jump to navigation

Russian Embassy Winter Holiday Schedule 28 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Embassy Consulate Closure, traveler advise, Visa News.
add a comment

Russian Embassy  Holiday Schedule 2013


It is time to start planning your visa to Russia if you want to leave with in the next two months.The New Year’s holiday, Orthodox Christmas and the Old New Year Celebration see a seasonal shutdown of the Russian government.The first few weeks in January has official business in Russia come to virtual stand still. This means every thing pertaining to the processing of visas stops for nearly ten days.

Since these holidays fall on different days of the week every year, the way the Russian government takes the holiday is dynamic from year to year. Forecasting the exact dates of the closures becomes an annual event that heralds the coming of the holiday season in Russia. Experience tells that the holiday can be suddenly extended with a situations like  the Foreign Ministry closed and the embassy open and the embassy closing  and the Foreign Ministry open on certain days. Careful planning by a visa expert is essential for travelers to Russia with departure dates in January and February.

Russian Visa Closure Dates:

Although not an official holiday in Russia, there will be no Russian visas processed on Western Christmas, the 25th of December.

New Year’s 2013 is on a Tuesday. The Embassy and the Russian Foreign Ministry will be closed from Monday the 31st of December through the 8th of January. Visa and invitation processing will resume on Wednesday, the 9th of January, 2013.

Old New Years is Monday the 14th January. It is undetermined at this point whether or not the Foreign Ministry or the Embassy will take the holiday. This is usually announced in the week after Orthodox Christmas if there will be a closure.

Vladimir Putin has in the past, extended the holiday by proclamation. It is unclear at this point if this will happen again this year.  These proclamations can sometimes have the Foreign Ministry in Russia  closed, effecting business invitation approvals, but the Russian Consular offices in the US are open. G3 will communicate any additional Holiday closures as soon as they are officially announced or we anticipate it.

Effect on Russian Business Invitations and Visas:

Because of the two step nature of the Russian visa process, Russian business visas travelers have to be especially conscious of their processing schedule and departure. dates during this time. Since,the first part of the visa process is the invitation, the time required by the Russian Foreign Ministry to approve any new invitation will increase. The second part being  the time the embassy takes to make the visa, once they have the approved invitation or telex authorization back from Moscow.

The January holiday schedule can cause huge delays for travelers trying to get to Russia. Travelers are advised to take this holiday schedule into account when figuring out their processing times and make adjustments if necessary  Nobody wants a passport locked in the consulate while it’s closed for ten days.

Not Enough Time? Consider Going as a Tourist :

Travelers to Russia should note that G3 can obtain tourist vouchers even when the government in Russia is closed. This visa support is different from the  business invitation support in that these vouchers, as they are known, don’t require governmental approval and can be issued in as quickly as 24 hours in some cases. If time is essential, a tourist visa could be the solution for some business travelers who do not have enough time to get an approved business invitation before the closure or wait for the government to reopen.

Expert Advise :

It is our experience that the Russian Winter Holiday closures creates inconveniences for many travelers each year. In many cases visas that would not ordinarily have to be rushed have to be expedited to accommodate the Russian schedule. This time of year sees many multiple entry, one year invitation requests, that take 21 business days to be approved,  changed to expedited single or double entry requests in order to meet a departure date.

G3 maintains an expert staff that is able to figure out the best solutions and advise on your trip to Russia. Russian visa questions can be addressed to the G3 Russian Country Information Codinator, Issaia Aponte, at the New York Office or to the Russia team email.

Visas to China, For Non US Citizens 28 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Visa News.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Chinese visa processing is not uniform. What one Chinese consulate will do, not do or require can differ from consulate to consulate.This situation is especially true for non US citizens who reside in the US who need visas to China. The nationalities most likely to have issues are French citizens (for their country’s support of Tibet) and passport holders from Taiwan. Certain Indian passports have also had issues getting Chinese visas.


China is enforcing jurisdiction for visa applicants. The first step in getting a Chinese visa is determining what Chinese visa office serves the state you have your legal residence in.This is usually determined by which state issued your driver’s license.

Map of Consular Jurisdiction for China

China Visa Consular Offices

Chinese Visa Requirements by City

Along with having jurisdiction, there are slight variations between the requirements between the various Chinese consulates in the US. Downloadable visa instructions are linked to the city names below that detail the visa process specific to that jurisdiction.

Washington, DC :

For residents of Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington DC, West Virginia and Wyoming.

G3’s office in Arlington, VA serves applicants at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC. The office can process Chinese visas for all Non US passport holders including French. Visas for French passport holders  are processed in no less than four days .  All other Non-US passports can do rush processing.

Chicago :

For residents of Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.

G3’s Chicago office can not process Chinese visas for passport holders from France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Belgium, Norway, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Greece, Sweden, Estonia, Switzerland, Turkey and Luxemburg and Taiwan.  Rush processing is available for most other nationals not listed above.

Los Angeles :

For residents of Arizona, Southern California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and the US Pacific Island Territories.

G3’s Los Angeles office can process visas for all non US passports with the exception of those from France and Taiwan. The fastest processing available is no less than four days.

San Francisco :

For residents of Alaska, Northern California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state

G3′ San Francisco office can process visas for  all Non US citizens passport holders with the exception of those from France and Taiwan. If the applicant has never visited China it could take up to 4 weeks for approval. If the applicant has a previous visa in their passport, rush processing is available.

Houston :

For residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico and Texas.

G3’s Houston office can  process all European Union passports except those issued from  France.Mission critical processing is not available. The fastest available processing for non US passports is no less than four days.

New York :

For residents of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey,  New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

G3’s New York office can process visas for citizens from all the European Union countries except France Most African countries and Pakistan can be processed. Rush visa processing is available for Non US passport holders.

Expert Advise

G3 Visas & Passports is unique in many ways. With our six offices we are able to serve applicants at every Chinese Consulate General and as well as the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC. G3 is also unique in that we have Country Information Coordinators. These  experts are designated to specialize in the visa processing for a specific country. G3’s China Coordinator is Rebecca Davis. If you have any questions on China visas, processing or need any additional information on China, she is available at the San Francisco office and by email.

Embassy Closures Week of 26 November – 30 November 2012 26 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Embassy Consulate Closure.
add a comment

This week has no US Federal Holidays and most embassies are open with normal hours this week. There are no major Embassy closures this week at Brazil, India, China or Russia. The list of embassy and consulate closures is below.

26 November, Monday

Sao Tome & Principe closed for Argel Accord Day
Suriname closed for Independence Day

28 November, Wednesday,

Chad closed for Proclamation of the Republic of Chad
Laos closed for That Luang Festival
Mauritania closed for Independence Day
Myanmar closed for Festival of Lights (Thadingyut)

30 November, Friday

Benin closed for National Day


Remember when consular office are closed there are no visa processed or new applications accepted on that day. When an embassy or consulate is closed, that day does count as a processing day and applications currently in for process will have the visa processing extended to include the non processing closure day. Please account for extra time if you are applying for a visa to a country whose office closed because of holiday.

If you have any questions on how long your visa request will take for a particular country please feel free to contact our professional staff for more information.

Myanmar: The Next Destination 16 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in traveler advise.
Tags: ,
add a comment

Burma, officially named the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is a nation reintegrating itself into the world economy. Since the 2010 elections, the country has undergone a series of economic and political reforms that have moved it from its 40+ year pariah nation status to an emerging democracy and tourist destination in South East Asia.

Secretary of State Clinton’s visit in November 2011 to Myanmar was a first for a US Secretary of State, and  paved the way for the upcoming state visit from President Obama this month. US relations with Myanmar have not had such a positive tone since the Second World War. The visit to Myanmar by the President is also a first for the US, and underscores the importance of the country has for US foreign policy in the region. Tourists are now discovering Myanmar as a top destination for culture and history.

The name Burma refers to the Bamar majority ethnic group, but the country officially recognizes over a dozen distinct cultural groups. Myanmar’s earliest inhabitants were ethnically and culturally linked with Tibet. These links  can still be seen today in the Burmese script, a form of Sanskrit, and  80 % of the population identifies as Buddhist. A regional superpower back in the 16th century, its borders extended to Tibet and incorporated modern day Thailand.  Myanmar’s culture and cuisine is a distinctive mix of Indian and regional South East Asian.

Myanmar is actively encouraging tourism, showcasing its coastline, ancient history, diverse culture and pristine interior jungles for ecotourism.  Although the capital of the country was moved in 2005 and renamed to Naypyidaw, meaning the City of the Kings, Yangon (also called Rangoon) remains the most important entry point for travelers. Many international carriers already fly in to Yangon, with many more adding new routes this October.

Visas to Myanmar

US citizens, as well as citizens of most other countries, must have a visa in advance to enter Myanmar.  Visas are issued by the Embassy in Washington, DC and by the Consulate General in New York City; the Embassy will accept applications from residents of any state except New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, which must process through the New York Consulate.  Processing times are extremely long; even the most urgent requests can take more than two business weeks to be processed.  If you have any questions about visa to Myanmar, please contact G3’s Washington or New York offices for assistance. A list of requirements four tourist and business travelers can be found on the forms page of the G3 website.

Touring Myanmar

Interest in the south east Asian jewel is growing as Myanmar transitions into the world economy and as relations with the United States continue to improve on social and economic levels. Many people are adding Myanmar as a destination in conjunction with trips to already popular destinations like  Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

Tourist infrastructure continues to develop as the government invests in its tourism industry. New hotels are being built, road infrastructure is improving and there is now competition with tour bus operators. A good source for information on hotels in Myanmar as well as general tourist information and travel tips is located at the guide for Myanmar.

Established Tour Companies in the US

Using an established reputable tour company is recommended mode of travel for tourist trips to developing nations like Myanmar. The organized nature of this type of travel is appealing to those who don’t want the worries of individual travel.   These tour companies have already established relationships with Myanmar tour guides and hotels and can provide tourists with an outstanding itinerary of select destinations and attractions.  G3 Visas and Passports recommends the following companies for travelers wanting  to explore Myanmar.

Odysseys Unlimited  A leader in small group travel, Odysseys Unlimited is an experienced operator with a sterling reputation for service and outstanding tours. They have created custom tours for some of America’s most prestigious institutions. Here is a listing of their current tours to Myanmar.

Asia Transpacific Journeys (ATJ) Since 1987 ATJ has been organizing small group and custom tours to Asia. They specialize in cultural travel to Asia. Here is a listing of ATJ’s tours to Myanmar.


There are a few items regarding US passports that international travelers should be aware of. The first is that your passport is not valid for travel six months prior to the printed expiry date, and adequate visa pages are need in order to obtain a visa to Myanmar. G3 can obtain passport renewals have additional  visa pages placed in your passport. Visit the passport services page or contact passports@g3visas.com for more information.

Image from Odysseys Unlimited Tours

Brazil Visa Processing Normalized 15 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Visa News.
Tags: ,

Brazil Visa Processing Normalized

Two weeks after the first announcement that Brazilian consulates were having technical difficulties, visa processing has resumed at all consulates.  The Chicago Consulate was the last to resume processing, but they have begun to accept visa applications again as of today.

At all consulates except for Miami, the visa processing times have reverted to their typical speed.  The Miami Consulate is still maintaining the lengthy processing time of 45 business days that was instituted shortly before the other consulates announced the technical problems.  At this time, the Miami Consulate has not given any indication that they will be speeding up processing times in the near future.

Even at normal processing speeds, acquiring a Brazilian visa can take a significant amount of time. (Please see below for a chart of current processing times.)  G3 recommends that travelers plan ahead and apply for their visas well in advance of their trip.  Brazil visas are valid for 10 years, and may be used for the first time at any time during that 10 year period.  For travelers with urgent departures, Emergency Processing is available through G3; email Brazil@g3visas.com for more information.

Consulate Jurisdiction Processing Time
Atlanta AL,GA, SC,MS, TN 15 business days
Boston ME, MA, NH, VT 12 business days
Chicago IA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI 13 business days
DC DC, KY, OH, MD, NC, VA, WV 12 business days
Hartford CT, RI 15 business days
Houston AR, CO, KS, LA, NM, OK, TX 7 business days
LA AZ, HI, ID, MT, NV, UT, WY, Southern CA 22 business days
Miami FL, PR, USVI 45 business days
NYC DE, NJ, NY, PA, Bermuda 6 business days
San Francisco AK, OR, WA, Central and Northern CA 17+ business days

Applicants for visas to Brazil can register their requests directly through the G3 website on our Brazil page.

Brazil Flag

Passport Cards: A Good Idea to Have One 14 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Passport, Passport Card.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

Passport Cards

Passport Cards are a relatively new form of federal id. They are a citizenship document, which allows limited international travel across land and sea borders as well being a valid form of  Real ID. The State Department started issuing these cards in response to the provisions of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) and the Real ID Act, back in July of 2008.

Citizenship Document

Like a passport, the passport card establishes the holder’s US citizenship. Being a federally issued form of identification, it can be used for any domestic purpose that requires verification of US citizenship, such as opening a bank account or entering a federal building that requires an id. The Patriot Act stipulates many more instances that  require a verification of an individual’s citizenship. Having a passport card is a way to satisfy that requirement when required to do so.

Limited Travel Privileges

Traditionally a passport was the international standard for verification of citizenship at a border crossing or when clearing immigration at a sea or an international air port. Since the inception of the passport card, the BCIS officials will recognize the passport card for certain types of US border crossings. Prior to implementation of the (WHTI) US travelers had been allowed to reenter the US with various forms of id that would satisfy the border the officials at that time. These documents ranged from  US birth-certificates, driver’s licenses or an expired passport. Traveler’s coming back into the US from certain border crossings, have indicated that prior to the Patriot Act, and the implementation of the WHTI, entrance back into the US could be granted simply by speaking in non accented American English and convincing the border official that you were a US citizen. Those days of “casually” crossing the US border with out a citizenship document are now part of history.

The passport card does not have all the privileges of the standard passport book Passport cards are only valid for re-entry into the United States at land border-crossings and sea ports-of-entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Travelers entering back into the US by plane or from any other international destination are required to have a passport. Regardless of whether or not you gained entry into a foreign country with out a passport, entry back to the US by plane is granted only by demonstrating a passport to the immigration official. Because of the limited privileges of the passport card, only travelers who are cruising the Caribbean or conducting non air travel between the bordering countries of Mexico and Canada should use a passport card as their primary method for re-entry into the US. All other travelers need the standard passport book.

Real ID

The Real ID Act, which was passed in 2005, is legislation that established the criteria for identification that is acceptable for “federal purposes”.  This includes visiting sensitive sites or entering a federal building that requires an id to gain entry. Also listed as a federal purpose is boarding a domestic flight. Travelers will be required to present a form of Real ID in order to fly inside the US. More information regarding what constitutes a Real ID is available on our recent article “Everything You Need to Know about Real ID“.

A passport card is a form of Real ID. Domestic air travelers with a valid passport card will be able to pass through TSA’s Real ID checkpoint. This applies to minors as well.

Passport Card Attributes

Aside from meeting the criteria for a Real ID, a US passport card is also an enhanced ID. This form of identification  also meets the standards outlined in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative.  The US Customs and Border Protection, the folks checking your id when you come back into the USA, have a list of certified WHTI IDs.

  • Limited Use – As mentioned earlier, passport cards are only good for travel across certain land and sea borders. They are a valid Real ID and will allow the bearer to board a domestic flight.
  • Validity – Passport cards, like passports are valid for ten years for adults and five years for Minors under 16.
  • RFID Chip – Passport cards, like passports have a radio chip in them that enables it to be read by a vicinity radio scanner. Passport details are stored in the chip.
  • Biometric Information – Passport cards contain a compressed image of the bearer’s  face, other items like fingerprints and retinal scans are not included in the card.

The State Department has a passport card FAQ a document on the differences between a passport book and a passport card

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a list of Ready Lanes that are in place at US border stations that allow special privileges for travelers with RFID chips in their travel documents.

How to Apply

Getting a passport card is a relatively quick and easy process. Basically, applicants for the new cards must,

  • prove your US citizenship (original birth certificate, naturalization document or existing passport),
  • complete the form,
  • submit a color, frontal portrait photograph with a plain background

Printable passport card instructions are available from the G3 Passport Section.

Traveling with Minors

The value of a passport card might not be in it’s ability to get one across the US but rather as a form of ID for traveling domestically inside the US. Beginning in 2013, TSA officials are going to be demanding that all travelers present some form of acceptable Real ID from passengers. Due to opposition to the law, some states driver’s licenses will not be an acceptable form of Real ID. Many states  have passed legislation that bars them from making their driver’s licenses compliant with the criteria established by the DHS. The fact that most minors are not old enough to have a state issued id such as a driver’s license makes the passport card a doubly attractive form of id if they come from a state that is not Real Id compliant.

A passport card is an excellent option to traveling with a full passport book. Being compact and the size of a credit card, passport card fit inside a wallet and are considerably less bulky than a standard passport book. Costing less than a passport book, passport cards are an excellent form of identification for minors, a group that is usually with out any type of official identification until they are driving a car.

Convenience and a Back Up Plan

Passport cards are easy to obtain, cost less than a passport and are compact. They can also act as a back up form of citizenship identification. Carrying a passport card while traveling over seas in addition to your regular passport book, allows bearers to be able to verify their citizenship easily if they loose their passport. Travelers who loose their passports while traveling have to go to a US Embassy or consulate and get their lost passport replaced before they can be allowed to travel back to the US. Having a passport card will assist in getting the lost passport reissued quickly as it verifies the individual’s identity and right as a US citizen to a passport. The citizenship verification process can cause delays for citizens who have lost their passport while traveling overseas and have difficulty proving their identity.

If you have any questions regarding getting a passport card, passports or replacing lost passports, our expert staff is glad to lend assistance. Inquires can be directed to passports@g3visas.comImage

Embassy Closures Week of 12 November 2012 13 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Embassy Consulate Closure.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

A Federal holiday on Monday will see most embassies honoring US Veterans Day which is also Armistice Day for those in Western Europe. The State Department’s Passport Offices are all closed Monday as well. The Hindu Festival of Diwali will  see closures at the Indian Embassy and it’s  Consulates General but their outsourcing operations are still open. This week also has Islamic New Year which will cause delays and closures at various consulates and embassies.

The full list of weekly closures by day

12  November, Monday   Veteran’s Day/ Armistice Day
US Passport Offices
China (DC, NY, SF only)
Russia(outsourcing closed, consulates open)
Angola closed for Independence Day
Azerbaijan closed for Constitution Day, (outsourcing open)

13 November, Tuesday
India closed for Diwali (outsourcing open)

14 November, Wednesday
Nepal closed for Sambat New Year

15 November, Thursday   Islamic New Year –
(expect other consulates to close that have not reported their holiday schedule)
Belgium closed for Dynasty Day
Cote d’Ivoire closed for National Peace Day

Remember when consular office are closed there are no visa processed
or new applications accepted on that day. When an embassy or
consulate is closed, that day does count as a processing day and
applications currently in for process will have the visa processing
extended to include the non processing closure day. Please account
for extra time if you are applying for a visa to a country whose office closed because of holiday.
If you have any questions on how long your visa request will take
for a particular country please feel free to contact our
professional staff for more information.

Brazil Visa Processing Update 7 November 12

Posted by Summer Jenkins in Visa News.
add a comment

Last week, the Brazilian Consular Service announced that severe technical difficulties were halting the issuance of visas at consulates worldwide.  In the US, the Chicago Consulate was the first to stop issuing visas, swiftly followed by the consulates in Houston, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Meanwhile, the consulates in Washington, DC and New York City were shut down by Hurricane Sandy.

It has since been revealed that the technical difficulties are actually a contract dispute between the Brazilian Government and the manufacturer of their visa stickers.  Consulates are running low on visa stickers, and do not know when they will again be available.  They have reacted by extending visa processing times, issuing visas only to applicants who appear in person with urgent requests, or by shutting down processing entirely.  In recent days, however, processing times at some consulates have been returning to more normal speeds.

G3 is checking with the consulates daily to determine their visa issuance status, which we will continue to update here.

Brazil Visa Issuance Status

Consulate                   Accepting Applications? Processing Time
Atlanta Accepting 15 business days
Boston Accepting 12 business days
Chicago Personal Appearance Only At consular discretion
DC Accepting 12 business days
Hartford Accepting 15 business days
Houston Accepting 7 business days
LA Accepting 22 business days
Miami Accepting 45 business days
NYC Accepting 6 business days
San Francisco Not Accepting N/A

Everything you need to know about Real ID 6 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Passport, Passport Card, traveler advise.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Real ID

Real ID is legislation passed by Congress and  signed into law by President Bush in 2005. The legislation is officially known as the REAL ID Act of 2005. Officially, it is Division B of an act of the United States Congress titled Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief. Basically, the law stipulates that entry on to domestic flights as well as federal installations and other secure locations requiring an ID to enter, is dependent on the individual possessing and demonstrating a photo ID that is up to the standards and specifications outlined in the statute. It provides a timetable for the states to implement these standards on their driver’s licenses and ID cards. For those that like to look at the actual text of the statute, the Department of Homeland Security, who has regulatory authority over the law, has it online for your reading pleasure.

The deadline for compliance is coming. Beginning on fifteenth of January 2013, an ID that is compliant with the Real ID guidelines will be required of passengers as a prerequisite to boarding  domestic flights in the US. Although the DHS has extended the deadline in the past, they have indicated that there are committed to the January date and that will be no more extensions. On January 15 agents of the TSA will be enforcing the law at airports around the country.

The Real ID Act lists the forms of ID that are considered in compliance and hence acceptable for entrance onto an airplane. The TSA, who will be checking the ids at airports has a list of what they will accept.

List of TSA Acceptable Real IDs

  • a U.S. passport,
  • a U.S. passport card,
  • a DHS “Trusted Traveler” cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST),
  • a U.S. Military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DOD civilians),
  • a U.S. Permanent Resident Card,
  • a Border Crossing Card
  • a DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • a Drivers Licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (beginning January 15, 2013, these must be Real ID compliant licenses)
  • a Native American Tribal Photo ID
  • an airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • a valid foreign government-issued passport
  • a Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card
  • a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

Passports and Passport Cards

It is no surprise  that a passport is the first item mentioned  on the DHS list of acceptable IDs. Being not just a federally issued identity document, a passport is also a citizenship document. IDs issued from the individual states have to meet the criteria laid out by the federal government in order to be accepted as a valid real ID, whereas a passport is issued by the federal government through the Department of State and actually sets the standard for secure identification.

Most people know what a passport is but are unaware of the existence or the specifics surrounding the US passport card. Passport cards are a relatively new form of federal identification that can be used in place of a passport for international travel in certain cases.  The State Department Passport Card FAQ answers most of the questions regarding what it takes to get one, and when you can use one to travel internationally and other attributes of the new form of federal ID.

Information on the issuance of expedited passports and passport cards is available through the passport section of the g3visas.com website. Applicants can apply for new passports, add pages to filled booklets and  renew expiring ones  in 24 hours, if required.

Passport questions and inquiries into  professional passport expedite services can be directed to passports@g3visas.com .

Real ID Drivers Licenses, What You Need to Get One

The DHS has published the criteria for the states that define what documents applicants will need provide to the state DMV in order to have these IDs and driver’s licenses  considered as valid “real IDs” and hence in compliance with the law and valid for travel. Applicants for Real ID compliant IDs will have to prove they are eligible for one. They will have to submit to their DMV  official documents to satisfy each of the following four categories,

  • Identity and Date of Birth
  • Lawful Status in the United States
  • Social Security Card
  • State Residency and Current Address

Proof of Identity, Date of Birth and Lawful Status

This proof comes in the form of one of the following,

For US Citizens:

  • a valid US passport or passport card,
  • a certified copy or original US birth certificate. These documents include official, certificates issued by any US state also including Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Hospital issued birth certificates are not acceptable and Puerto Rican certificates must be certified on or after 1 July 2010,
  • a State Department issued Consular Report of Birth Abroad (form FS 240, FS 545 or DS 1350),
  • an original Certificate of Naturalization (form N 550, N 570, or N 578),
  • an original Certificate of Citizenship (form N 560, N 561 or N 645).

For Non US:

  • a valid Permanent Residence Card (I 551),
  • a non US passport stamped “ Processed for I 551“,
  • a valid Employment Authorization Document (I 766),
  • a Record of Arrival and Departure (I 94) with attached photo and stamped ” Temporary Proof of Lawful Permanent Resident“,
  • a Record of Arrival and Departure (I 94) with attached photo and stamped either “Refugee“, “Parolee” or “Asylee“,
  • an unexpired, valid, non US passport accompanied by an approved I 94 showing latest entry into the United States,
  • a Travel Document indicating Permit to Re-enter ( I 327),
  • A Refugee Travel Document ( I 571),

Poof of Social Security Number

Your social security number must be verified. Proof comes in the form of an original of one of the following,

  • an original social security card,
  • a W-2 form,
  • a Social Security Administration Form 1099,
  • a Non-Social Security Administration Form 1099,
  • a Pay stub with your name and Social Security number on it.

Temporary foreign nationals who are not authorized for employment will have to verify their US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) number instead.

Proof of State Residency and Current Address

Your address in the state where you are applying for a license must be verified. Proof of address varies between the states but must jurisdictions are requiring two items for this category. Two of the following from the list should be presented as evidence,

  • a voter identification card,
  • a vehicle registration,
  • a utility bill,
  • a statement from a financial institution,
  • a rental or lease agreement,
  • a paycheck or pay stub from an employer in the state,
  • an enrollment document from a school in the state,
  • a homestead filling,
  • a military tax exemption in the state.

Existing, state issued, non-Real ID compliant driver’s licenses are not acceptable as evidence of residency and current address.

Minors will have a consent form signed by a parent, guardian or custodian  that will be sufficient in most states to satisfy the state residency and address verification requirement.

Applicants with Temporary Lawful Status

Foreigners with temporary Lawful status in the US can also be issued Real ID compliant driver’s licenses.  These licenses are stamped “Limited Term” and are valid for the period of Lawful stay, not to exceed two years. For applicant’s whose Lawful stay status is not defined or has an expiration day, their Real ID compliant driver’s licenses will be valid for no longer than a one year period.

State DMV Links

Since the responsibility  of issuing driver’s licenses is a state power, each state, although acting under the same federal real id guidelines, will have their own procedures.  The CSDL , a pro Real ID lobby group, has a list of the state DMV’s websites to verify the specific driver’s license requirements per state.

States React to Real ID

Even if you want to apply for a Real ID compliant driver’s license, you might not be able to get one. Depending on which state you reside in, the reaction to the Real ID law from the states has been mixed and varied.  Some states have embraced  the legislation and have made their driver’s licenses and ID cards compliant with the DHS guidelines, some states have  implemented some but not all of  the provisions in the guidelines, while some states have simply rejected the law and have passed legislation forbidding state compliance with the DHS guidelines. So, depending on your state of residence, your state issued ID or driver’s license may or not be valid for entry onto a plane or federal building requiring an ID.

The ACLU , a vocal opponent of Real ID on the State level, provides a state by state status of Anti- Real Id legislation on their anti Real ID website.

Current status of Real ID Compliance by State & Territory

REAL ID  Status State / Territory
Submitted full compliance certification packages to DHS1 Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, South Dakota, Tennessee. (5)
Self-certified: Issuing materially compliant licenses (meeting the first 18 benchmarks) +  the gold star compliance mark Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Utah (4)
Self-certified: Issuing materially compliant licenses (meeting the first 18 benchmarks) Arkansas, District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey. (7)
Committed to meeting material compliance but require more time Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming. (12)
Certifiable Enhanced Driver’s License programs New York, Michigan, Vermont, Washington. (4)
Committed to meeting 15 of 18 benchmarks Arizona, California, Georgia, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, U.S. Virgin Islands (12)
Will not meet four or more benchmarks in the next 12 months Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Northern Marianas Islands2 (12)
1 According to DHS, other states have assured DHS that once DHS proves its willingness to certify states’ compliance packages, they will take the extra steps to assemble and submit the required packages.2 Montana, Oklahoma, and Washington have laws preventing REAL ID implementation, although Washington state has tried to repeal the law, and does have an Enhanced Driver License. Montana has strict issuing standards but they are not intended to be in line with REAL ID.

An online list of minimum standards for Real Driver’s Licenses and acceptable Identification cards is available from the USCIS.

Real ID Conclusion,  Traveler Recommendation

The statistics very on the exact number, but evidence points to the US having a surprising low rate of passports issued to it’s citizens in comparison to passport issuance rates from other countries. The past arguments defending the relatively low number of  US passports in circulation relative to population, range from the historical fact that US citizens haven’t been required to have passports for many international destinations and the US being so large, that most travel is domestic, not requiring  passport, are no longer valid. The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), which is in effect, requires a passport for reentry into the US by persons arriving by plane. This law not only applies to Non US travelers by  also to US citizens entering back into the US as well. Additionally, the new Real ID legislation not only demands an id to enter a plane, it defines rigorous criteria on what IDs will meet the standard of a Real ID.

Real ID is the law and is going to be enforced in January 2013. Regardless of what state you are from and when your driver’s license was issued, a valid passport or an equivalent passport card will satisfy the requirements for a Real ID. Acquisition of these documents is a routine procedure for G3’s processional passport associates. There is no excuse not to have one or both.

It is understandable not to want to take your passport on a domestic flight for a number of reasons. The passport card is a great alternative to a passport or state issued compliant driver’s license and is also a good back up ID when you need one. This federal ID is a card the same size as a driver’s license or credit card, can fit your wallet and meets all the DHS standards of a Real ID. Passport cards are also a good idea for minors traveling via air  inside the US, as these travelers usually don’t have any state issued, photo identification documents, as most of them aren’t eligible for driver’s license; even if they are from a state that issues compliant IDs. Passport cards provide minors and adults with an easy form of ID that meets the standards of a compliant Real ID.

Regardless of what form of ID you have you are going to be required to show a Real ID before you board a plane.  It remains to be seen what will happen to travelers who have misplaced, lost or have had their ID stolen while traveling. Having multiple forms of IDs, such as a compliant driver’s license, passport, or passport  card provides a back up if you misplace your ID while traveling. Savvy travelers know from experience to have a back plan in case of emergency. A passport and passport card can provide that Plan B coverage if your driver’s license is lost or, in the case of residents of Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Northern Marianas Islands, not valid for travel.

Russian Three Year Multiple Entry Visas 1 November 12

Posted by Jonathan V. Phillips in Visa News.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Russian three year multiple entry visas.

The historic agreement between the Russian Foreign Ministry and the US State Department  regarding the issuance of long term multiple entry visas has been in effect for over a month. Initially there was some confusion surrounding the new visa process and some “grey” areas associated with processing these new visas. The past few weeks have seen a clarification of the process from the Embassy and the ILS processing centers as to what they will accept  as supporting documentation, and what they wont. Additionally, there has been a formalization  on  the exact information the supporting documents should contain. With these new directives and a standardization of the processing guidelines from the Russian Embassy, the issuance of these visas has now become routine.

It is important to note that not all Russian visas are being issued for a three year validity and multiple entries. Applicants are still being issued single, double and multiple one year (business only) visas if they elect to do so. These applicants  follow the same processing guidelines that existed prior to the introduction of the new three year visas. The advantage to not getting the new three year type visa is two fold. First, the cost of these “ordinary” visas are less and second, the processing times can be significantly shorter, especially if the visa request is utilizing  the mission critical or priority services. So, if you need to get to Russia in a hurry, applying for a three year visa may not be in your immediate interest.
For those that are applying for the long term Russian visas, the three year, multiple entry visas are available for the major categories of Russian visas. These categories being  business, tourist and homestay or private visas. Aside from being long term, as per the visa agreement between the USA and Russia, these visas can be issued with out the formally approved, top level invitation, which had been the practice for over twenty years. This is a  huge change from the previous existing status quo but has also been a source of confusion. Through some initial trial an error and with the recent clarifications from the Russian Embassy in Washington, G3 is able to advise clients with confidence on the correct procedures to follow, as well as potential pitfalls to avoid  when applying for the long term visas.
Currently the processing time for these requests is around sixteen business days. Which is the longest processing time for any type of Russian visa request. Although the processing times are the same for the three individual categories of multiple entry visas, there are subtle differences in procedure between each of the visa categories, business, tourist and homestay. It is best to address the three categories individually and list out the requirements based on visa type.

Three Year Multiple Entry Russian Business Visas:

Business travelers to Russia are most likely the largest group of travelers to benefit from these new long term visas. Requirements include the following;

  • two completed and signed visa applications,
  • two identical, frontal portrait style,color, passport type photos,
  • copies of any previously issued Russian visas (if applicable),
  • copy of  medical insurance card,
  • copy of the flight itinerary demonstrating the first trip into Russia,
  • original US passport with adequate validity for a three year visa.

Letters Supporting  Russian Three Year, Multiple Entry, Business Visas:

The business visa applicant is required to have two separate letters. One invitation letter issued by the Russian business entity and the other from the applicant’s employer. These letters are essentially the main supporting documents for business visa requests, replacing the previously required official invitation or telex from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is essential that they are in order and contain the precise  information the Embassy requires.  Incomplete or inadequate letters are cause for rejection, causing delays in the visa process.

The Business Letter:

The letter from the applicant’s employer should be original and be on company letterhead. Additionally, it is advised that the applicant should not sign their own letter, but rather it should have the original signature of a manager or company executive. The employer  business letter should contain the following details;

  • the name, date of birth, and  passport number of the applicant,
  • current position and the name of applicant’s business,
  • dates of entry and departure to and from Russia of the first trip,
  • cities to be visited and lodging information (hotel name) for each location,
  • purpose of trip (meetings,etc),
  • full name of business contact person in Russia,
  • contact information for the Russian business entity (address, telephone number),
  • a statement specifically requesting the issuance of a three year, multiple entry visa.

Russian Company Invitation Letter:

The second supporting document comes from the “duly registered Russian entity” with whom the applicant is conducting business with. This is the invitation letter from the Russian company. It does not have to original as emailed scans or good quality faxes are acceptable but it does have to be exact in it’s content. The Russian invitation business letter should contain the following items;

  • the full name of the Russian company as it appears on their corporate registration,
  • the registered, official address, telephone number and email address of the Russian company,
  • the full name and title of the business contact individual in Russia,
  • the US applicant’s, full name as printed in the passport, country of citizenship (USA), passport number, passport validity dates, and the passport issuing authority,
  • the applicant’s birth date (day, month, year) and birth location (city, country) ,
  • a statement of request for a three year, multiple entry visa, referencing the full dates of the  entirety of the visa request,
  • a statement regarding the purpose of the trip (ie, business meetings),
  • full name and  address of the hotel or residence where the applicant will reside while in Russia,
  • cities to be visited on the first trip ( should have a hotel listed for each city to be visited).

Three Year Multiple Entry Russian Tourist Visas:

For the first time since the creation of the Russian Federation from the Soviet Union, US tourist travelers to Russia are offered more than two entries as a visa option. In addition to being multiple entry, this new visa category is long term. Issued for a three year validity, the new multiple entry tourist visas allow stays in Russia for up to six months at a time. To obtain one, the following items are required;

  • two completed and signed visa applications,
  • two identical, frontal portrait style,color, passport type photos,
  • copies of any previously issued Russian visas (if applicable),
  • copy of a medical insurance card,
  • a tourist voucher and confirmation document from a registered Russian tour company or hotel,
  • copy of the flight itinerary demonstrating the first trip and departure to and from Russia,
  • original US passport with adequate validity for a three year visa.

Russian Tourist Voucher:

This is the same document that has been part of the standard tourist visa requirements for the past twenty years. G3 is able to provide this document on the behalf of our travelers as part of our Russia visa services. The tour voucher should demonstrate the first trip into Russia and is valid for up to thirty days and  can issued with a single or double entry option. Although, the validity of the voucher and the  number of entries is for less than a month and for either single or double entry, those items are moot once the application is accepted as the visa is issued for a long term and multiple entries.

Personal Letter of Request:

The embassy requires applicants for three year multiple entry tourist visas to right a letter requesting one. As part of the G3 CLS service, we compile this document on behalf our clients. The letter to the embassy/consulate general contains the following;

  • a statement specifically requesting the issuance of a three year, multiple entry, tourist visa,
  • dates of first trip into and from Russia,
  • Russian cities to be visited (should match cities listed on the tour voucher/confirmation),
  • name as printed in the passport,
  • nationality (should be USA),
  • passport number,
  • city and country of birth,
  • passport issue and expire dates,
  • US address.

Three Year Multiple Entry Russian Homestay Visas:

Homestay or Private visas used to involve an original Izveshenie document issued from the Russian host’s local OVIR authority. The new visa agreement has changed this requirement so that a notarized letter from the host is acceptable. Interestingly, this letter can be also issued from non Russian citizens, legally residing in Russia. Non Russian hosts who want to issue an invitation for a US citizen to visit should have the Russian Permit to Stay. Applicants requesting multiple entry, thee year, homestay  visas should provide the following,

  • two completed and signed visa applications,
  • two identical, frontal portrait style,color, passport type photos,
  • copies of any previously issued Russian visas (if applicable),
  • copy of a medical insurance card,
  • notarized invitation from host in Russia,
  • copy of the flight itinerary demonstrating the first trip and departure to and from Russia,
  • original US passport with adequate validity for a three year visa.

Personal Letter of  Request:

The embassy requires applicants for three year, multiple entry, homestay visas to provide a letter requesting that the long term visa be issued. As part of the G3 CLS service, we create this letter on behalf of the client. This letter of request should  contain the following items;

  • a statement specifically requesting the issuance of a three year, multiple entry, homestay visa,
  • dates of first trip into and from Russia,
  • Russian cities to be visited (should match cities listed on the invitation from host in Russia),
  • name as printed in the passport,
  • nationality (should be USA),
  • passport number,
  • city and country of birth,
  • passport issue and expire dates,
  • US address
  • name, address, passport number,and  nationality of the inviting host in Russia.

Notarized Invitation:

This document from the host in Russia needs to be notarized. It can be issued by a Russian citizen or a legal Russian resident. This includes, but is not limited to, persons residing in Russia with long term work permits, long term student visas or members of the diplomatic corps stationed in the Russian Federation. The invitation document should include the following items,

  • Full name of the invitor in Russia as well as their,
  • date of birth,
  • sex,
  • citizenship,
  • nationality,
  • passport number,
  • official address of registration,
  • and actual address of residence.
  • The invitee’s full name as printed in their passport,
  • date of birth,
  • passport number and nationality (USA).
  • A statement requesting the three year, multiple entry visa and purpose of travel (private visa),
  • dates of first trip into and from Russia,
  • cities to be visited,
  • and the intended address of stay for the invitee.

Russian Three Year Multiple Entry Visas Summary:

The time it takes to process these new multiple entry, three year visas is quite long in comparison to the processing times for the other Russian visa categories. Currently the Russian consular offices are issuing these visas in no less than 16 business days. The consular staff have also been quite strict about the regulations. Items like the enforcing the exact content of the letters, passport validaties,etc have all been cause for rejection for applicants. Although these rejections aren’t permanent or final as they are approved once the letters meet their standard. It is important to have everything from the application to the supporting letters be perfect or a visa applicant can experience processing delays in an already long process.

Travelers utilizing G3 Visas & Passport’s CLS Russian visa services have a higher chance of success obtaining three year visas. These visa requests see intense scrutiny by the Russian consular officials reviewing applications. Our knowledge and professional staff can navigate these exacting nuances and see to it your visa is issued on time and accurate to your travel to Russia. Instructions for the three year visas are available for download from the G3 forms page. Please feel free to contact our national offices or email your specific questions directly to our Russian visa experts at Russia@G3Visas.com.