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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Bureaucratic Nightmare at Sheremetyevo-2

In response to "Some Are Living for Months at Airport," an article by Valeria Korchagina on Aug. 28.

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With great interest and with some amusement I read your recent article. On a recent trip to Moscow I saw people living at the airport and, unfortunately, I was one of them for one night.

I am a scientist who was invited by a Moscow company to attend some scientific lectures and discussions. Because I am a frequent traveler I have two passports, in case one is sent out for a visa application. What neither I nor the Russian consulate in Munich, nor the German immigration officers at Munich airport, noticed was the fact that the passport I traveled to Moscow on -- in contrast to the other one that I have -- was already out of date. So I arrived in Moscow with a valid visa in an invalid passport and was not allowed to enter Russia.

I was not treated in an unfair manner because it was definitely my fault. But there was no attempt by anyone at Sheremetyevo-2 to find a solution to my problem. The authorities' proposal that I should stay at the airport until the local consulate prolonged my passport was not realistic because afterwards it would have been too late to attend the planned meetings. I was wearing a tie and a dinner jacket, so the authorities must have realized that I was not asking for asylum nor a homeless person.

Needless to say, I also had valid personal ID, a valid driver's license, and the readiness of my Moscow hosts to guarantee for my identity, integrity, my return to Germany, and for the fact that I would not violate any Russian laws.

The immigration officers were not interested in these details. They did not even allow me to pick up my luggage, nor did they offer to retrieve it for me. So I had to spend the night in the international zone without a toothbrush and without my medication.

I have "frequent flyer" status in the Lufthansa/Star Alliance group so I went to the business lounge that Lufthansa shares with some other airlines. The lady on duty told me that because I had flown Aeroflot to Moscow she could not accept me. I went to the Aeroflot business lounge. It was locked, but two ladies -- who were alone in the large, elegant room, watching TV -- opened the door and told me that they would accept only people with Lufthansa Senator status, those people being more often in the air than on ground. So I had to spend a very uncomfortable night on a metal bench. Aeroflot did not give a single thought to helping me in any creative manner.

The next morning I was sent back to Germany. Although I had asked several times for my luggage and some people assured me that it would arrive in Frankfurt with me, it of course got lost in Moscow.

I assure you that Western visitors are not offended by the sight of some poor people camping in the international area of the airport. Visitors are much more concerned about the inflexibility and bureaucracy of the Russian authorities. It would be interesting to learn how I would have been treated in some other countries but I do not want to take the risk of checking it out.

Hugo Kubinyi
Weisenheim am Sand, Germany

Visa Grumbles

In response to "Visa Handling Shows the Cold War-Era Is Not Dead," the letters page on Aug. 29, "Defending the U.S. Visa Regime," a comment by James D. Pettit, on Aug. 26, "Visa Barriers Keep Us Apart," a comment by Yuri Ushakov on Aug. 19, and " U.S. Visa Mess Dashes Summer Dreams," an article by Robin Munro on Aug. 15.

James Pettit spells out what anyone who has successfully navigated -- or helped others navigate -- the U.S. Embassy's visa process knows quite clearly: the one criteria that embassy staff consider is whether the applicant is actually going to leave the United States when they say they are going to.

All other documentation supporting a visa application -- letters of acceptance from accredited and often prestigious U.S. universities, letters of recommendation from U.S. citizens and, in one drastic case I helped facilitate, a letter from a then-current member of the U.S. House of Representatives vouching for the invited party in the U.S. -- is completely and utterly superfluous.

Once this is clearly understood, an applicant should instead generate proof that their children, spouse and significant personal property are remaining at home and/or provide a letter from a Western company stating that the applicant's employment is contingent upon their return to Russia after the trip.

The actual purpose of the trip does not matter, only that the Russian citizen will leave the United States when they are supposed to. It is that simple.

Charlie Earthman

I have no doubt that there are enormous problems with the United States Embassy and their handling of visa requests, but they are not the only ones who still have Cold War-era policies in place.

Russia is doing nothing to encourage the potentially lucrative tourism industry, and the first problem that most people have is getting a visa. Having to organize a letter of invitation is time consuming and at times expensive for those not on organized tours, as well as being outmoded.

Naming towns you will visit is still nominally part of the process, and I have been "fined" at least twice by Moscow police when visiting from St. Petersburg as my visa did not cover Moscow.

Registering when you arrive can be organized for you but you have to go without your passport for a couple of days at least, meaning that you cannot travel and you run the gauntlet of the militia and their document checking.

Tourists and visitors need to be made to feel welcome by the authorities as well as their hosts if Russia is to reap the rewards of its architectural, cultural and historical riches.

James Webb