Monday, August 28, 2006

Visa Woes

It is no small coincidence that the country of China, with all of its paralyzing red-tape has a red flag. I swear, at times I don’t think you could cut through it with Excalabor itself. I am currently in the situation of trying to get my visa (F-visa) renewed, at least until I can get myself down to Hong Kong in a few weeks and obtain a residence visa (sweet, precious Z-visa, how I long for thee).

My visa worries have been helped in the past by the fact that I'm a dual-citizen of the US & UK. When I first came to China, I arrived on a multiple entry, one year F (business) visa. The only catch was that my maximum duration of stay was 30 days, so every month I would be required to fly to Hong Kong (technically leaving the country, although it is the same country) and back. I quite liked the sound of a free trip to Hong Kong every four weeks, but my company didn't like the idea of paying for my vacation each month (honestly, I don’t know why), so my company changed my visa to a six-month, single-entry F visa.

I left China in January to visit the US and then travel around SE Asia. Because US citizens are not the most popular, I almost always travel on my UK passport unless I am entering the US again. While in Bali I tried to get my company to fax me the appropriate documents I would need in Hong Kong to re-apply for a business visa, but unfortunately I was in the jungle town of Ubud and it never got through to me. When I arrived in Hong Kong, I was forced to apply for a K-visa (tourist) and was given a three month, single entry visa on my UK passport (always use UK in Hong Kong because of the former British territory thing). Working in China on a tourist visa is technically illegal, but since I wasn't getting paid yet I decided to claim I was a lost tourist if I was ever caught!

In April I was traveling to Europe, but knew that once I came back to China I would have no entries left on my visa and would be turned away at customs, put on a plane back to Hungary, where I would inevitably become the kingpin of the Eastern European mafia. Years later when I was serving a 15-year prison sentance for raqueteering (running that "protection service" for those Budapest sex shops brought in some good cash), I would comment to my cellmate Igor "The Bone Crusher" Gregorian that I wish I had just renewed my visa and avoided this life of crime. (Come on, people. That was my poor attempt at humor.)

Anyway, I arranged to mail my US passport to my associate in New York, where she processed the visa through the Chinese embassy, gave it to my boss who flew to Paris, drove to Bratislava, and gave me my US passport with a shiny new Chinese F (business) single entry, three month visa. It was like a modern day Pony Express.

Which brings me to my current situation; in three days my current visa expires and I will be fined 100 RMB ($12.50) per day upon trying to exit the country. They will actually bar me from leaving China until I pay up, so it is well within my interests to get this sorted. I was supposed to fly to Hong Kong this week with my boss for business where I would get my glorious resident visa (and not have to worry about this crap anymore), but my boss is still in Europe and we won't be going for a few weeks.

I tried to get a girl who works for Yantai University to process me as one of their teachers, but she said she is unable to do so. Today I had one of my staff working on the problem and found that we can go to the local police station and all would be fixed! Great!

We show up with all of the documents in hand that we think we need and are given a list of additional items we need. One of them says "residence permit".

"I don't have this permit", I say. "How do I get one?"

"Well, you cannot have a visa without a residence permit, so you have this already."

"I do not have this permit. I have gotten a visa many times before without one."

"Well, you need one to get the visa."

"Ok, how do I get the residence permit?"

"Well, you must have your visa."

"I am trying to get my visa, but you won't give it to me without the permit!!!"

AhhhH!!! Are you listening to yourself, woman? Do you hear the Catch-22 spewing forth from your food-hole? Honestly, at times I am prone to agree with my friend Nick that the Chinese are really just trying to invent new ways to f&#* with foreigners.

Oh well... it will be costly, but the only solution may be to force my boss to send me to Hong Kong for a few days. I guess it works out in my favor in the end!