Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Azeri Visa

Getting a visa for Azerbaijan is a pain in the arse.  There is no visa on arrival.  It's mandatory to apply for a visa through an Azeri embassy.  The challenge is that Azeri embassy rules for what's required in order to obtain a visa can change overnight.  Plus, each embassy interprets the regulations differently.

All of the embassies require a completed visa application.  The application requires each person to declare if they have ever visited Nagorno-Karabakh.  If you have, then you can kiss your visa request good-bye.  You have to present your original passport, plus a photo copy of the data page.  The passport must be valid, at a minimum, for three months longer than the end of the visa.  Two passport photos are also required.

Of course there's an application fee.  For a single-entry, up to one month tourist visa EU citizens generally pay €60 while Americans pay $160 due to reciprocity.  

Azeri embassy in Vienna
If I apply for my visa at the Azeri embassy in Vienna then I have to provide a hotel reservation with a signature and a stamp on actual hotel letterhead.  This means at least an extra two weeks of lead time for the hotel in Azerbaijan to snail-mail it to me.  I also need to show a flight ticket or some other proof of transportation in and out of the country that corresponds to the requested dates on the visa application.  The application fee has to be paid in advance at an Austrian bank and the receipt needs to be given to the embassy.

Processing time is 3 to 7 business days.  The embassy in Vienna only handles visa requests on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 9:30 to 12:30.  This would cost me to take two days off of work, the first to apply and the second to pick up the visa, plus the travel expense to Vienna.

Azeri embassy in Prague
The embassy in Prague takes 5 to 10 business days to process visa applications.  The visa section is open from 10 AM to 12:30 PM on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  Again, this would require me to take off two days from work.

For the Prague embassy, the visa will be issued for the exact dates of one's hotel reservations.  It too requires the hotel confirmation to be on original letterhead but the reservation must all be prepaid.  A letter of invitation is also required and it must be approved by the Azeri Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Most companies charge an additional $50 to $200 for this depending on how quickly you need it.  The MFA can take 2 days to 2 weeks.

After some serious Internet research I found a travel agency in Tbilisi that can sort out my Azeri visa.  I had to e-mail them the completed application, a scanned passport photo, passport data page and the dates that I wanted the visa issued for.  For $180 they could get me a visa issued in one day.  By far, this would be the easiest option.  I would just need to visit the travel agency once I get to Tbilisi.  So I made my arrangements with the agency over a month ago.  Then last week they notified me that the embassy in Tbilisi changed the rules and there are no more same day requests.  Visas in Georgia now take five days.  Ugghhh!!!

My original holiday plans for the Caucasus were to spend a couple of days in Tbilisi, get my visa for Azerbaijan in one day and immediately head to Baku for five days.  Then back to Tbilisi and down to Armenia with a possible visit to Nagorno-Karabakh.  This last minute hiccup with the visa change has caused me to alter my entire trip and change every hotel reservation I had.

Azeri embassy in Tbilisi
Now I'll have to apply for my visa on a Monday morning and hopefully it will be ready to pick up on Friday afternoon.  If I go to Armenia between these days then I won't have time to get to Nagorno-Karabakh.  Besides, if I did then my Azeri visa would be voided.  So I'll head to Georgia, try to get the visa and play a few things by ear.  Something tells me that this adventure will have a few more twists and turns.  Wish me luck.

Update:  I finally received my Azeri visa.

1 comment:

  1. was your trip. i'll do a similar trip in august. bucharest-chisinau-moscow-vladikavkaz-tbilisi-baku-back to tbilisi-istanbul and back in bucharest. I will apply tomorrow at the Azeri embassy here in bucharest. i want to spend just 3, 4 days in baku so i will apply for a tranzit visa which costs 20 Euros. tell me please about your trip. i will travel solo. are tbilisi and baku safe? how was your trip overall? give me details. my e-mail is thank you, Vlad