulate and find out what I need to do. Also I need to figure out where to get that pesky invitation from…

        • http://agirlandhertravels.com Polly

          Invitations can be bought if you do your visa through a company and then have it sent directly to you (might be easier for you in Mongolia, but I’m not sure). The Russky is also Russian (obviously) and registered so he could write you a letter of invitation as an option, even if we don’t meet up.

          Once you figure stuff out you should definitely send me an e-mail and maybe we can help hook you up since I know first-hand what a pain it is.

  • http://confuzzledom.wordpress.com bevchen

    My bag resembles a rubbish bin most of the time!

    As an EU citizen working in the EU, I’ve (thankfully) never had to do the visa thing. It always sounds like soooo much work!

    • Polly

      You enviable, lucky Schengen area people! I’d love to get my American paws on an EU passport. I clearly came to the wrong part of the world for that, though!

  • http://www.chimerikal.com Erika

    Polly — I’m just as nosy as you and so I super appreciated this post!!! The visas I’ve had were typically arranged by the program I was affiliated with, so they’ve been pretty busy. I don’t think I had to pay for any of them… but then again, Europe and the US have pretty tight relations, so that probably is why.

    • http://agirlandhertravels.com Polly

      Yes, I can imagine that it would be really lovely to go somewhere with a good relationship with America!

  • http://gina4star.wordpress.com gina4star

    The Mexico visa process I can only describe as a once a year nightmare. I’ve got my renewal coming up and I’m already dreading it. I’ve done it for five years now, and it’s so stressful that every single time I have ended up crying, either in the immigration office itself, or in the courtyard outside. Waaah. They’ve just changed the process this year as well, so I won’t have a clue what to do this time. Loved having a nosey in your bag! :)

  • Anabel

    I’ve arrived too late to this blog post, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to leave a comment from the other side – what it’s like to come to the US for a work-related stay with a European passport. I am now in the process of becoming a permanent resident (the coveted Green Card!) and the whole process, from coming as a temporary legal worker to obtaining permanent residency, is the stuff of nightmares. If you’re doing the Green Card on your own (which you can do only if you meet extremely restrictive requirements) the damage is between $10,000 and $15,000; obtaining all the required support documents takes at least 6 months; case review from your attorney can be up to 2 months; the case is then submitted to USCIS. You can pay for premium processing (another grand) and have a response in two weeks – meaning, you’ll be told if you can go forward with the process or have to start over again. If you can go forward, here’s where the tedious part begins: medical tests, translation of documents, interviews, you get the idea. If you’re finally successful, the actual Green Card will be in your hands in another 6 to 18 months. This is for a work-based petition; the Green Card through marriage is considerably less painful, costly and time-consuming.

    The road up to ‘greencarcy’ is a thorny one, too. For four years I have not been allowed to have any income or a Social Security Number in the United States. You are an American – you are surely aware of what not having a SSN means in your country. My partner is a highly qualified physicist in possession of a work visa, but I was only given a dependent visa. Every job offer I have received in four years fell through because nobody in their right mind would spend upwards of $7000 and wait 6 months to hire a humble translator (that’s the average cost for an American company, in money and time, to hire a foreign specialized worker). And that would be if the specialized worker visa program had not reached its cap for the year. So I’ve spent these years volunteering, occasionally working under the table (hi NSA! So so sorry, but you gave me no other choice!) and pushing my luck one way or another. Right up until we moved to the States I worked as a contractor for an American company, but once I came here I was no longer able to do that, thanks to this ridiculously unjust immigration system. As a student in Spain and Germany I volunteered for the International Relations departments of my universities and had to deal with a lot of working visa woes from non-EU students who wished to remain in the country; I was rightfully enraged at many cases I saw. Now, so many years later, I have become sort of proficient in the whole US/EU immigration system, and while it is definitely painful everywhere, it is slightly less so for foreigners in Europe than for foreigners in the US.

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