Passport gone - What to do?
from Torsten Richter
Foto: Tom Umbreit
Let me warn you right at the beginning - to lose your passport while travelling in Russia is about the worst that can happen to you. Russia is, however, the largest country in the world and therefore the paths to the adequate offices, where you can obtain a new passport, are long.
For people, who are on holiday at Lake Baikal this means a train journey of 31 hours from Irkutsk to Novosibirsk on the rails of the Transibirian Railway. It proves, however, to be quite difficult to buy a train ticket, because you have to show your passport. If you travel with other people, let somebody else buy the ticket for you. As passport and ticket have to be shown when boarding the train, you have to find someone woh looks reasonably like yourself. Then try to board the train with the "borrowed" passport. You have to try to smuggle the passport out of the train again, so that the other person will not have to stay in Russia the whole time without a passport. And you just have to hope that no one wants to see your passport until you reach Novosibirsk.
The entrance looks really unwelcoming. The porter can get a picture of you with the help of a video camera and then decides whether to let you in or not. After the first door has been opened there is another steel lattice door - it doesn´t look very comfortable, and is reminiscent of a prison. After explaining the situation to the staff at the entrance, they will let you in and you can walk upstairs to the office rooms. The comply with German standards and the impression from the entrance will soon be forgotten. The entrance hall is supposed to be rearranged soon, so that unlucky fellows get a friendlier first impression in the future.
The next step will be to fill out a form about your personal data. This form will be faxed to the registration office in charge and costs about 500 Rouble. The registration office here will check the indicated information and fax back a confirmation with a photograph. The problem with this whole procedure is the time difference of five hours between Novosibirsk and Germany. Even if the fax is sent out in the morning it can be handled in Germany at the earliest at 2 pm Novosibirsk time, because this will be 9 am in Germany and the time when the offices open. However, the consulate in Novosibirsk already closes between 3.30 and 4 pm. The remaining two hours will only in a few cases be enough to deal with it. The German registration office normally handles the case in the course of the day, so that the fax will be in Novosibirsk the following morning. But do not rely on that. You should insist on a phone call to Germany after the fax has been sent out, first of all to make sure that the fax reached the right person and second to press for immediate handling, because of the emergency, so that you will not stand there without a confirmation the next day (be aware of weekends).
When the confirmation of the registration office is finally available, the pass can be issued very quickly after handing in 2 passport photographs. The passport is exactly the same as the temporary (green) passport used in Germany.
Finally holding your passport in your hands is no reason yet to be overjoyed. You now own a passport without a visa. The office that issues visas (OVIR) is, however, only about half a mile away from the consulate. You receive a letter in Russian from the consulate in which it is written that you have lost your passport, the consulate general issued a new passport after checking your identity and the staff of the OVIR should issue an exit visa. That might work - as long as you have been registered. As soon as you enter Russia you are supposed to get registered. If you are accommodated in a hotel the registration normally takes place there, if not you can register at a local travel agency or sometimes in hotels. If you don´t have this registration you get into real trouble. You have to contact the German travel agency, where you obtained the visa to get information about the place that issued the invitation for the visa. Normally this will be Moscow.
In principle you would need to travel to Moscow and sort things out there. One may, however, hope that they have branches in Russia. That means you have to phone them up and inquire about that. If you are lucky they do have a branch, but if you are unlucky this branch is e.g. in St. Petersburg. As this are unacceptable distances (and you are not permitted to fly or travel by train without a valid visa) you had better go back to the consulate and hope that they can help you in this matter. As a matter of fact the consulate does have good connections to the OVIR, but unfortunately only to the boss. She issues visa, albeit not legal, also without registration. If she is not there, you have bad luck and can view Novosibirsk one more day. As soon as you have the okay from the boss, the only thing you have to do is to pay for the visa. This is, however, also connected with problems, as you cannot pay the visa at the OVIR but have to transfer the money from a bank. But nobody tells you to which bank, account number nor bank code you have to transfer the money. Therefore it would be best to go back to the consulate and ask for advice. The Russian staff know all about it. The cash remittance can be made from any bank, but the letter of referral has to be filled out according to the shown form. It would be best if a Russian employee from the consulate will go to the bank with you to help you fill out this letter of referral. As said, the form you have to fill out is displayed, but as there are so many of them you never know which one to take. After you have made the remittance you receive a receipt with which you go back to the OVIR and after handing in another 2 photographs you can hold the much-longed-for visa in your hands.
In case you are travelling with other people and everybody has been robbed (it could be possible), you require at least one person with a passport, to get money. It is, that is to say, possible for relatives at home to transfer money to all banks called Western Union. It only takes a few hours to transfer the money. Your relatives only need your passport number and you can collect the money with your passport from the bank. The fee, however, is enormous, for 200 Rouble it is nearly 30 Rouble.
In case nobody is left with anything no tips can be given in this place. As you can see from this the loss of your passport is not only related to extensive costs but also, and that´s even worse, to enormous time exposure and stress.
ca 1700 Rouble (Passport incl. 500 Rouble for fax)
200 Rouble Visa
2 times 750 Rouble for train ticket Irkutsk - Novosibirsk in a third class train - platzkartnyi