When we started on this trip, we knew we’d have to stop somewhere to get visas for Russia and China. Both of these countries require visas for U.S. citizens, but both prohibit you from applying more than three/six months before you intend to enter the country, so we couldn’t apply for them before we left the U.S. Because neither of us speaks Russian and I’ve heard you can get a Chinese visa fairly easily in Hong Kong, we figured Australia would be our chance to get the Russian visa squared away—in a country that speaks English and has a Russian Embassy. For those of you looking to do the same, here’s the short of it: you can get a Russian visa with a U.S. passport from the Sydney Embassy. It can be a visa for any duration (we got 3-year, multi-entry visas). BUT they cannot do express processing, so it will take two weeks and you’re subject to the fees charged to U.S. citizens, not Australian citizens.
A few days into our Sydney stay (after we had settled into an apartment we decided to rent weekly), we visited the Russian embassy to ask about the visa process. We arrived around 11:30, which was late in the day for them—they close at 12:30 pm. After taking a number in the front office, we sat down and passed the time in reading and work under the watchful eyes of a framed Putin photograph. 12:00, then 12:30 came and went. The number of people dwindled. Though closing hour had passed, the embassy employees stayed and worked through all of us. We came up near the end.
When our number was called, we walked up to the counter, showed our passports, and asked what we needed to do for visas. More specifically: how long would visa processing take? Which application form (U.S. or Australian) would we need to fill out? What length of visa could we apply for? How many copies did we need? The employee’s English was fairly good, but it took us a while to get all of it sorted out: We could get expensive express service and have it done in two days. The visa could be for any possible duration or number of entries. We should fill out the U.S. application (though it turns out they’re all the same form). One copy of the application each.
Given that info, I took my time in filling the forms out and we didn’t return until a few days before we were due to fly to Indonesia. We handed over the forms to the same guy we talked to last time. But he looked over the forms and shook his head. “We can not make express service for non-Australia passports here,” he told us. Oops!
He hadn’t realized last time that we don’t have Australian passports. There wasn’t much we could do about that, so we opted for the regular service. The employee handed us a receipt and told us to come back for our passports in two weeks. We went home, paid some fees to reschedule flights, and extended our apartment rental. Thank goodness we’re staying with some friends of a friend. They were awesomely accommodating about the situation.