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World Citizen – At Last!

With the potential of going to Belarus under questionable political circumstances I have broken down and filed to be a World Citizen. I have wanted to do this for a really, click really long time, approved but could not justify the expense. Now, there is some reason and possible use for the documents provided by the World Service Authority (WSA).

The WSA can provide a Passport, Identification Card, Birth Certificate as well as other documents relevant to your identity and travel ability – their service is used heavily by refugees. I have filed for the aforementioned documents as well as a few others. For people, especially Americans, that are traveling abroad to places where Americans might not be looked kindly upon, an extra, or camouflage passport, is something that can help ensure our safety.

The WSA was founded by Gary Davis September 4, 1953 based on the 1948 United Nations document called the ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights‘, specifically articles 13, 14, and 15. Give it a read. It is not too painful and is really relevant in today’s world.

To Go Or Not To Go – to Belarus

Politics and a Trip to Belarus

So, information pills the wife is in Belarus for 3 months and I am planning on going there for a month to attend the wedding of a close friend and then spend time in Belarus with my in-laws and our friends there. I am really looking forward it, this since it has been quite a while since I have been there.

I am faced with some annoying facts while planning a trip to Belarus. The U.S. government has currently frozen the assets of a Belarussian oil company there as a show of unhappiness towards the imprisoning of the the opposition leader during the last completely corrupted and farce of an election. (In Response to Sanctions, Belarus Seeks to Oust U.S. Envoy: WP March 8, 2008)

In retaliation for that the Belarussian government has demanded that the U.S. embassy in Minsk have its staff reduced down to a level equal to or less than that of the their embassy in the U.S.. The U.S. has also basically closed down the embassy and is not issuing any visas. (Belarus wants U.S. embassy staff cut to seven: Reuters April 2, 2008)

Will their be a second string of maneuvers and counter-maneuvers and how will it affect me, and other U.S. citizens making their way to Belarus. Will I be in danger due to Belarus’ corrupt government?

A Visa to Belarus

For more information on Visas and Belarus check my previous post on December 15, 2005.

So, now I gather the things that I need for a tourist visa (a passport picture, passport, a visa application form and a check) for a month long trip to Belarus. As long as I am there for less than 30 days I do not need an invitation and can get a standard tourist visa. Tanya is arranging to get an invitation ready for me in case I need one while I am there. Specifically, if she or I have issues with leaving the country due to political or immigration issues. Wish me luck! =)

Our Trip to Belarus: Part II

Part II.5: When not Dealing with THE Passport Saga

The days of the first week passed mostly by working on getting her passport squared away. The nights were entirely a different animal all together and for that we are thankful. We spent our time with friends and family. Ania and Banania had the whole time off and spent every moment with us. Lena had other familial obligations and could not be with us as much as she would have liked. Katia was attending school in Minsk and was not feeling quite so well.

In Mogilev we stayed with Banania’a family who were great and I got to meet her grandmother as well. We also met 3 of Tanya’s friends from the university which was interesting. They are so shy to speak English. Endearing as it was their English was a hell of a lot better than my Russian.

Time in Minsk

We spent a single night in Minsk. We arrived at Katia’s parents house and Katia was there. Her family was getting food ready for everyone to eat. All the girls were there. Katia’s sister, decease Tanya, came after she finished her work and their cousin, Natasha, arrived after she finished her work.

It was soo very good to see Katia and her family. The last time I was here, alone and her family made me feel so very at home with them. I have missed them very mush since I have been away.

We went to a night club there called the Metro which was painted like a subway. IT had rooms that you could rent that had one way mirrors facing the dance floor. You could order food and alcohol so you could site on the comfortable couches and chairs in the rooms. Very cool! The club had an upper level with a cat walk like area and tables upstairs. American clubs and music sucks. This place rocks!

Cultural Notes

Public Restrooms

Here comes a major rant here. Public Restrooms. For the love of God and all that is holy can I please get a bathroom that has some sanitary consideration. Please!!!

Ladies who grew up in the former Soviet Republics all have strong legs because they will have nothing to do with actually touching a toilet there, and neither would I. Most do not have toilet seats and have not been cleaned in a very long time. It is in these moments that I am so very happy that I am a guy. Ugghhh!!

I ate as little as possible if I knew that we were going to go out on the town so that I would not have to go, or so that I would be able to wait. Arrrgghhhh! There were a few newer buildings that had cleaner bathrooms, but their best was probably as good as the average worst that you would find here in the United State.

When you went to someone’s home everything is normal. Whew! Thank God!

Social Gatherings

All social gatherings in Belarus have a lot in common: food, confections, Vodka and other alcohol. Almost every where we went there were salads, meat or pasta with cookies, cake or candy, and, of course, Vodka. Everywhere we visited we brought either wine, vodka or candy. It is common and polite practice to bring something as the host will have a meal or some sort of food set out for your visit. There is a common Russian reply after some one knocks on your door and it goes something like this “Who’s there?” – “A bottle of Vodka!”. This is not a good translation but it gives you an idea.

We ate a lot and drank a lot. I drank a lot or tea, wine, and vodka. When we returned home I did not want to see another bottle of wine, champagne, or vodka or tea.

Social gatherings are very … social. People talking, laughing, telling stories and sharing. Belarussians are a very warm and accepting people. I miss being there just because of how warm and wonderful my friends and family is there.

(This is all I could manage.)

Visa to Belarus and Russia (Soviet Republics)

Oh, sickness the joys of applying for a visa to foreign countries. I am in the process of trying to apply for a visa to Belarus and for Russia for our trip to see
our friends and my wife’s family for 3 weeks.

The biggest pain in the ass for this process is obtaining the invitation and that was an extreme source of frustration and stress the last time (2002) I was in Europe. Last time, however I was trying to get a visa to Belarus from the consulate in Prague, Czech Republic with great time constraints.

I will try to log my time and experiences (past and present) of trying to get a visa for Belarus and Russia for those of you who are curious or who might need to go through the process.

The Invitation

The hardest part of the Visa process is obtaining the Invitation. Without an Invitation you cannot get a Visa, and without the Visa there is no entry into the country. An Invitation is a letter written by someone (ie family friends, or someone else) that can be obtained or generated from their local passport and visa office of the Ministry of Interior (Belarus). An Invitation can also be obtained from an organisation that you will work for or is sponsoring your trip there (ie travel agency). The Invitation must state your intent to travel, why you are traveling there, and expected dates for your stay. The consulate will most likely require the original invitation, however sometimes, as was in my first experience, they may accept a copy of the Invitation.

The rest of the Story

After that the rest of the process is just filing out a (2 page) form and paying some money. Once you get to this stage you are basically golden. Fill out the form, send the money and then wait. I have heard that you might be able to fly there (to Belarus) and get a visa there at the airport. A friend of mine who is married to a Belarussian and was going there to meet up with her was able to do this, but I would not count on this. This is possible as long as someone will meet you at the airport with a valid invitation. I would hate to be stuck in an airport and not be able to go anywhere. =(

What is Happening Now

I was not able to get through to the consulate in Washington D.C.. I was however able to get through to the consulate in New York and they referred me to Eastern Tours to obtain an invitation. Eastern Tours said that they can take care of the invitation and visa which will be $145 and 10 days. I may have to expedite this so I do not have to to worry. It looks like they can do both Belarus and Russia. Yea! So tomorrow I will try to fill out the forms and send it to them!

Department of State Information

The Department of State lists no travel warnings for Belarus and here is their Consular Information and listing of Foreign Entry Requirements for Belarus. I will also want to Register our Trip with them as well!

It appears that the Belarussian Embassy lists foreign entry requirements as:

  • Fee of about $100
  • Passport
  • Visa Application Form
  • Passport Photo
  • Self Addressed and Stamped Envelope
  • Letter of Invitation
  • Purchase of Insurance when I get there

General Information on Belarus

Contact Information

Belarussian consulate in Washington D.C.
Contact Info Page

1619 New Hampshire Avenue., N.W.
Washington, DC 20009

Phones & Fax

Main Telephone: (202) 986-1604
Fax: (202) 986-1805
Consular Section: (202) 986-1606

Belarussian consulate in New York

New York Consulate Website

708 3rd Ave.
21st Floor
New York, NY 10017
Phone: (212)682-5392