The Application Process Begins
We entered China on 60-day L visas, which I believed allowed us plenty of time to apply for and obtain Resident Permits even with the Chinese New Year Period approaching. The plan was for a business friend of ours to obtain the necessary paper work to enable my Wife to apply for a Z visa, which would then enable her to get a 1-year Resident Permit, which in turn would allow both my son and I to also apply for one. With me so far? Good! Simple enough and very straightforward I thought. Oh how wrong I was!
Prior to our arrival our business friend had obtained and processed much of the paperwork he needed to be granted permission to employ an “Alien”. I do like that term; it conjures up visions of “little green men” running around everywhere, looking for jobs. Why can’t they stay on Mars and find employment there! Sorry, but that is how my mind works I’m afraid.
The Chinese New Year period was now over it left us approximately four weeks for our friend to get his “Certificate of Employment for an Alien”, which should have taken five working days. On the fifth day, which was a Friday, he went to pick up the document(s) only to be told that he had failed to submit one piece of paperwork. Luckily, he obtained the document required and handed in it the same day. Great, we could still make the deadline before our visas expired. Wrong! He was told that it would take another five working days for the documents to be ready. This was where Guanxi proved to be very useful. For people who are not familiar with Guanxi I will explain.
Guanxi is building a people network of connections of, in our case, influence. It is a case of “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”. Guanxi can be built in many ways, it is not necessary money based. You can do favours for someone or give gifts to them, building up trust and friendship. We built up Guanxi whilst holding banquets for influential people over the New Year period, as described in my missive “The Move”.
To continue, my friend made some phone calls to some of his contacts, who in turn, made some phone calls to their contacts (you get the picture?). Eventually, a little later that day, he received a phone call saying that the documents would be ready the following Monday afternoon. Result!
Monday afternoon came and it was time to collect the documents, which were ready as promised. He now needed to obtain a company invitation letter, which is just basically a visa application form to be submitted to visa issuing department in Hong Kong requesting that they issue a Z visa to the applicant.
All the necessary documents were submitted for the process to begin. This is only a one-page document and so we expected this be quite a speedy process. Wrong again! It will take five working days to be processed, he was told. Again, a few phone calls were made and we were eventually informed that the document would be ready the next day. However, the next day came and my friend went to collect the document and was informed that one person in the chain of people dealing with the application was on leave for three days. Apparently, the document has to be typed up, and stamped, it is then passed on to another department for further processing and stamping then finally passed to the Chief of the department for a final red stamp. Anyway, the document was finally ready on the Monday, a full five working days as it was to have originally taken, so nothing was gained. Never mind, we still had a little over a week to get to Hong Kong and also allow us to stop at ChongQing for a couple of days to pick up some desperately needed change of clothes as all that we had with was were only suitable for winter and it had now started to get warmer in Urumqi.
We arrived at ChongQing early in the morning. There are plenty of taxis waiting for trade and there should have not have been any trouble in getting one straightaway. However, the first three or four drivers said that they did not know where the place we wanted to go was, despite it being a very well known “garden” and only a five minutes drive from the station. This, we learned later, was the reason for the taxi drivers “not knowing” the destination because they prefer the longer, more lucrative journeys.
We eventually arrive at our friend’s house, which is literally in a huge garden, and is square shaped and surrounded on all four sides by flats. The centrepiece of the garden is a small man-made pond with stepping-stones leading to a tiny cave like structure in which our son enjoyed exploring and he even managed not to fall into the pond whilst navigating the stepping-stones. Around the pond there are quadri-circular (is that correct?) seating areas, which nestle in amongst the many trees and flora. It is truly an oasis in the bustling city life that is ChongQing and a very beautiful place to live or stay, by anyone’s standard.
Access to the flats are by one of four gates known as The North, South, East and West Gates and are guarded by security guards. The gates themselves consist of a main gate to allow for emergency vehicle access only and a small side gate. The main gates are normally kept locked to traffic, including taxis, whilst pedestrians can freely come and go by the smaller gate.
The entrance we normally use is the North Gate and our taxi pulled up there at around 6.00am. There was a brief exchange of words between the taxi driver and the security guard, which resulted in the guard peering at me through the rear side window. He then proceeded to unlock the main gate and allow us through. My wife explained that the taxi driver had told the guard that there was an elderly gentleman in the back (me!). I know my locks have lost the colour of their youth, but I am not that old, yet! The taxi dropped us off right outside the entrance of the block where we were staying. Our friend’s home is on the fifth floor, or the fourth if you are from the UK. There is no lift, only countless stairs to trudge up. Anyway, we eventually arrive at the front door and are greeted with the usual very warm welcome. We are very tired after our long train journey, but after our previous experiences on such journeys, first things first, “Now, where’s that toilet!”
After staying for a couple of relatively uneventful days in ChongQing we set out to Shenzen by train. It is about a 35-minute taxi ride to the border crossing at Luo Hu from Shenzen Station, mainly due to the traffic. Passing through customs control was the normal easy affair and soon we were in Hong Kong. We boarded the train and eventually arrived at Kowloon from where we took a taxi straight to the China Resources Building which housed the Visa application office to hand in our applications before going onto the hotel. It was about 11:00am when we arrived and with our completed application forms in hand we got our ticket and sat down waiting for our number to be called. There were about 170 tickets before us so we knew that we were in for a long wait. After about 30-minutes waiting I thought, hotel, we have to check in before 2:00pm and judging by our slowly the numbers were moving we wouldn’t be out of here on time. Then I thought passport. If we hand our passports over with our applications then we wouldn’t be able to check in at the hotel! The visa office closes it doors to new applicants at 12:00 and re-opens at 2:00pm. We would not have enough time to get to our hotel, check in and return to the office before the cut of point. So we decided to go our hotel and come back at 1:45pm knowing that we have to go through the entire queuing procedure again.
We arrive back at the application centre at the time we set ourselves. Already there was a queue of about 50 people waiting for the doors to re-open. O.K. we thought that it is not as bad as 170! Finally the doors re-opened and we were on the 7th floor and back in the visa office. We noticed that our number has not even been called yet! Great! Now where is that ticket? Pockets were turned out, wallets and purses searched, to no avail, but we do remember our number. It seems that we have no other option than to get a new ticket and queue again. My wife explained to someone checking the tickets that we were here earlier and that our number had not been called yet, but we have mislaid our original ticket. He let us through saying that we could take a chance that when our number was called we would be accepted by the counter clerk otherwise we would need to come back and get a new one. After five minutes we heard the magic number and proceeded to the counter. They didn’t ask to see our ticket! Relief!
After a few backwards and forwards trips to photocopy documents our forms were finally accepted. I had applied for 90-day visiting family visas for both our son and myself. However, due to only having a short birth certificate for our son, they didn’t think that this would be possible.
The next day my wife went to pick up the visas. My wife finally had her Z visa and both my son and myself had 30-days visas. Plenty of time to apply for residents permits! Hmm… that process will have to be told in another missive.
Until then I would like to add something that my Wife heard whilst attending a seminar in London about doing business with China. She can’t recall the persons name unfortunately and she takes no credit for it, however, I am sure they won’t mind if it’s repeated here.
There are four golden rules when doing business in China:
1: Nothing is impossible
2: Nothing is straightforward
3: When frustrated remember rule 1
4: When things go well, remember rule 2