Reflections on a Wandering Life.....
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
San Francisco. There is only one San Francisco, that's for sure. Got into San Francisco yesterday afternoon from Hong Kong. I am stopping in San Francisco for a couple reasons. The first reason is that Northwest Airlines merged with Delta, so their ticket prices have gone sky high, and they don't seem to have the specials they used to. Eason helped me get a reasonably priced ticket on Cathay Pacific, but it ends in San Francisco instead of Portland. It turns out that I needed to get a new visa for China, so I took it, because I could go to the Chinese consulate directly rather than using a visa service. I felt that that is what I should do, given my situation. If I used a visa service and there was a problem, I would have to go to San Francisco anyway.
This morning, I went to the Chinese consulate to apply for a tourist visa. I did this because I have not made a decision yet about what I am going to do, so I want to get a tourist visa, so that I can go back to China legally. They had told me when I called that I could get a one year multiple entry visa with 90 days each stay. But when I showed up at the office, they told me that this provision was only for Chinese people. The best they could do for me was 60 days each stay. I was not happy about this, because that means that I have to leave the country every 60 days. Traveling in China is pretty cheap, but as soon as you cross the border, the cost goes up.
She asked me when I wanted to pick up my visa. I said, "No. I want my passport back. I cannot accept 60 days." She said she would go talk to the consul. When she came back, she started speaking Chinese to me. The consul had apparently pointed out to her that I had work visas on my passport. Somehow, I knew that was going to be a problem. She gave me a piece of paper and told me that I had to write, "I will not work in China." I wrote, "I will not be employed for the duration of this visa." The reason I put it that way is because if I get a job, then of course I will get a Z (working) visa. But you can't get a legal Z visa until you actually have a contract. I don't know.....sometimes I think I should just level with these folks about how easy it is to get a black market Z visa in Beijing. But I don't want to offend them. If I wanted to get an illegal work visa, I wouldn't have to come all the way to San Francisco. I came to San Francisco precisely because I do not want a visa that was obtained with money under the table. She took the paper to the consul. After a few minutes, she came back and said, "You need to write, 'I know I must obey the laws of China.'"
I had thought I might have to wait four days to get my visa (four working days is the standard processing time), but she said there would be no problem getting it the next day. I think she tacked on a 20 or 30 dollar express service fee. I think if you have never been to China before, and are just trying to get a tourist visa, you could probably get by with a visa service. That's what I did the first time I went to China. But this time my ticket was taking me through San Francisco anyway, and the youth hostel was only 30 bucks a night, so I figured I would be best for me to do it myself. My situation is a little unusual, because I have been working in China. If you have already been living and working in China, and you try to get a visa, they tend to think you are going to be working on a tourist visa, which is against the law. So it helped for me to be able to explain to them what I was doing.