How to turn a Heaven into a living Hell:
This missive is essentially a factual piece written to support and advise any Expat’s who need reliable information concerning the new Family Visit Visa. However, I will take this opportunity to relate the full story of my Chinese visa’s, and how their issuance has altered over the last 7 years.
Note: If you are simply here for details of applying for the new family visa, then go to the bottom of the page.
My first Chinese visa was a three month tourist or ‘L’
visa with multi-entry, continuous stay, and was issued at
When I was young the one place in the whole world I
always wanted to visit was
I had travelled in company with Jane our office
manageress, and we had become firm friends over the preceding 3 months. It was
also her first time to
By April of 2005 I had moved to Foshan, and this time
was interested in gaining an ‘F’ or business visa. I had a letter of invitation
from a company I had helped, so headed off again for
Before this adventure I had been chatting for several
months to a lovely Filipino girl called Julie who worked as a housemaid in Hong
Kong, and so we arranged to meet for dinner that evening on
The next day I met my new ‘date’ late morning and we
headed off to
Whilst I could have returned to
My next visa was due in October 2005, and I was
assured that this time I could get a 1-year business visa. With this in mind, I
checked my passport to discover a problem. The authorities required 6-months
valid passport over and above the new visa, and 9-months over and above for a 1
year version. My current passport expired in May 2007, meaning it would have to
be replaced if I went for the 1-year visa.
Before setting off this time I contacted Julie and
asked her advice about short term rental digs in
Therefore a few weeks later I arrive in
After this initial hiccup we actually get on great, and she leads me to my new home for the next couple of weeks, which is down an ally just opposite. Climbing the stairs she apologises for there being no lift, whilst my boy brain is trying to work out how she managed to squeeze her hypnotic curves into such a short, tight, and clinging mini dress?
Reaching the apartment, I discover that it is basically one big room with small separate kitchen and toilet nearest the door. The room has been semi-partitioned to provide two bedrooms that you couldn’t swing a cat in. Gloria has one and I the other. Later I meet 4 of the other 5 residents, who sleep on the floor outside in the main room. My mind is fully open, and I accept everything like water off a duck’s back. Gloria offers me use of her computer any time I want, and suddenly my world is in place. I head out to explore the nearby warren of streets and find a beer + some food.
Wan Chai is a most interesting place, and I recommend any visitor to linger here a while. It is a hubbub of activity at all hours of the day and night, and as international a place as any on this planet. However, my area is for locals and not one many foreigners venture into. I love it! The streets outside throng with market traders in all directions, and it must be many years since a vehicle of any sort has ventured into these remote parts. Amongst the clothes stalls and tat are some rare finds and artisan jewellery. I discover a shop that sells clothes that are actually too big for me! They are having a sale, with one tee-shirt for $HK10, or 3 for $20. I buy 1 dozen and get a further reduction. Making my way around I see what appears to be a very large Park and Shop, which I will investigate later. Meantime I pass by the small parks which dot this area, and see kids playing Basketball and other sports in the recreational areas provided. This place is a real community!
I pass by one of the many typical
Meanwhile I watch the tables to see what other patrons are eating, and decide upon spare ribs in batter and a bowl of rice noodles with crispy fried duck. Totally excellent cuisine, so that’s my local sorted then!
Next day I submit my new passport application before midday cut-off, and am told it will be ready in 12 days time. It was quite easy, and a short walk from my digs. The days then blur and meld together, as I become acquainted with the local area and my new companions. I am invited to share their food, some of which is quite superb. My weird body-clock means that it is not often I take a meal with them, but their version of corned beef risotto Filipino with extra chilli was a very rare and excellent treat.
I do check out the big Park and Shop, and am delighted
to find several types of corned beef in tins from
In-between-times I actually explore Wan Chai greatly, sample a diverse selection of foods, and treat the apartment inhabitants to a meal out of their choosing. I discover they are partial to an odd glass of wine, so take to bringing back a bottle when it occurs to me. This is my way of saying these poor souls are the salt of the earth, and I will always remember their natural humanity, humility and kindness.
Yet all things come to pass; and so it seemed that only a few days later when my new passport was issued, that it was my time for leaving this microcosm and return to my real life. I look back and remember their kindness and open-hearted warmth. God Bless!
Arriving back in Foshan with a 1-year business visa
(Multi-entry, continuous stay; cost: $HK 1, 730), I reflect that I experienced
something few foreigners or residents of
We now move on to September 2006, and I am surprised
to find that instead of a new 1-year visa, I have to settle for a 6-month
business visa. This is because of the Olympics next year, as
My first insight was a very cryptic statement by my
sort-of brother-in-law, Rich; who informed my good friend Dave that I would
have to leave
What I note most about
I wonder what my Filipino friends in
First up is Bank of China (HK) = no funds, refer to issuing bank as card no good. Second is Standard Chartered = no funds, cannot contact bank. And so it progresses. My card is an international visa card, but they are changing the systems so as to include a time cut-off delay, which only HSBC banks do not suffer from. About a mile down the foyer I actually find the HSBC bank = my card works first time, and so does my other card. Hurrah!
The time is now 3.40pm, and I need to be in Tsim Shar
Tsui before 6pm to apply for a new Chinese visa. Today is Thursday, so if I
miss this window, then the 1-working day for process will mean it is ready on
Monday evening, and not Friday evening (my version of tomorrow). The ‘Airport
Express’ is a train that takes 1 hour all told to dump me at the wrong end of
Austin – miles away from where I need to be. I have to use a
I present Jesse with all my papers expecting to receive a new business visa tomorrow. She informs me that business visas are no longer available (Except from home Country), and the best she can do is either a 3-month permanent stay, multi-entry, ‘L’ Tourist visa; or a 1-year Tourist visa with 30 day maximum stay. I choose the 3-month version because of the continuous stay, but may live to regret this decision later.
I had no other reason for being in Hong Kong – apart
from new visa and China transfer, so this visit was not as enjoyable; as
hanging around overnight waiting for the new visa to be ready is not my idea of
fun. I had rung a Hong Kong hotel from
However, still pondering imponderables I wander outside before finding myself bidden by those excellent staff at Café Fontaine – well, mine’s a pint then … and a great evening ensues.
The next day was a drag, as I really didn’t have anything I wanted to do within the time available. I picked up a coffee from some American style joint – it was a Star Buck’s and smoking is allowed in the outside seating area. It appears their boss is another one who is putting personal profit before his clearly stated convictions. If you don’t know, then he operates a total ‘non-smoking’ policy, and staff can be sacked for smoking outside of working hours and in the privacy of their own homes. I consider this as I drink my coffee and smoke a cigarette outside; and consider using the competition in future, as I don’t like 2-faced people, especially draconian bosses.
I later stock up with tinned Bully Beef and Helmans mayonnaise, and wander the streets looking for inspiration. In a nearby side road I discover the hidden delights of Kimberly Terrace, a raised street near the Observatory which is pedestrianised, and full of bars and entertainment venues. ‘Happy Hour’ is the standard 3 to 9 pm and offers buy 1 get 1 free, only it is now 2pm. Oh Well! I amble around and find myself back at Café Fontaine by 2.40. I ask the waitress if it is 3 o’clock yet? … and 5-minutes later she brings me a beer with one free to come when I am ready. Excellent!
I pass the time by chatting to staff and locals, order a Panini with side salad and fries before heading off for my visa just before 6pm. It is waiting for me when I arrive, and so I am quickly out of there. Jesse tells me to check before I come next time, as the visa rules may alter again.
I am staying an extra night simply because I have a large and very heavy suitcase, and my rucksack is even heavier due to containing several heavy parts for Dave that need replacing. I head for China Ferry and buy my ticket for tomorrow, before wondering what to do this evening. My hotel is very near Kimberly Terrace, and the time is right, so I drop by and sample a couple of the bars with their Happy Hour. By 9 I am done, so pick up a KFC en route back to the hotel, where I soon crash into blissful sleep.
Next morning I head out in good time to walk to China Ferry, but it is really hot and the luggage heavy. I hail a cab – who is not ecstatic about my short journey, but he lifted my cases into the boot (trunk) so understands my predicament. I note he allows me to retrieve them from his boot upon arrival at our destination, adding the luggage charge to my fare = fair enough. The Sea Cat is the only way to travel, and once under way I head for the galley to see what is on offer. I order in Cantonese and settle for their home-made pot noodle, which has an egg, meat, and cabbage leaf in it + hot chilli sauce – and enjoy immensely actually. I wash it down with Nescafe instant coffee and Carnation tinned milk (Must be a British thing) and enjoy the short trip.
The 2-hour trip really is so stressless that I arrive fresh and ready to go. I quickly find the free charabanc outside that goes to Foshan, and ask the driver if he can drop me off near my gaff. Having travelled this route before I know it passes just outside my apartment, and I don’t need the hassle of going all the way to the Foshan hotel, only to catch a taxi back again. As we are trying to decide where to drop me off, another (Cantonese) couple ask if they can be dropped at ‘Gui hua fo chong’. He says ‘No Problem’ in English! That’s the one I need also, so it’s a done deal.
The plan works perfectly, and all but one of us get of at the Chinese supermarket and local landmark opposite my home. I am home within 5-minutes, but my girlfriend is out. I fire up the PC and get back to my usual routines…
Over the coming months the visa situation gets
seriously worse. Nobody knows in advance what is happening, and I learn to ring
the day before I am due to collect my next visa. The rules change twice a
month, on the 1st and 15th, with no warning of what is to
come. My next visa in July 2008 is a 3-month tourist visa with 30 day maximum
stay. This in turn means I have to leave
My next visa is actually due at the end of October,
but I have reason to be in
With making so many frequent trips back and forth between Foshan and Hong Kong, I have also got my head around the inter-city bus timetable (Not the direct hotel express ones), and have taken to using the Lo Wu crossing in Shenzhen as my normal route. The last bus back to Foshan from Shenzhen leaves at 9.30 each evening, and is usually not crowded. I usually make the 8.30 pm one. Whilst I much prefer the route by ferry, the last boat sets sail at 6pm, which really isn’t usually on my radar.
My next visa is due late November, and again I go to the same agency, only to find a new girl at the helm who thinks she speaks perfect English. I don’t like her, nor her attitude, which is bourn out when she tries to charge me Y3, 500 for a 2-month visa, or Y7, 800 for a 6-month visa with 30-day maximum stay. That’s almost twice as much as last time, and 10 times more than a couple of years ago. She says it is Beijing policy that all foreigners should renew in home country = Thanks for the ‘Heads-up’ British Consulate – who have made sure to keep a great distance between themselves and current visa issues their Nationals have during this Olympic period. I begin to highlight current visa issues on my website, as the British government is incapable of offering any sensible advice.
Meanwhile I have no intention of paying this much money, so decline her offer. She returns by saying something aside in derogatory Cantonese that I understand, and I return her the compliment likewise. Having caught my hare in the headlights, I leave and begin to look for other options.
Over the weeks previous I had been looking for
alternatives, so decided to give CITS (China International Travel Service) a
try. They run a lot of the coaches and tours into Hong Kong, and throughout
The place I wanted was actually on the other side of
the street, and just down a sideroad. They were actually very good and staff
spoke excellent English. I had 2 choices: A 6-month business visa, 30 day
maximum stay, cost $HK 5, 200. Otherwise it was a 3-month tourist visa, double
entry, 30-day stay for $HK 1. 750. That is two thousand dollars less than the
agency I had been using, and my instincts had proved correct. However, I would
need to produce a new and current Letter of Invitation for the business visa,
which I did not have. I began to walk away with my form before deciding to ask
if there were any other options – seeing as I was living in
Happenstance I retired to Café Fontaine a little later
and got chatting to an Indian guy there. He was also in exports and we chewed
the cud for a while. He (Like many others) had been on the point of completely
pulling out of
I personally made a point of distancing myself from
such ‘offers’, and quite rightly so it proved. A 90-day stay visa is fine for
me until such time I can find any suitable alternative. With the Paralympics
now passed, my chances should surely improve (
This all changed for me personally in June 2010, when
I chanced by an online article from China Daily. Apparently
This new type of visa is especially useful to ABC’s
BBC’s and TBC’s (* Born Chinese, with the first letter indicating country:
American, British, Taiwanese, etc). It is the latter that is most significantly
important, but I will let you work that one out for yourselves, and remain
thankful that by some fluke of chance and sensibility, I and my family in
This visa has significantly changed my life for the
better. Previously I had to plan on visiting
And so as a child I always wanted to visit
However, this ‘bounty’ extended to me having to be
there every 30 or 90 days for no other reason than to get a new visa – and that
sort of took the shine off things. I do love
I will wrap up now and hope I have given you all a little to think about, as we all go about our small and relative lives. It all just leaves me with one small thing to say: