Belarusian visa and bureaucracy


October 3, 2012 by farbolino

A few weeks back I arrived to Vilnius on a Friday to apply for my Belarusian visa the same day so that I could be in Minsk the following weekend. Normally I’d be in no rush, but Americans have only 90 days out of 180 in the Schengen area before overstaying their visa. That Friday was day 81, and I wished to have no problems re-entering the Schengen through Poland after Belarus.
I google mapped the Embassy before leaving Riga by bus, and went directly there from the bus station. Unfortunately they wouldn’t even open the gate for me, and didn’t speak English either. So I stood outside the gate trying to understand what this guy was telling me in Russian. All I heard was ‘Sorak adeen’ in Russian, which is 41. I understood that this was likely another address he was sending me to, but I couldn’t understand anything else he was telling me. Soon he turned off the intercom and wouldn’t answer me anymore! How’s that for helpful…
I went to the hostel I was staying at, checked in and googled what 41 could be. Right; Vilnius has an Embassy AND a consulate, and only the consulate issues visas. The opening hours were until 5:30, so I had time. I started walking the 3.5 km there when I realized I didn’t bring my umbrella. The sky was cloudy, but it didn’t look like it would rain. Famous last words…within 5 minutes it was raining, and I didn’t want to waste time going back for the umbrella.
I reach the Consulate and they won’t let me through the gate either. At least someone in the consulate spoke English. She said it was too late in the day to apply for a visa and that I should come back on Monday. It was 3:45, and I asked her if they were open until 5:30 like I read online; Yes they were but it was still too late in the day to apply.
My next question was if I applied for the visa Monday, then would it be ready by Friday? No…it would be ready the following Monday. I had read online that applying for the visa takes 5 business days, and as far as I’m concerned, Monday through Friday is 5 business days. She then explained that if I so desired; I could have an ‘express visa’ made which would be available in two days for DOUBLE the price. The visa for Americans is already astronomical in my opinion. We pay $160 for a 30 day single entry tourist visa. For $160 I also have a 5 year multiple entry visa to Brazil which allows me to spend 180 out of 365 days a year. So, for $320, I could have my visa before my Schengen visa expires…no thanks, I’ll risk the boarder guards noticing I’ve stayed 91 days when I leave Lithuania and hope they don’t count the days when I re-enter through Poland.
In the end, I had no issues when I came back on Monday, and no issues leaving the Schengen area either. Although I did have a hell of a time entering Belarus with my passport photo. In the picture I have long Jesus looking hair and a beard. I had to pass my passport around the train to show everyone after the fuss the boarder guard made. Everyone agreed…the photo WASN’T me.


2 thoughts on “Belarusian visa and bureaucracy

  1. Sounds a nightmare. I didn’t know Americans needed a visa for Europe. Us brits dont apart from Russia and Belarus. If I ever make it to minsk I’ll remember your experience and gigive myself plenty of time to apply!

    • farbolino says:

      We don’t need to apply for a visa, it’s simply that we can only spend 90 days out of 180 within the Schengen area, which is more or less the same area as the EU, with a few exceptions. Those exceptions are Norway and Switzerland which are in the Schengen and not the EU, and Great Britain, Romania and Bulgaria which are in the EU, but not the Schengen. Still…it’s hardly enforced for Americans I believe. At the moment I’m in Poland and I re-entered the Schengen after 91 straight days. The border official just asked “Where are you going?” I replied Warsaw and he stamped me back in.

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