The above photo basically summarizes China’s current feelings on Crank and my presence in their country.
It all started when we got back from our glorious trip to Nepal and Tibet. Because we went to Tibet, our travel agent had canceled our old China visas and issued us a new one that included the permit to enter Tibet. This new, “group visa” (important later) expired just 48-hours after our train pulled in to Beijing, so we had little time to do everything we needed. Tanya, our contact at our new school, explained some of the bureaucratic hoops we would need to jump through in order to extend our visa (including opening a new Chinese bank account. Harder than it might sound), and we got to work.
Less than 12 hours after we stepped off our train we found ourselves at the “Exit and Entry Administration of the Public Security Bureau” office. We get to the visa office. We get new visa pictures, wait in line, are sent to three different people who don’t speak English, and finally land at the most dour and unpleasant woman I have ever seen. Truly, a woman who could curdle milk with the faintest of glances. I explain our case to her, that we had visas, they were canceled, we need to extend them because we are staying in China for another several months. I smile profusely the whole time, thinking it looks like she’s had a long day. After pleading my case, she looks at us with an expression of incredible disdain, and repeatedly screams, “LEAVE CHINA!”. Things did not look good.
After a number of unsuccessful communication attempts we find out that apparently the “group visa” which our travel agent had booked us cannot be extended. We were told we had 36 hours to leave the country or we would face criminal charges, a fine of $200 per day, per person that we were in China, and, of course, imprisonment.
Facing these lovely options we decided to pack our bags and head south to Hong Kong, which, for the intents and purposes of visas is out of the country. There we would have to apply for entirely new “L” (tourist) visas that would allow us to enter China again and remain there for 30 days. Whew. We were told by our school that once we got back to Beijing we would be able to apply for an “F” (business or cultural) visa, which would allow us to remain in the country for as long as our cultural exchange is going on. Of course each time we apply for a new visa we are required to pay a hefty sum of money, so Crank and I are now fairly sure we are holding up the Chinese economy in the face of worldwide economic collapse.
The latest chapter in our visa saga is that apparently starting in March 2009 (Yes. Precisely when we re-entered Beijing) China STOPPED giving out “F” visas. Just to spice things up.
Thus…our Epic Visa Fail is not over yet. Stay tuned for more updates on how long before we actually have to GTFO.