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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

 

If you don’t find an answer to your question here, feel free to contact us.

 

Membership

 

Questions about using the site. See also: Help using the site.

 

 

Next step. Travelling to Russia


What to expect on your trip, where and when to start, what to bring along.

 Visas and Immigration

How to get Russian visa, how to bring your lady here, costs involved, how fast...

 

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Membership

 

 

Is your service free?

 

Registering a profile on our website is free, as is searching our database and sending smiles and letters. You only pay to open letters from ladies, for which purpose you have to purchase credits. For women all our services are free.

 

How do I buy credits?

 

The easiest way is to purchase them online with a credit card (we accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discovery). Just log in to your profile, go to Membership and buy the needed amount. If you don’t have a credit card, or don’t want to use it, there are other options available.

 

 

What does one credit cost?

This depends on the amount you buy:

100 credits or more: $1 for each credit

55-99 credits: $1.09 for each credit

20-54 credits: $2 for each credit

How will the charge from your company show on my credit card statement?

It will show as "1st International”, possibly with a phone number and/or some abbreviations, for example, "1st Int'l NTW" or "1ST INTERNATIONAL 800-974-6453".

 

What does it cost to open a letter from a lady?

 

This depends on whether she uses the services of a translator and has Internet access at home, as well as on her popularity (the number of men writing to her; the higher it is, the more expensive her letters will be). Prices can vary considerably, but you can always find plenty of ladies whose letters cost no more than a credit or two to open. Once you have opened a letter from a lady, the price for opening her other letters will remain fixed for you.

 

 

How do I exchange personal contact information with a lady?

 

If you want to get a lady’s direct contact details, you will first need to fill out the IMBRA form, if you haven’t done that already (this concerns US citizens only). After that, there are two options. The first one (recommended) is to open 15 (fifteen) paid messages from the lady (the messages that you open before writing to a lady for the first time are free and don't count); at this point you have the right to request her contact details (or your money back, if for some unlikely reason they cannot be provided). To do this, go to her profile and click the button that says "Send contact info request". The other way is to pay a $50 fee, whereupon we will contact the lady and ask her permission to send you her contact details, but note that this money will not be refunded even if the lady refuses to disclose her contact info. Therefore you should make sure you have her consent before you proceed; if you haven't opened at least one paid message from the woman, you cannot apply for this option. Please note that exchanging personal contact information through our messaging system is not allowed, even if you do have 15 opened messages from a lady; if you want to exchange such information with a lady, contact us.

We do not allow contact between members outside our website before they have officially exchanged contact information. Outside contact includes our competitor websites, social network websites, skype, etc. Outside contact violates our Terms and Conditions and may violate the IMBRA law, which may in turn jeopardize a lady's chance to get a US visa in the future and men's chance to sponsor a K-1 visa. It also opens possibilities for fraud. We do not allow our ladies to contact men outside the website, or to respond to men's attempts to circumvent our rules. If you are contacted outside our website by someone claiming to be a lady from the website, please be cautious as this could be a scam attempt. All of the above applies only until you have officially exchanged contact information. After the contact exchange you are free to communicate without our involvement.


What do I find on the Requested Contacts page?

The Requested Contacts page (which can be accessed from the menu on the left side of your control panel) lists the contact details that you have requested. Note that it is updated only after your contact info request has been processed.


Do you offer any discounts?

After opening 15 paid messages from a lady, you can request to have the price of her letters lowered to 5 credits. You are also entitled to this reduction if you have requested the lady's contact information using the expedite service. In case the lady's contact information does not include an email address, the price can be further reduced to 1 credit per letter; however, translation is not provided at this price. If you want to keep using our translation services, the price will have to stay at 5 credits per letter.

 

What is a friends list?

It is not a list of people a member is corresponding with.  To be on a member’s friends list, you have to send them a specific invitation to be your friend, and they would have to to accept it. It can also be the other way around: a member sends you an invitation, and you accept it.  Being a "friend" is a mutual thing.  That means, if some member is on your list of friends, you are automatically on theirs.  You can delete any "friend" from your list by logging into your profile, going to "Communicator", then "Friend members", checking those you wish to delete and clicking "Delete from Friend List".

People on your friends list have access to your private photos, which are protected by your private password from everyone else.

Remember that the list of your "friends" is viewable by any member or even a visitor to the site.  Having a lot of friends on your list or having just a few, or even none, is a personal choice.  Friends listed on members' profiles mean different things to different people.  For some having a lot of friends demonstrates that they are popular.  Some prefer not to list any friends to keep their relationships private. Yet for others listing just one person as a friend means she is serious about him.  Use your own judgement in interpreting the meaning of her friends list or lack of it.  Factor in the ratings of her pictures (how many votes and the average rating), and her popularity (more credits per letter means more people are writing to her).

How can I view a lady’s private pictures?

Private pictures are password protected, so you will have to write to the lady and request the password. It is better to do this after you have already established communication with that lady.

Can I talk to a lady on the phone?

Yes, you can order an interpreted phone call, which costs 1.8 credits per minute (1 credit if you don’t require translation). This should be done in advance, as we need time to contact the lady’s local agency, or the lady herself, and make sure she will be available at the desired time. Please note that  exchanging contact information during such phone calls is not allowed. Read more about arranging a phone call.

Can I videochat with my lady?

Yes, you can order an interpreted videocall. You can make your request by email support@alena-marriage-agency.com or by phone (USA toll-free: 1-866-Y-SINGLE (1-866-974-6453), UK: +44 (0) 2071935504). The price for videochatting with the lady is 2.5 credits per minute. The minimum call duration is 10 minutes, which means that the system will charge your account for the first 10 minutes automatically when you start talking to the lady. Please make sure you have enough credits on your profile account before starting the videochat. We need time to contact the lady’s local agency, or the lady herself, and make sure she will be available at the desired time therefore the videocall should be ordered in advance. Please note that exchanging personal contact information during your videocall will not be allowed.

What is "trust level" on a woman's profile?

The trust level is a credibility rating given to a female profile by our staff. A staff member can rate a profile on one or more of multiple scales: passport scans, live meeting, phone conversation, video, correspondence. Some are rated according to the staff member's own judgement (such as passport scans or phone calls), and others (like correspondence or meetings) according to the feedback we receive from our male members. Combined, these ratings make up the trust level. Each category carries different weight (e.g., feedback on a meeting is more important than the passport scan); the exact formula is complex and classified, so it cannot be used to artificially raise the trust level. A trust level of 100% means that we have received definitive proof that the woman behind the profile is a real person, and all her communications originate from herself. This doesn't mean, of course, that anyone with less than 100% is automatically fake or dishonest, although you should be wary of profiles with a trust level of 40% or less. Note that the absence of a trust level is not the same as a low trust level. A female profile doesn't have a trust level by default and may never get one, unless it gives us a reason to rate it.

How do I know those women aren’t scammers?

 

Scammers are a common problem on dating sites. We realise that and protect our customers by watching out for suspicious activity of our members.  If a member mass mails other members, uses certain words, etc, it triggers a red flag, and we then manualy verify this member. In addition, most of our women are represented by local marriage agencies, where they contact our representatives face to face. Therefore our site is virtually scammer free.  However, we urge our members to use their common sense and notify us of any messages they receive that they belive may be a scam attempt.

Are these women just trying to get out of their country by marrying a foreigner?

Let us be honest: we can't vouch for all of these ladies - and please do not trust an agency that claims it can.  In most cases our people meet those women in person and do some basic checking and screening, but it is impossible to read people's minds (at least the FBI tells us so :). Second, by law to get unconditional permanent residency in the US she has to stay married to a US citizen for 2 years. Add processing time and you get about 3 years before she can leave. That's a lot of time for you to make a good impression on her :) Now, could a person be so calculating as to do this for a green card? Theoretically, yes. But in practice it never happens. In my experience most of the women coming here are honest and truly want to create a family. If her husband treats her with dignity and respect she will stay. However, some guys can be jerks and get what they deserve. Then they cry all over the Internet about how she took advantage of them. According to the official figures, the divorce rate between international couples in US is several times lower than in regular American couples.  

I find it odd that many young girls on your website are looking for a man much older than themselves.  

It is common for Russian women to marry someone older than themselves, which may clash with American stereotypes.  If you are going to marry a Russian woman, you might want to learn how to look beyond those.  Yet you need to be reasonable.  If you are 40 and are looking for an 18-year-old bride, this might be a bit of a stretch, but 22-25 years old is ok. Keep in mind that everybody has their own standards, which may be different from the mainstream. Some women posted on our site may not be ok with a large age difference. They usually indicate their age preference in their profiles.

Are you compliant with the IMBRA law?

Yes, we are fully compliant.  Upon request you will get IMBRA release that you might need for applying for her fiancee visa later.  We are not happy about this law as it puts a lot of unnecessary burden on us and our clients, and we urge you to sign petitions to repeal it (just follow the links below).  However, as it stands today, the law is the law, so we are complying with it. 

Have any of your clients actually found a wife through your website?

Yes, quite a few. You can read their testimonials.

Do you have any printed catalogues?

No. Our database of women is updated every day. Every day there are new members to be added, or vice versa, members that have found someone and therefore need to be removed from our website. In order to have an up-to-date catalogue we would have to print a new edition every day. This would be virtually impossible. Therefore we chose to publish our catalogue exclusively online, and update it daily. Some other companies do distribute printed catalogues, but it is obvious that the information there is months if not years old.

The toll-free number listed on your site is not working.

If you are outside the continental US, you cannot use the US toll-free numbers.  This includes our toll-free main and fax numbers.  Outside of the continental US may or may not include Canada, Puerto Rico and Hawaii.  For example some of our customers in Canada are able to call us on our toll free number, but others can't. If that's the case, please use our regular (toll) numbers or contact us via live chat free 24 hours a day.

What is your mailing address?

Here is our mailing address and other complete and updated contact information.You can forward all correspondence to this address, including payments, orders, and inquiries. 

I haven't received a response to my email inquiry.

Most likely, your email provider has blocked the delivery of our email to you, because of its anti-spam policies. Sadly, many email providers, especially those like hotmail, yahoo, and AOL are blocking a lot of legitimate email messages because they suspect them to be SPAM. With today's enormous volume of SPAM on the Internet, email providers have to take steps to protect their users from huge amounts of unsolicited emails. They use automatic filters or rules by which they sort out messages into 3 categories: ones that should be delivered, ones that get deleted, and a category "in between" for those messages that end up in your "Bulk mail", "Junk mail" or similar folder. We never send unsolicited messages to anyone, yet some of our emails to our customers get blocked. If it does not help or you believe that's not the problem, contact us by phone or online chat and and we will be happy to help you. If you haven't received a response to your question via email, fist thing to do would be to check your "Bulk mail", "Junk mail" or similar folder. If it's there, please click "It's not spam" or similar button in your email program. If you don't see our message in your "Bulk mail", "Junk mail" or similar folder and you are using Hotmail or AOL please follow these instructions to unblock us.

I’ve sent several emails to your ladies and haven't received any responses.

First of all, login to your account and check your messages. Note that the ladies will not be replying directly to your email, but instead their messages are stored into your account.  However, you should receive notifications from us about every message/response received.  If you are not receiving them, please read the answer above to make sure you are receiving emails from us. If there are still no messages in your Inbox, make sure that you have a picture in your profile, and it is correctly displayed. Profiles without pictures get almost no replies.  If you still get no response to more than 3 messages, let us know, and we will try to find out what's going on.

I can not send a message.  The system says I have unopened mail from this member. 

To protect the privacy of our members and to prevent spam, our system does not allow users to send a message to a member from whom you have 2 or more unopened messages.  If you want to send him or her a message, you need to go back to your Communicator and open mail from her or him first.  If you have accidentally deleted those unopened messages, please contact administrator.

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Next step. Travelling to Russia

How long does it take to get a visa to Russia or Ukraine?

If you already have a passport valid at least six months after the dates of your travel, we will fax you the visa support documents within 1-2 business days.  Then you need to apply to the consulate for the visa. Visa processing to Russia takes about 2 weeks for standard processing, but you can pay extra money to have it ready even the same business day.   Add time for mailing the documents to the Consulate and back.  They accept express delivery, including FedEx next day, and can send you the documents back the same way if you provide prepaid waybill. You can go in person to a Russian Consulate in New York, San Francisco or Seattle and get the visa the same day. It will cost around $300. Processing time is a similar for Ukraine visa. 

How safe is it in Russia?

It is quite safe in Russia and other CIS countries if you know where to go and what to do.  It might be somewhat dangerous if you are lost and you are on your own.  If you stay away from unsafe neighborhoods, don't flash your cash and follow just the basic safety rules, you are going to be ok.  It's a good idea to have the woman you are visiting pick you up at the airport and show you around.

Can I bring my laptop to Russia? Do I need an adaptor?

Yes, you can. Yet you may need a simple adaptor. As far as customs office is concerned, there is no restrictions on transporting your personal laptop accross the Russian border. Now about the adaptor. The electricity in Russia and all other European countries is 220 volts (it is 110 in USA). So for all other electronic devices except laptop you will need a step down transformer (an adaptor that changes voltage). Those could be bought at Sears or Radioshack at $20-$30. However, the laptops are the lucky exceptions in that they do not need a transformer, because their chargers normally take in any voltage from 110 volts to 250 volts. There may be laptop chargers out there that would not take 220 volts, however we have not seen one. Please check your charger first, before you fry your laptop ! The acceptable voltage ("AC in") should be printed directly on the charger. However, even if your laptop will take 220 volts, you still need a simple adaptor. The reason is that Russian electrical outlet has 2 round holes, while American plug has 2 flat prones. There is no way to fit one into the other. So you need to buy a cheap ($1-$3) adapter that has 2 holes for flat American prones, and 2 round prones on the other end, to plug into Russian outlet. You can buy these adapters at many places, RadioShack, Sears, or even your local WalMart. Network and phone connectors are the same as in US. All of this applies to all other countries of CIS.

How can I connect to the Internet in Russia?

First of all, if you are staying in an expensive hotel in a major city, they may have Wi Fi connection. Please check with your hotel first. Needless to say that Wi Fi standard is the same throughout the world so you won't have any problems. If this does not apply to you and you have to use good old dial-up, read on. 1. If you only need to access Internet from a public computer (to access Internet, or your Web-based email, like yahoo or hotmail) there is a lot of Internet cafes in almost every city of former Soviet republics. Just ask hotel personnel or a taxi driver. The rate to use Internet cafe is usually about $1 per hour. 2. If you want to connect your own laptop it may be more difficult. Unfortunately neither Russia nor any other CIS country has a nation-wide dial-up Internet provider, like AOL in the USA (for lack of a better example). So you have to find a local provider in the city where you are staying. Again, hotel personnell could help you locate one. You can also find one on the Internet before your trip. You should be prepared to prepay your Internet access in cash, because local providers normally do not take credit cards. The rates are usually $.50-$1.00 per hour. Another option is to take your laptop to the nearest Internet cafe and ask the staff to connect it to the Internet. They are always willing to do so at a regular hourly rate.

Will my radio/CD player/boombox/other electronics work in Russia?

Yes, but you need an AC adapter. The electricity in Russia and all other European countries is 220 volts (it is 110 in USA). So for all electronic devices except laptop you will need a transformer (an adaptor that changes voltage). They are also often called step down transformer. Those could be bought at Sears or Radioshack at $20-$30. We have decent ones for sale for $15 plus shipping. Contact us to order one.

Will my cell phone work in Russia ?

It depends on the provider that you are using. All European providers use GSM standard for cell phone communication, so if you are from any European country, your phone will work seamlessly in Russia. You are likely to be charged premium roaming charges, so please check with your provider. They may have a calling plan that covers Russia so you won't incurr roaming charges.

In USA: Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint use the older proprietary CDMA standard. Those phones WILL NOT work in Russia at all. I have tested it myself. On the other hand, T-Mobile and Cingular use more widely accepted GSM standard, so those will work in Russia. Usually you do not need a quad-band "world phone" as they call it. In Russia the most widely used frequency is GSM 1800. Most GSM phones offered in US market can operate on this frequency. On rare occasions in Russia you may encounter coverage by older GSM 900 standard. To get signal in these locations, you have to have a phone that will work on this frequency. Consult your cell phone manual or call your wireless service provider to find out what frequences your phone can operate on.

Normally with USA providers like T-Mobile and Cingular, your roaming charges in Russia will be about $1.50 per minute, which is a lot. If you need to call a number in Russia from your US cell phone while in Russia, you will also incurr international long distance charges which are also high (alternatively you can use our calling card to at least save on the latter). But there is a better way if you have a GSM phone. It is a bit complicated but you will not only get decent rates for calling Russia and USA, but you will also get a Russian cell phone number without spending a lot. The easiest way would be to buy a cell phone in Russia, but they are expensive there. Prepare to spend about $150 even for a basic one. What you can do instead is buy a SIM card in Russia and insert it in your existing US phone. The SIM card comes with a brand new Russian cell phone number, and if you purchase it in your destination city, you will get local calling rates. SIM cards are sold at every wireless store which are everywhere and cost about $5. There is one last trick though. To prevent their customers from switching to a competitor, T-Mobile and Cingular are now "locking" their customer's phones so that a SIM card from a different provider cannot be used. To use Russian SIM card you have to "unlock" the phone. You can find such service locally (usually in cell phone repair shops) or just type "unlock phone" on eBay.

Russian cell phone providers offer prepaid service only. They do not offer monthly calling plans. Airtime is somewhat expensive, compared to US. Local calls are 5 to 15 cents a minute, long distance calls are 15-80 cents a minute. International calls can be as high as $3 per minute. Calls made from 9 PM to 6 AM are about twice cheaper than daytime calls. You can prepay any amount at any wireless store or any bank. There are also special machines in most supermarkets which accept payments for cellular service. They have English prompts as well.

There are a few cellular service providers on Russian market, and I'd hate to recommend a specific one, but if I absolutely must recommend one to a foreign traveller I would go with "MTS". It's not the cheapest one, but it seems to be the largest, has the best coverage and has wireless stores everywhere. Plus it also operates in Ukraine and other CIS countries. 

How do I call Russia and other countries of former USSR ? How much does it cost ?

In a few words, in most cases, from the US you need to dial 011, then country code, then area code and phone number. The country code for Russia is 7, for Ukraine it is 380, for Belarus it is 375. If you dial direct from your home or work phone without using a calling card, or signing up for a special international call discount program with your long distance provider, the cost may be very high ($2 per minute or even higher). We offer dial-around calling cards that give you very affordable rates to former USSR countries (as low as 4 cents per minute to Moscow, Russia). More detailed information on dialing rules, complete list of country and city codes, and how to buy our calling cards is here

Remember, if you get stuck, you can always call our bilingual operator/interpreter toll-free 1-866-974-6453 and have her dial the number for you. She will stay online and will interpret your conversation in real time. Details on this service are here.

What is the weather like in Russia?

 Russia is a vast country and it's impossible to describe its climate in a few sentences. In fact we have written a whole article about it. But generally speaking, the climate of the central parts of Russia where the majority of our clients travel is not as bad as portraid in movies, and somewhat resembles American Midwest, only a bit colder but less windy. For other parts of CIS read on.

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Visas and Immigration

Do I need a visa to go to Russia, and can you help me obtain one?

Normally, yes, you need a visa in order to enter the Russian Federation.  If you are a US citizen, you certainly need one. You will need separate visas for other CIS countries, such as Belarus. US citizens can enter and stay in the Ukraine for up to 90 days without a visa if they have a valid passport. We can send you the official invitation that you need in order to obtain a visa to Russia, Belarus or Ukraine.  You will then send this invitation along with your passport, consulate fee, and 2 passport-sized photos to the respective consulate in your country which has jurisdiction over your region.

Can you help me in bringing my bride-to-be to my home country?

If you are in the US and are our customer - we can help you with general advice on visas, procedures, forms, etc.  Please read the next answer for the overview of the process and associated costs. Feel free to contact us and we will point you in the right direction.  You should know that we don't have an attorney on staff, and your particular situation may require one.  If you need an attorney, we will refer you to a good one who specializes in Immigration Law and has been working with us for a long time.

What is the process and how much will it cost to bring a woman here?

Note.  The price estimates and visa kits are for the US only. The immigration laws are similar in other Western countries, so if you live outside the US, you can use this information as a guideline.

IMPORTANT: Never send money to people you have never met in person, and even if you have met them, excersize common sense before you trust them with significant funds. Internet scams are common these days, including various visa and ticket scenarios. A lady may claim that she can get her visa and / or plane ticket and be on her way to you if you only send her or some intermediary (like her agency, or a travel company) a certain amount (usually 2-4 thousand dollars). 99.9% of such claims are fake. Read more here. If you are asked for money under any excuse, please contact us for advice before you send it.

Generally you won't be able to bring a woman here until you have met her in person. Her chances of getting a "tourist" or "guest" visa to the US are very slim. The best way to proceed is to apply for her "K" (fiancée) visa.  Note that in order to apply for this type of visa, the immigration law requires that you have met your lady in person. You have to have proof of that (photographs together, tickets, etc). The best place to meet her in person would be her home country. Some of our clients choose to meet in a third country, like Cypress, or Dominican Republic, where Russian citizens do not need a visa. It is acceptible from the Immigration law standpoint, but it opens you up to possible scams, as you will most likely be expected to pay for her ticket (or send her money) in advance.

After you have met her in person, you need to file a petition with the USCIS, known as form I-129F. The petition can be filled out by yourself.  We recommend purchasing a fiancée visa kit from us.  Please contact us to order one. The kit contains all the necessary forms and instructions. You need to file the included petition with the USCIS office having jurisdiction over your state. Processing times vary from state to state, but on average i takes about 6 months for the USCIS to approve it.  The fee as of this writing is $455. After you get it approved, you send it to your lady and she takes it to the US Consulate in her home country and applies for the visa. Add the USCIS fee, postage, visa processing fee and you get about $650 for that step. Contrary to tourist visas to the US, which are notoriously difficult to get, "K" visas are usually granted without a problem, provided that the documents are filed properly, she does not have a police record, and neither one of you has violated any Immigration law provisions in the past (i.e. overstayed a prior "K" visa). If one of you has applied for a "K" visa in the past, it may also be a reason for a denial of the current application.


Most likely she will not have the funds needed to buy her plane ticket to the US, so you will need to pay for that. You do not have to travel to her country again to accompany her, but it would be a nice gesture if you can afford it. A one way ticket will cost around $600-$900. If you decide to accompany her, your two-way airfare could be anywhere between $1000 and $1800, depending on the season and how early in advance you buy your ticket.


Once she arrives, she can stay in the US for 90 days in the "fiancée" status. By the end of that time you either get legally married, or she has to go back to her home country. Neither you nor her are obligated to get married, but you may be financially responsible for her return ticket if things don't work out.


When you do get married, you will need to apply for a permanent resident status for her.  There is a special form for that, and an application fee. When you get to that point, you can give us a call. This is going to set you back about $1000 in fees and required medical tests, if you fill out the forms by yourself.

You should not have any problems with most of the immigration forms, but in certain matters you may require the assistance of an immigration attorney. While our company does not have its own immigration attorney, we can recommend one who is very competent and consults us on a regular basis. His name is Gary Bala, his phone number is (610) 446-VISA. You can email him at garybala@VISA-Attorney.com

What is the average amount of time to be granted a visa for a Russian woman?

The actual process should be within 2 weeks from the time she applies at the US Consulate in her home country, if there are no complications.  That does not include filing your petition.   

Does the time shorten if you throw more money at the process?

For a US citizen obtaining a Russian visa - yes.  The schedule of fees includes expedited service.  For a Russian citizen obtaining a US visa - generally no.  They US Consulate does not offer expedited service, and the waiting times are the same for everybody.

Do you have to marry the women in their home country or can you bring them here in the US ?

We recommend bringing your bride to the US on a K (fiancée) visa and then marrying her here.  This way while she is waiting for her permanent residency papers she is in the US with you.  If you get officially married in Russia, she will have to wait for those papers in her home country.  This process is lengthy, might take as long as 6 or more months, so you really need to take this into consideration.

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