Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ironically, the Penalty for Mistakes is Exile to Siberia

The Russian visa application process, on the other hand, proves that Communism is not really dead. Russia may have instituted market reforms, but their entry requirements are still positively Soviet. The Chinese are content with knowing my address, occupation, and length of stay. The form fits on one page, with spacing like a padded term paper.

The Russian visa application, though, is two dense pages. They want to know the usual stuff, of course, but they also want to know my parents’ full names, where I went to college and what I majored in, a list of all the countries I’ve visited in the last 10 years, and the names and phone numbers of my supervisors at my last two jobs (not counting current employment). Supporting documentation is required, bringing the application to four pages. They want to know who’s paying for my trip. They want to know if I’ve ever served in any army. They want to know if I have health insurance. Most ominously, they want to know if I have “any specialized skills, training or experience related to fire-arms and explosives or to nuclear, biological or chemical activities.”

They also want to know if I’ve ever suffered from “a dangerous physical or mental disorder.” Something tells me I may by the time I have my visa in hand.

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