I've recently been dealing with the Russian consulates in North America, and they appear to be ridiculously mismanaged and/or understaffed.

In the jurisdiction served by Toronto, for example, they have so much "population requiring consulate services" that they not only have a queue to get in a queue (e.g. you have to set up an appointment to turn your papers in), but the aforementioned appointment queue is so full so far into the future (either 6 months or 1 year, IIRC) that their online queue management system currently doesn't even take any appointments at all whatsoever!

I've tried to inquire the reasons for such poor service in Moscow -- why don't they deploy more personnel if they have so much population that requires services -- but was told something to the effect that it's not up to Moscow how much staff is deployed.

Is it true? Do the US and Canadian governments mandate limited consul staff and waiting times many times worse than DMVs in California? Interestingly, the appointment wait time in the Consular section of the Embassy in Washington is about a month, and Consular Division in Ottawa has no appointment system whatsoever, still serving walk-ins.

  • What's the question? What's the cause of lines in consulates? The whole topic of avoiding lines in any place (shops as well as administration) has a mathematical theory and modelling algorithm. So I don't think it is specific to consulate services to be unable to meet the demand. – Vince Apr 25 '15 at 13:21
  • This is about "Наш ненавязчивый сервис!" – Karlson Apr 25 '15 at 15:15
  • This doesn't appear to be about travel. – DJClayworth Apr 25 '15 at 15:56
  • @DJClayworth, how is this not about travel? I'm trying to get a passport since last year, and I'm still unsuccessful at doing so, due to the poor service provided at the consulates. – cnst Apr 25 '15 at 18:05
  • The question is on-topic for anybody who wants to visit Russia. They will have to go to a Russian consulate and get a visa. – Gayot Fow Apr 25 '15 at 22:33

TL;DR: No. The situation you describe is almost certainly entirely the Russians' own doing.

The host country for an embassy gets very little say about that embassy's activities. They can refuse the letters of credence of an incoming ambassador, but this is a major diplomatic snub and is not too far off from breaking diplomatic relations entirely. They can delay the processing of diplomatic visas for other staff, or in rare cases reject them entirely, but this too would be highly unusual. And the most drastic step would be to declare some already resident staff persona non grata and kick them out, but this rarely happens unless the diplomat in question has committed a serious crime.

What's more, day-to-day consular activities like processing visa applications are typically not handled by full-fledged diplomatic staff at all, but by locally hired consular officers who are likely already legal residents and thus don't even need visas or any other sort of paperwork to start working.

So if the Russian consulate in Toronto you're dealing with can't staff its consulate, they either don't have the money for it, or they just don't care. (Given the general reputation of Russia and before it the Soviet Union for handling visa applications, I suspect both factors are involved, but would lean more towards the latter.)

  • I don't think this is right. First, embassies aren't consulates; embassies are the VCDR, consulates the VCCR. Under both of them, the receiving state can limit the size of a post to something reasonable (the actual wording). Also, consular officers are in principle supposed to be nationals of the sending state, and you can't appoint a national of the receiving state as a consular officer without the receiving state's explicit consent. Career officers are normally nationals of the sending state; Russia has few honorary officers (who are part-time local citizens) in the US or Canada. – cpast Apr 26 '15 at 0:03

In the time when I needed visas to enter Russia I queued at their consulates on three different continents. I have also queued at various bureaucracies inside Russia. On balance, I saw no difference between the two. It's part of what is and I doubt that questions put directly to staff will yield up anything more valuable.

In my experience each Russian consulate has ways that a person can join an 'accelerated queue' and get prompt service. Before drawing conclusions on the ethics surrounding this, observe that Madame Tussauds offers the same convenience along with most of the popular clubs in London. Unlike Madame Tussauds (where there's signage explaining how to jump the queue for a given price), it's down to you to find out how to do it (see the comment by Karlson).

The person who told you that staff shortages are the host country's fault was probably making an educated guess, but if it were true then the queues inside Russia would be different than those outside. But they are the same.

  • Well, as per travel.stackexchange.com/questions/46679/…, there are laws and regulations in place for prompt processing; the issue at hand is that the laws don't prohibit an appointment system, and the consulates appear to be abusing such ambiguity. – cnst Apr 25 '15 at 18:03

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