June 20th, 2008

So I’m legal for another year. Well, a year and a bit, actually. The whole residence permit extension process went through without a hitch…. for my two colleagues. For me, well…

I arrived just before lunch time this morning with colleague K to collect our shiny, new residence permits. We saw M on his way out, all newly legal again. He’d had to go in earlier than I could, but as it turns out, not that much earlier. Anyway, he was pretty happy and assured us there was no problem. So in we go. K gets her passport back just fine, but the cashier tells me that although my yellow slip says I have to pay 400 kuai, the computer wants 800, and so I have to go find the duty officer to find out why. The duty officer, of course, is out to lunch, as is the officer who approved my application last Friday, and neither will be back till one.

So K and I trundle off in search of a restaurant. I mean, what else can you do? Anyway, getting a feed sure beats sitting in the police station. After lunch I put K in a taxi and send her off home- she had her residence permit, so there’s no sense in her hanging around any longer than necessary. Then I go back in search of the duty officer.

Well, it’s not that big a deal, as it turns out, just that the residence I was requesting was for more than a year, and therefore twice as expensive. See, even though my current contract runs until July 15, my residence permit expired June 29, and my new contract, and therefore the residence I was applying for, go through to July 15, 2009, putting me over a year….. So obviously my boss decided to save a bit of money last year and perhaps didn’t think things through quite so far as he might’ve. Oh well, he’s supposed to reimburse me, anyway.

So with all this talk of a visa crackdown and people being kicked out of China or not being able to renew past this July 1, I was a little nervous about the whole process. As it turns out, apart from that [ahem] minor oversight of explaining how much extra my new residence permit would cost unless I wanted to chop a couple of weeks off the application (understandable when you’re handling three applications at once, with only one applicant able to speak enough Chinese to handle things, and therefore having to translate for the other two), it was all good. Oh, there was one small hiccup with residence registrations from our local copshop, but that was solved quickly and easily. Actually, I have to say I was impressed with the police officers involved- they were good, courteous, professional, and totally upfront about what we needed, when, where and why- apart from, of course, obvious exception that I’ve already mentioned.

So bright and early last Friday morning I take colleagues M and K in to the PSB Entry-Exit Bureau at Xiaojie Qiao with the materials provided by gk, the secretary of our programme. There’s almost nobody inside, just the cops waiting for visa and residence permit applicants to clear off last night’s Sanlitun and get in to the copshop, a group of apparently German students, a few others, and ourselves. No queue, so we go straight up to the desk. The cop looks through our materials and tells me that if M wants his residence to go through till July 15, it’ll cost him 800, but if he changes it to July 14, it’ll be only 400. M says, well, change it then, we move on. Where’s the residence registration from your local copshop? she asks, holding up an example. They didn’t give us any. Well, call them up and get them to fax it to the desk downstairs, then photocopy it, photocopy all the necessary pages of your experts’ certificates, bring that all up here. Don’t queue up, just come straight to me when you have it all.

Well, it took a bit of explaining to gk, but she figured out what we needed, got it, faxed it over, we got everything photocopied, back up stairs. Oh, says the cop, your school is supposed to stamp the residence registrations here. Nevermind, I’ve checked you on the network, you’re all good, just tell them next time they need to make sure they’ve stamped the forms. Then she zaps us through the computer, prints off our yellow slips, tells us come back next Friday. I ask morning or afternoon? She says it’s all good. I say sweet, and thanks very much. Off we go.

Then today’s minor hassle.

But that’s ok, I’m good for another year and a bit, through till July 15 next year. That’s a huge weight off my shoulders. Now I can relax.

All I’ve got to do is mark exams, fill in the paperwork, then I’m on holiday. And it looks like it’ll be a longer holiday than usual- which should be obvious, but until recently, the boss has been working under the assumption that we’d start back as per usual on September 1. We’ll see.

As for this visa crackdown, much has been written and vented about it already. There’s not a lot more that could be added. All I can say is that apart from today’s hassle with the cost of my permit, the police were totally professional and very good about everything.

Oh, and I can say that it is very hard, if not impossible, to sympathise with anybody who’s been caught working on an L visa. I can’t think of any country that allows people to work on a tourist visa- and no, I’m not counting working holiday visas, they’re a kind of work visa. As for Fs, I don’t know. The system certainly has been abused by some, but plenty of others have used that former grey area to do good, and even necessary jobs. I can see the need for a “freelancer” or “entrepeneur” visa- with the appropriate checks in place to prevent it being abused, of course.

The only thing that really concerns me is these rumours- and the best I can manage is “a friend of a friend”, and although I trust the friend who told me this story, it’s still a “friend of a friend” story- of people married to a Chinese citizen, with a child and perhaps even a house, who’ve been kicked out. In that “friend of a friend” case, he was given 24 hours to leave Shenzhen. Now, without knowing the full story you can’t pass judgement, and I certainly won’t. Even if you’re married to a Chinese citizen and have a child here, if you’ve been working (or otherwise) illegally, you’ve still been working illegally. Having said that, I do think all countries need to tread a little more carefully when families are involved.

Oh, and the crackdown seems to have been rather clumsy, and although it certainly has gotten rid of some who were assets to China (although, most of those who claim that status probably were not), I doubt whether it’s gotten rid of the people who really need to be gotten rid of.

Anyway, I’m good for another year and a bit.

Not looking forward to the next round, though- my passport expires next September. I’m going to have to find out whether I can renew it through the embassy here (past experience suggests that the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade does as little as is humanly possible for New Zealand citizens) or whether it has to be done in New Zealand.

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