Barely Legal: Visa Adventures in China

In China, things have a way of always happening at the last minute.  Even though it is not always easy, I have been learning to expect and adapt to this style.  Sometimes though, it still can be really frustrating.  One such instance occurred on Friday, September 18, when I submitted all of the paperwork for my one-year residency permit at the “Ministry of Public Security’s Bureau of Exit and Entry” with only one hour to go before the deadline.  That’s only one hour between me and heavy fine or possible deportation.  Now that’s what I call being “barely legal.”

I know that this last minute rush was not my fault; I did everything required of me and more.  But that’s where my certainty ends.  The difficult part of problem solving in China is actually figuring out where responsibility lies.  My HR representative would be an easy target, but in fact she was usually on my side and sometimes did not get the right information from her sources.  So one might think her sources are responsible, but alas, the rules were likely changing from day to day for them too.  It really seems the only thing one can do is finger “the system.”

When having visa issues, it often helps not to try to find individual responsibility. Rather take a step back and remember that everyone is working within "the system." In case you're wondering, here's what "the system" looks like.

When having visa issues, it often helps not to try to find individual responsibility. Rather take a step back and remember that everyone is working within "the system." In case you're wondering, here's what "the system" looks like.

This was just one of many “challenges” I have faced while getting legal permission to work and live abroad.  The entire process has been a long and cumbersome one.  Over the past nine months, I have spent over $500 on visa related expenses and many hours, whether in Walgreens for pictures or at the US Post Office for mailing, just waiting.  Since January, I have experience the inefficiency of bureaucracy on both sides of the ocean and wondered at the amount of effort we expend to keep humanity divided.

The good news is that the complicated, often ambiguous, and sometimes seemingly irrational legal hoops have now been successfully navigated!  At least for now.  And hindsight is already working to help me make sense of it all.  Lucky for you, that means it is time for a blog entry. 

In the next series I have entitled “Barely Legal,” I am going to recap the major steps along the way in obtaining a one-year residency permit in China.  Perhaps those of you who are considering spending time abroad in a similar fashion will find this series particularly useful.  For all others, I hope you can find it somewhat entertaining.  If not, I apologize if it seems to drag on.  At points it did for me too.  🙂

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2 comments

  1. Hmm, when I lived in France, the visa was pretty easy to get. I think it might be operator error.

    1. Yeah. I remember France being very easy too. It must be the fact that the two countries have tensions. We still talk about China as a communist country. In fact it’s market policies sometimes seem more laissez-faire than the US.

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