asia 07 September 2016
Getting a visa to enter China is pretty annoying. Even more annoying when your documents are messed up and you are denied a work visa. Let's go back to the beginning.
To begin with, visas are a foreign subject for Americans like myself. I'm very fortunate that my American passport allows me to travel just about anywhere in the world with out a single thought of having to do paperwork before hand.
China is not one of those countries.
Before you can even enter the country, Americans must get an L visa (tourist visa). Because of the short notice of my employment (I has hired and asked to be in China in just two weeks time), there was no time to get the documents together for a Z visa (work visa) so I popped down to San Francisco real quick to get my tourist visa then headed over for training. Technically, this is not illegal. I wasn't being paid at that point so no laws were being broken. The company was putting me up in a hotel which provided meals and I had money of my own saved up so I didn't need a paycheck yet.
Once it was time to start working, I, of course, had to get the proper visa. However, one cannot apply for a visa within Chinese borders so my company sent me to Hong Kong to do so. This was fine by me because the company was paying for it so basically it was like a free, two day vacation to Hong Kong.
Things started out well enough. The day before I left I collected all my documents together and my colleague who is assigned to help us foreign teachers gave me a few other documents necessary for the visa application. I didn't even glance at them, as my fellow foreign teacher had assured me that this particular colleague is great and always so helpful.
So the next day I caught a two hour flight to Hong Kong and headed straight to the visa offices. I happily handed over my documents, feeling confident that everything was in order. I even had extra forms in my bag should they want a more details.
The desk clerk flipped through every paper several times, checking every detail meticulously. On her fifth check she paused and pointed at my work contract.
"There's an error."
My heart froze.
"It says here that your dates of employment are to be from May 25th, 2016 to May 24th, 2016. This is not logical. You cannot apply for a visa with this form. "
I was so in shock by her robotic nature that I simply collected my papers and walked away with out a word. I had no idea what to do. Once the shock wore off I started crying and messaging my colleague to explain the situation.
Several ideas were pitched on how to solve the problem but since I was leaving on Friday morning (it was already Wednesday evening at this point) the only thing we could think to do was email a corrected form to me and hope they accept the copy. I told my colleague several times that I'm sure they will only accept the original document but she insisted that I try anyways.
So the next day, I went straight to the visa office as soon as it opened and tried again with a corrected work contract.
The desk clerk had no hesitations and immediately rejected the work contract, stating she could only accept an original document (as I guessed). So I tried to a appeal to her humanity:
"Please, there was an error. Look, you can see my old work contract. Just a little mistake right? If you don't let me apply, I'm going to have to fly all the way back just for a piece of paper and them come back here and apply all over again "
The desk clerk looked at me in the way that only someone who has been working at a desk for far too long does and replied, "And that's my fault?"
Ooooooooh my god is that girl lucky that there was glass between us because I might have reached across and smacked her in my anger. I think she must have also realized how rude her statement was because she very quickly handed me all my papers and avoided eye contact.
I left the visa office fuming and unable to enjoy what should have been an easy and fun little holiday to Hong Kong.
So that brings us to round two! A couple weeks later, now with the correct documents, I went back to Hong Kong again.
The desk clerk I worked with this time was notably more friendly and human than the people I had encountered previously. She flipped through my papers casually then smiled.
"Ok, come back tomorrow to pick up your passport!"
The anxiety that had been plaguing me for weeks finally subsided. At last I can work and earn money without feeling like a felon! And now with that resolved, I felt at ease enough to do some touristy stuff around Hong Kong.
With this now being my third trip to the island, I had seen most everything so I decided to take a 20 minute ferry to one of the near by islands: Cheung Chau.
How to describe this place? I've never been to Greece but I imagine that if you mashed together Hawaii, Greece, and China you'd come close to capturing the vibe of Cheung Chau. This island has no cars which makes for an incredibly relaxing and quiet atmosphere. And with superb weather, stunning beaches covered in sea glass, and delicious food, I was left wondering how I could move here for the rest of my life.
Tin Hau Temple
So after an incredibly frustrating few weeks, I finally got the vacation I desperately needed!