Escape From Moscow: Have Visa, Want Travel

Visa problems installment 101. Briefly, for those who haven't followed the saga, one-year-old Benedict, who has a British passport and is also included on his father's Russian passport, cannot get a visa for his British passport because, explains the Russian passport office OVIR, as a Russian citizen he is not entitled to a foreign visa -- a situation which left me, his mother, unable to take him out of Russia unless we were travelling as a family, in which case he left the country as Russian and became British only on disembarking at Heathrow Airport.

Then we thought we'd solved it: We managed to get him his own Russian passport -- meaning, one might think, that he and I could leave the country without Sasha, since he would leave on his individual Russian passport rather than as an amendment to Sasha's passport or a visa-less Brit on mine. (Vita, incidentally, never had these problems since the Russian authorities are demonstrably less interested in claiming girls, who are not liable for military service to the fatherland.)

So although we were traveling recently en famille, Sasha suggested Benedict and I try out the new passport while Sasha and Vita sneaked off to a different Sheremetyevo borderguard line.

I thought he was being overdramatic: With his own Russian passport Benedict was clearly free to travel as an independent citizen so what fuss could there possible be?

Mistake. Many of us know that heart sinking moment when they look you up and down for the umpteenth time and then reach for the phone. The supervisor was called.

"Here we have a Russian citizen being taken out of the country by a foreign national. She claims she is the mother but there is no stamp in her [British] passport to prove it. And she has no written permission from the father."

"I am the mother," I protested. "Look, his passport name is Benedict Ingram-Anichkin, mine is Ingram and," I concluded with a touch of hysterical desperation, "he even looks like me."

At this point Sasha thankfully ended the experiment and appeared with his oh-so-soviet credentials to confirm that Benedict is indeed a son of the fatherland, and Sasha personally would guide him safely through decadent western waters.

Heavily pink-lipped, turquoise-eyed sighs were released all round and we were allowed through to claim our duty free. But with the outrageous warning that should I, ever again, try to take my own son, on his own passport, out of the country without a legally authorized document from the father, plus further legal proof that I am the mother, this will Not Be Allowed.

The saga continues: watch this space next week for the official Russian response.