Apologies for the lack of recent updates. Yesterday I came back from spending the weekend with friends of my girlfriend in Seoul. While I’d love to say it was a trip purely for the sake of pleasure, my visiting there had an ulterior motive. While I love living in Shanghai, sometimes I do feel like they have me jumping through increasingly ridiculous hoops just to stay here.
For starters, the visa: you need a visa to come to China in the first place. My original visa, issued in London, cost around £80 and was good for 3 months – the longest period they’d give me, their excuse being that EXPO was going on and they were giving out many more visas than usual. If I wanted to stay longer in China, I’d have to leave, re-apply for a new visa, and come back. Fair enough, I suppose.
So after 3 months, off I went to Hong Kong and reapplied for another visa. While I tried to get a 12 month visa for the sake of convenience, once again the best they could do was the 3 month dual entry visa (this time their excuse was the Guangzhou Winter Games) – but as an added ‘fuck you’, the maximum duration per stay on this visa was 30 days, instead of 90. This basically meant that while my visa technically allowed me to stay in China for 3 months, I had to leave every 30 days and come back to keep it valid. Keep in mind that China is a big country, and leaving for the sake of leaving is pretty darned inconvenient (and in the case of places like Hong Kong, expensive).
When we went to Bangkok to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday in February, it was time to apply for yet another visa. This time, to my surprise, they furnished me with the visa I wanted – a 6 month, multiple entry. This meant that I wouldn’t have to get another visa for another 6 months, and during that time I could leave and re-enter China as many times as I liked, without having to get another visa. However, sadly (and without good reason), the maximum duration of each stay was still set at 30 days.
So, this is what I’ve been doing. Every 30 days, I’ve been leaving China, in order to stay in China. Purely for the exit/entry stamps in my passport, and nothing else. Without those, my visa would be invalidated, and I’d be an illegal immigrant.
Since return flights to Hong Kong or Thailand are far too expensive to be doing every month, we thankfully found out about Jinmen, a tiny island off the coast of China that is technically part of Taiwan. You can get there by ferry from a coastal city in China called Xiamen, which is about 1000km (~620 miles) south of Shanghai. It basically means a whole day of travelling (subway to airport, plane to Xiamen, taxi to ferry port, ferry to Jinmen, ferry back to Xiamen, taxi to airport, plane to Shanghai, subway/taxi home), a 1200 mile round trip, and costs around £100 (which is about the price of a brand new 6 month visa anyway). This is the most convenient – and cheapest way to do it… that I’ve found, anyway.
It’s a massive pain in the arse, and it just seems to serve no purpose. Why let me stay 6 months if you’re also going to make me leave every 30 days?
Also, whenever I come back to Shanghai, within 24 hours I have to go down to the police station and re-register with them, just so they know where I am. At least that doesn’t require a 1200 mile journey on 4 different modes of transport, but it’s an extra layer of bureaucracy that I’m not particularly fond of.
I suppose I can’t really complain – if it wasn’t for the stupid visa requirements I probably wouldn’t have travelled to Hong Kong, Thailand, or most recently, South Korea in the past 6 months. I also wouldn’t have filled 3 otherwise empty pages in my passport with immigration stamps.
Admittedly, I’m still on a tourist visa – I should really be looking for proper, full-time work over here. If I were to land a job here, they would most likely sponsor my visa and I could forget about all this ball ache.
But I’m also lazy. And if everything was convenient, what would I complain about?
Less whining in my next post, I promise!