Exit denied: The time Russia didn't let me leave

Well, after an expensive week working in London and some time at home, I'm finally back to Moscow.

It all started a couple of weeks ago on Sunday morning at 6am when I got my taxi to the airport. Everything was fine and smooth until I hit passport control (I had already checked my bag without any problems).

What could have been the problem? Did my slightly illegal past finally catch up to me? Did they actually call one of the non-existent numbers I fabricated on countless visa forms? or perhaps they were holding back foreign men for gene-splicing love experiments with legions of Russian women?
                                                                           Let the splicing commence!

No, in actual fact, the problem was with my visa and passport. You see, recently I received a new UK passport because my old one had run out of pages. With my shiny new passport, my old one was annulled. The problem is - my visa was in that old, non-shiny annulled passport.
At work, I was told simply to rock up to the airport and it would be fine.

or not...

After about 15 minutes of shifting about from leg to leg like in front the of the passport control window, I was called to another waiting area, far away from the suspicious looks of the people waiting in the passport control line.

After another 15 minutes or so, a fat man came back to tell me I can't go home, pissing all over my travel plans and leaving a brutal Russian turd in my happy place.
Fatty tells me I'll need a transit visa to leave the country.

So, I go back in time to get my baggage (which was actually pretty lucky) and get my flight changed for an extra 3000 roubles. After the cab back home, my Sunday morning had already cost me 5000 roubles.
                                                                              my vagina was not happy

On Monday, the last day of my visa, I head to work to see HR. They explain to me that usually passport control lets that kind of thing slide, but I was unlucky. So, I need to hand over a fine (up to 5000 roubles) and fill in some form.
They head down to FMS to get me a transit visa issued.

everything was fine again, except of course it wasn't.

I get a call an hour or so later with a panicked HR lady asking where my registration was. I in a calm, Clint Easwood-esque fashion,  told her I included it in my passport, at which point she then tells me it's not valid. 

Naturally, I thought it was because it said valid until my leaving date but logic be damned! She tells me that, even if the registration is valid for a year, you still need to re-register every time you cross the boarder.
Something I probably should have known, but didn't.

She says she'll call back.

Another hour later, she called to tell me that because of this little registration mishap, the company I work for could be fined half a million roubles, my boss could be fined 50,000 roubles (the idea of which I secretly liked) and I'd get the sack on the back of a scandal bigger than the state's propaganda  budget.

                                                             although perhaps not that scandalous

Great, so now I'm waiting to see what will happen. Instead of crying and fretting, I decide to go to the cinema and watch looper with my girlfriend (excellent movie btw) and get some food.
At around six, mid movie, the HR lady calls to tell me she had waited for hours, but didn't get to see the big FMS boss she needed to.

So, we'll need to get everything sorted the next day, making me officially over stay my visa.

The next day, she calls me urgently at 11 to ask if I get down to Pokrovka before 12 -  I say probably not (because obviously I was sitting in my underpants watching videos of kittens on YouTube). 

Now she's panicking again, so I get a cab there and arrive late by 5 mins, so now we have to wait around for an hour. Fortunately there was a shokoladnitsa near by so we were able to sit down and I could spend 800 roubles on some tea and beef stroginoff adding to my excellent high spirits.

                                                                 ah, gotta love that value for money...

Well, when it was all said and done, I sat down with the boss there, answered some questions and luckily, he didn't ask about my registration, or lack of it...
A fine, a wait in Sberbank and another hour later, my new exit visa was in my passport.

I left the country without too much hassle (apart from some explaining about where my migration card had gone). 

While I was in the UK I did some work in London (which I'll be blogging about soon) and got my tourist visa - which I paid a cool 200 pounds for (becuase of urgent processing times and whatnot).

All in all, I'm glad it's all said and done and I can recover from the lube-less financial ass pounding I've endured. 

The takeaway from this piece for anyone who read to the end is that: if you get a new passport while in Russia, get your old visa transferred!
Also, make sure you re-register every time you cross the boarder

After all, nobody want to get barred from mother Russia for 3 to 5 years because some bureaucrat had a hard-on for registration on a particular day.

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Anonymous said...

I just recently stayed in Moscow for 2 months, out of 3 I can stay with my tourist visa they grant me at the entrance. Officially I can stay 90 days every 180 days, which means I can leave and come back to get a new one.
I went to a third country and came back and was granted another 90 days, when I should have been granted only 30 (the remaning from the 90 first days).

I would like to stay up the date my new visa expires. Should I worry? Do you think I may have some problems like you did?

Anonymous said...

Which means I CAN'T leave and come back to get a new one. Sorry.

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