Samstag, 25. Februar 2012

How an intended 2 1/2 weeks vacation in Thailand turns into 1 1/2 months.

I´m back in good (c)old Shenyang, after an intended 2 1/2 weeks vacation in Thailand that turned into almost one and a half months. Worse things can happen than being stranded in this wonderful country for a while, though. So just for the record, I´m not complaining here. Just telling the story why it took so long.

The reason for this "overstay" was in fact the Chinese New Year. As I was in Thailand not only for enjoying the delicious food, the kindness and friendlyness of the Thai people and the nice warm climate, but also for applying for my Chinese working visa - you have to do this from outside China. Unfortunately my future employer didn´t succeed in sending the necessary documents ( an invitation letter from the employing company itself and a permission of the Chinese ministry of labour to employ a foreigner for this particular position ) to Bangkok before the Spring Festival started. And during Spring Festival virtually nobody´s working in China. At least not in government offices. Or in my employer´s office handling the affairs of their foreign employees.

Well, they told me one day before they all went off to their not-well-deserved vacation they unfortunately won´t receive all necessary documents in time before the Chinese New Year. But ensured me that probably the first working day after the golden week (that´s how the one week vacation during national holidays like Chinese New Year/Spring Festival is called), the second at the latest, everything would be ready to be sent to Thailand.

But it took another week, the whole first working week after the holiday, until I heard back from the office that all documents are ready to be shipped the next day. After I had inquired via email without getting an answer two times before. But of course they would sent it via an express delivery service, it should arrive in Bangkok in the next 48 hours. So they said.

It didn´t. Don´t know how they define "express delivery" in China, but it took another five days for the parcel to arrive. Still, five days is not that long for an envelope to be sent from the far northeast of China to Central Thailand, but it can feel like an awful long time when you´re expecting it to be only two days. Unfortunately it also arrived on a friday afternoon, with the Chinese embassy in BKK being closed on weekends. So I lost another two days by having to wait´till monday to finally be able to apply for my visa.

While waiting for the parcel to arrive I remembered another annoying procedure that you in most cases have to endure before applying for a visa for China with an intended stay longer than 6 months: a medical health check. Chinese authorities want to be sure you won´t introduce any STDs or anything else in the country, so officially you have to get your bloodwork and some other stuff (like a X-ray of the chest, for example) done or tested and bring the results together with the application and the other documents to the embassy.

But as in China often the right hand doesn´t know what the left hand does,wants or stipulates, that´s not always a must. Some embassies will let you apply without a health check before, some only want to see a negative HIV test. As they know that in most cases some local Chinese authority won´t accept the test results from a foreign hospital anyway and will let you do all required medical procedures all over again in a local Chinese hospital after your arrival. Which not only means you wasted money for the first exam in your home country (or Thailand in my case), you might also be able to enjoy multiple x-rays of your chest, in some Chinese hospitals still without getting a lead vest to cover the rest of your body.

Long story short, I asked my employer if I would need this medical examination done before applying as I didn´t find any conclusive information on the embassy´s website itself - the answer being a definite "No, you won´t as we´ve already arranged your medical examination here after your arrival in Shenyang".

Boy, were they wrong. After having lined up in the visa application queue for over two hours the following monday I was handed a "medical examination result certificate" by a friendly Thai clerk and told in a friendly, but assertive tone that I won´t be able to apply for a Chinese working visa unless I got this sheet filled out by a doctor and stamped with an official hospital stamp.

Well, took me another afternoon in a fancy international hospital to get all procedures done (this will be a story for itself soon to be read on this blog), but finally I had ALL papers I needed for the visa application.

Unfortunately the next morning the visa queue was twice as long as the day before, so it took me almost three hours to hand in my application - didn´t care at that moment as I was just happy to finally have achieved my goal.

That´s why I had to extend my stay for almost three weeks. Again, I don´t want to complain, it´s not that I waited in my room all the time for the stuff to finally arrive - I had the usual Thailand backpacker experiences, doing fun stuff, enjoying myself in this awesome country, meeting heaps of new people, eating delicious Thai food and so on. This post is just to document what can go wrong when applying for a Chinese visa. Happens quite often, I heard.

At the moment I´m trying to fight off my employer´s desire to send me to the medical check-up he already had scheduled for me. We´ll see if I succeed.....

1 Kommentar: