The following blog is me venting, as this decision to marry her in Novosibirsk turned out to be the biggest bureaucratic clusterfuck I've ever personally experienced. This is long and tedious and frustrating so read at your own peril.
I was in Russia earlier this year, in Feb/March. Before that trip, I started gathering the documents necessary to get married in Russia as per the specifications of the Russian marriage registrar (ZAGS). As per Russian law, marriages have to be scheduled at least a month in advance (sanity check), so my first trip of 2019 would be used to set a wedding date, and the second trip in the summer of 2019 was to get married. I scoured the internet to figure out exactly what I need, and then my fiancee even went in person because they don't answer their phones, they showed her a big book. She noted which documents are needed and they matched what I found out. The instructions specified that foreign certified translations are ok.
1a) My passport as well as
1b) A certified translation of it.
2a) A Statement in lieu of declaration of non-impediment to marriage abroad (Marriage letter). This is a letter which says I'm not married and according to the government of Canada, I'm legally allowed to do it.
2b) This letter MUST be legalized by the Russian consulate in Canada.
2c) A certified translation of it.
I went through the motions in Canada:
-I booked an appointment with the Russian consulate in advance
-I had my passport so to get marriage letter (2a), I went to the notary with an affidavit saying I'm free to marry, applied to the Canadian government and got the marriage letter.
-I went to my translator and got my passport and the marriage letter translated
-I went to the Russian consulate, but the consul said the stamp on my paper was wrong, I needed a different legalization/authentication stamp by the Canadian government in order to get the Russian stamp. This was completely at odds with the information I had, and it turned out to be incorrect.
-I went back to my translator who does legalization services, he said my Canadian stamp on the document was indeed wrong and charged me a $250 fee (plus consular fees and notary fees) to get it legalized. It came back legalized by the consulate. However, there was NO extra Canadian stamp. Further research showed that the stamp they believed I needed was not necessary on this specific document. This is evidenced by the fact that a different consul did correctly stamp it
-Barely get the documents sorted in time for my trip to Russia.
Then in Russia, we went to the ZAGS with all our documents.
The documents are wrong:
-The translations must be done by a Russian translator (this is not written anywhere), notarized by a Russian notary (the opposite is specifically mentioned on the documentation). The translations MUST be linked to the originals, with a notarial stamp (this also is not mentioned anywhere).
-The affidavit which I signed to get the marriage letter MUST also be legalized in the Russian consulate back in Canada, translated and notarized (this was not mentioned anywhere).
So, we devised a plan to be able to register our marriage asap so that we can get a good date, as the ceremony must take place in the ZAGS so the earlier the better. We got a translator to redo the papers, got my fiancée a power of attorney so that she can register the marriage without me present at the time of the registration.
We got the following:
-Notarized copy of my passport as well as a notarized, new translation of it
-Notarized, new translation of the marriage letter, linked to the original
-I went back to Canada, rushed to get the affidavit legalized (translator waived his $250 fee this time but I still had to pay the $75 consular fee). I EMS shipped the legalized affidavit to Russia for $70 and 2 weeks later it landed there and I worried the whole time that it wouldn’t make it because that letter was, at that point, completely irreplaceable. She brought it to the translator, who translated it and got it notarized.
So this is what happened in the last few days:
My fiancée took all those documents to the ZAGS, now confident that all was in order. We had wished for a late June/early July marriage but only May 29th is available, which is very early and short notice. And… the translator made two mistakes on the translations. The translation of my name into Russian is written in two different ways on the translations, and the location of issuance of my passport is written wrong in Russian (and they somehow caught that and give a shit). So, the May 29th date is “booked” temporarily, but we need to get the paper in order by the end of the week (Saturday 20th).
My fiancée brought back the papers to the translator, pointed out the two mistakes to correct, so the translator brought the corrected documents back to the notary office, but the notary who notarized the stuff is not available until Monday the 22nd, next week. This is fine for the marriage letter and the affidavit, BUT the misspelled name on my passport is not possible to correct without the original passport or, POSSIBLY, when she comes into work on Monday, she might remember it and be willing to allow the translator to modify the spelling on it. So, my fiancée went back to the ZAGS and convinced them to keep the May 29th date booked for us until Tuesday 23rd of this month. That means we have until Tuesday next week to get the passport translation fixed by the original notary. Failing that, it all falls apart and it was all for nothing.
As it stands, we’re about $1500 into those documents in legalization, notary, translation and postage fees altogether. My two trips to Russia this year were largely contingent on us getting married (well, I also really want to see her but the trips were in quick succession because we want to get married). As it stands, there’s a very real possibility that, if the notary is not willing to allow the spelling correction on the translation of my passport on Monday, we will lose the May 29th booking. I will be in Novosibirsk on May 15th with my original passport. By that time, it's highly likely that there will not be a single wedding date available for us.
Part of this was our mistake, mainly towards the end, not thoroughly verifying the accuracy of the Russian translation is something that ended up screwing us. But so many people screwed up. Everyone. Almost everyone I interfaced with either screwed up or gave incomplete information.
-The Russian consul thought I needed a different Canada legal stamp on the marriage letter.
-My translator thought I needed a different Canada legal stamp on the marriage letter. I didn’t. That cost me heavily.
-The ZAGS gave us incomplete information about what documents were needed. They added a LOT of extra requirements: linking the translations, Russian translations and notary. My translator (in Canada) insists that none of these problems would have happened if we decided to get married in Moscow. I don’t know who to trust, I know I don’t trust the ZAGS though.
-The Russian translator made two mistakes in three pages of paper.
-The notary did everything correctly. It's the only person who didn't fuck us over.
-Us... We did everything correctly every time according to the information we meticulously gathered, but the goalposts kept changing. And we let our guard down at the end, assumed the translations were correct.
I started working on this in December 2018, and now all of it hangs in the balance. We need the notary to show up to work on Monday and to be willing to allow a minor correction on the translation. I feel so much anxiety, so much anger at the sheer incompetence that I witnessed in the last few months of my life. I’m so close to being defeated. It’s disgusting.