Mongol Rally: The Visa Ordeal

I can breathe normally again…  phew!

I told you how our planning process had become sort of a drama roller coaster in the past month, but the drama that topped the cherry was the visa process.

You see, since I was staying in Milan for a month, I thought I had plenty of time to mail my passport to The Visa Machine for them to process my Russian and Kazakhstan visas, and mail my passport back.  Pretty simple, right?  Well, in theory it is, but sometimes the universe doesn’t work that way.

Visa and pasport

Image by gateway-sydney.com

To make sure there was plenty time to spare, I requested the express service for the Russian Visa, and the normal one for Kazakhstan, since they had no other options; in addition to mailing my passport with a next day service.  According to The Visa Machine, the entire process would take two weeks.  That sounded perfect to me.

I mailed my passport on the 6th of May, so in theory it all should have been done by the 21st or so, leaving plenty of time before my departure to the USA on the 5th of June.

One week passed by, and I saw no progress in my Visa Machine account.   Hmm… I assumed it must have been the Kazakhstan visa taking its time.  By the end of the second week, I finally saw on my Visa Machine page that there was some progress being done with my Kazakhstan visa.  It now showed a little hour glass icon (like, waiting) instead of nothing.  The Russian one was still showing nothing.

I got curious about it and called The Visa Machine.

“Hi, does this little hour glass on my account means that the Kazakhstan Visa has been processed?”

“No, it has JUST been submitted to the embassy.”, they said.

“WHAT?!!!  What did you do with my passport for TWO WHOLE WEEKS?!”

This was their explanation….

Exactly at the time I mailed my passport, there was a Russian holiday, so no work at the Russian embassy.  And, just after the holidays, Russia changed their rules for visa applications where you can now ONLY apply within two months of your entry into the country.  My entry was set for the 25th of July, so that meant that the closest I could apply now was the 25th of May.

Russian Holiday

What the Russians where probably doing while my passport sat patiently on a desk. Photo from tofslie.com.

Well, ok, why didn’t they start the Kazakhstan visa before?!  As it turns out, when you apply for a double entry to Kazakhstan, you can only apply for it AFTER you’ve been approved a Russian visa (or from another bordering country) because they want proof that you will leave (uhh, sounds stupid to me since it is the same thing as just entering once… but anyways…).

Luckily, the Visa Machine did their work and managed to get my Kazakhstan visa to get processed before the Russian one.  I just wished they had informed me before.

Now, everything had to go PERFECTLY, or else, I ran the chance to not get my passport back before my flight to the US (which obviously wouldn’t happen without a passport).

They didn’t go perfectly, of course.

On the 30th of May, both of my visas were ready and should have been mailed to me IMMEDIATELY.  But no, my passport was picked too late from the embassy to have it mailed.  One day less.

On Friday the 31st, it was finally mailed.  My passport would have arrived on Monday the 3rd of June, and I would depart on Wednesday the 5th.

A note on Italian addresses:  WHO THE HELL had the idea to NOT number apartments in Italy?  Everything is mailed based on the tenant’s name.  So, to make sure I would get my passport, I put a small paper with my name on my apartment’s buzzer and asked to have a “delivery note” on my package to get a call before delivery.

Apparently the delivery guy didn’t read English and failed to find my name (seriously?), so the package wasn’t delivered that day.

Package delivery

Sooo, the fabulous delivery guy failed to read note on the package too?!

I waited impatiently all day, refreshing my internet browser as I followed with my tracking number.  At about 6pm I got the bad news of failure of delivery and that the package would stay on hold at their main hub with no other delivery attempts.  WHAT?!!

I had my friend call, so the call would go smoothly (in Italian) and nothing would get lost in translation, and he was informed that I would have to pick it up the next day.  What was the catch?  Their hub was outside the city.  Damn it!

Park in Milan

Part of my long walk… See, not bad!

So, the next day I took the metro, followed by the bus to the airport, and followed by a 1.5 hours walk…  Not a bad walk, but totally unnecessary.  And of course, I spent most of the time cursing the idiotic delivery guy.  Finally I got there and FINALLY I got my passport safe and sound in my hands!

Passport

The oh-so-glorious moment of having my passport back in my hand!

Not cool to get your passport back a mere 19 hours before your international flight.

Phew… but, that only means one thing… Mongol Rally, here I come!

Comments

  1. says

    Visas are definitely NOT the fun part of this adventure. I’m so glad I have my passport safely returned me, although now I have this completely irrational fear that its going to disappear from my bedroom with those beautiful visas attached inside and I check on it regularly. (So far, it hasn’t grown legs, thank goodness.) Hope we have a chance to meet in London! Can’t WAIT for this thing to start!

  2. says

    Ahh, visa conundrums. I had to apply for a Kazakhstan visa by sending my passport to London from Australia! That’s because the Kazakh ambassador loved Australia so much, that he went AWOL when he was asked to go back. Hence, head office didn’t want to have representation in Australia any more!

    • says

      Yikes!!! And I was complaining I had to send mine to London from Milan! Well, I hope it was worth it for you and that you enjoyed Kazakhstan! I was totally worth it for me!

  3. Dante says

    Hey Norbert-

    Your last post Mongol Rally: The Visa Ordeal was freaking awesome. I have gone ahead
    and added your stuff to my Feedly account. Please keep me updated if you post anywhere
    else.
    Keep rocking –

    Dante

  4. says

    Wooooow. That is a seriously close call. I remember when my husband and I were leaving for our honeymoon, after many times ensuring me that he had his passport, and briefly flashing it at me to confirm, he handed it to me on the morning of our departure. Well guess what? Two hole punches on the front page, obviously instantly alerting me to the fact that that was his OLD EXPIRED passport. Needless to say there was a little bit of a rush before our plane…

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