Formal Semantics in Moscow 3
There are two variants: you may apply for a business visa, with an invitation issued by the university, or for a tourist visa, with an invitation issued by some agency specializing on Russia trips, by some hotel, or by some agency specializing in issuing such invitations. There is a lot of agencies of this sort which allow paying with credit card and will send you the invitation 15 minutes after you pay for it. www.waytorussia.net and www.visahouse.com are examples.)
The differences between the two variants are in the costs and in timing. The business visa variant is much more time-consuming - you will not be able to get the invitation earlier than around March 26-30, and possibly will get it even later. On the other hand, using the web services such as those mentioned above, you will get the invitation the same day or after several days (if your consulate wants to see the original, not fax). The fee for issuing the business visa invitation at the university is relatively small (it is less than $20), and the fee for issuing tourist visa invitations is around $70. All other expences (the express mail fee and the visa fee you pay at the consulate) will be more or less the same for the two types of visas. Note also that there are hotels which have the right to issue tourist visa invitations themselves (some do that for a fee, and some even do that for free), and that there may also be significant discounts for the invitation if you book certain hotels (e.g., it is so for the Salyut hotel). Russian visa fees are usually determined on the parity basis. E.g., the visa fee for US citizens is $100, and the fee for Germany is EUR 35 (tourist visa) or EUR 40 (business visa).
It is important that you check as soon as possible whether the consulate where you intend to apply to allows fax invitations or regular mail invitations only. (Hopefully,) you may find the exact visa rules and regulations for your country at the website of the Russian consulate located near you: http://www.russianembassy.net/.
Variant 1. Business visa.
The most serious problem with this variant is time. The university officials may iniciate the process of issuing the invitation not sooner than 45 days before the conference, that is, March 15. The issuing will take about 1 or 2 weeks, so the invitation should be ready by March 29-30 (but in principle, it may be ready even later). If your Russian consulate will be satisfied by a fax, we will fax it to you immediately, and you will have a month to apply for a visa. If your consulate requires a hard copy of the invitation, we will have to send it to you via DHL or some other comparable service. We will be able to pay the fee for you from our own pockets, and you will be able to return it during the conference. In this case, you will have even less time to apply for a visa.
Bad news do not end here. The officials who are in charge of initiating the process of issuing invitations will need a lot of documents with information about you and your trip, some of them signed by several officials at the university. It may come as a surprise to you, but it usually takes a lot of time to get those signatures. So actually we have to start getting them _NOW_, or else there is a chance that the documents will not be ready by March 15, and if they will not be ready by March 15, the invitations will be ready even later than in the end of March.
One more difficulty concerns the registration of people arriving to Russia. Each person arriving for more than 3 days must register her or his visa with the hepl of the inviting party. The problem is that the legislation regarding the process has just changed, and at least some officials are reported in the press as having problems with registering people. Everything may come in order by the end of April, but we warn you that the problems may remain the same way they are now, also.
That is why we are saying again that it might be more reasonable to obtain the tourist visa.
If you still do want to apply for a business visa, we will need the following information from you to fill in the application form for issuing an invitation:
1. The dates of your intended stay. (If you do not know the exact dates, state the longest period possible.)
4. Your nationality (the country the passport of which you hold.) If you have more than one nationality, list all.
5. The country and the town where you were born (if you were born in the US, state also the state.)
6. The country of current permanent residence and the region where you live (for the US, the state; for other countries, it may be the city where you live (in most cases) or some officially recognized region.)
7. The consulate where you will apply to for your visa (the country and the city where it is situated.)
8. Your university. Its full address and telephone. Your position (if a graduate student, just say "graduate student".)
9. The series (if any) and number of your passport. Its issuance date and its expiration date.
10. VERY IMPORTANT! Photocopies of all pages of your passport containg any information. You may scan them and send us as image files in a e-mail message.
Generally, you would obtain the invitation either from your hotel or from some agency specializing in providing tourist visa invitations. In principle, you might also want to get the visa with the help of some travel agency specializing in Russia trips. In any way, the overall process is likely to take much less time than in the case of business visa.
Note that if you will choose to leave at the Salyut hotel (see http://fsim3.narod.ru/travel.html), the fee for issuing an invitation will be very small. There may also be other hotels in Moscow, booking which you will get a comparable discount on the invitation. Some hotels even may issue their own invitation for free - e.g., the "Home Hostel" (again, see http://fsim3.narod.ru/travel.html).
Under this scenario, you are not telling anyone at the consulate that you are going to give a conference talk. For them, your visit will be just a touristic visit. No one is forbidden to visit a conference during one's touristic visit, so you will not do anything illegal. And, probably, you would plan to walk along Moscow for a while anyway, so basically you will not be lying to the consulate officials about the touristic purpose of the visit.
If you will have any problems regarding the tourist visa invitation, please feel free to ask us. We will try to help with all we can.