Sweatin’ it out in Suzhou

Despite the repressive heat and complete lack of rain (it’s only drizzled once or twice since I posted about it), the title is pointing more towards a different climate – the Olympic/visa climate.

I’ve been intentionally quiet lately because, to be honest, my stay in China has been resting on a bed of nails.

My visa was up on the 22nd, and until its replacement arrived in the mail the other day, I wasn’t entirely confident I’d be enjoying this sweltering Suzhou humidity much longer.

When Maggie called up the local PSB a couple weeks back and asked about the special travel/L visa issued to folks like me married to a Chinese national, or indeed issued to any foreigner visiting a close family member here, they informed her that it could only be issued for a 30 day period.

This was quite in conflict with what the Entry and Exit Bureau (I swear, I’m not making that title up – it’s printed in big letters on a likewisedly big building) had told us 6 months ago when we asked about the visa. Then they had explained that it would be no problem for us to get a 1 year multiple entry visa.

Understandably, Maggie asked the officer why the change, to which he replied, “Special Circumstances”. My wife, the smart jiaozi that she is, questioned the officer on whether or not the “special circumstances” had anything to do with the rather global sporting event about to take place in Beijing. He, rather stoically, and with no elaboration, simply stated, “No, just special circumstances – but it should be better after September.”

It’s enough to make a guy contemplate the amount of force required to drive a chopstick through his skull.

Later in the week Maggie paid a visit in person to the Entry & Exit Bureau and asked for more details. She was told by a very kindly girl there that it shouldn’t be a problem to at least get a six month visa, despite the “special circumstances”.

However, as we’ve recently moved to a new district, the downtown Entry & Exit Bureau is no longer where we need to go to renew the visa. Now out in the rather ritzy SIP, we need to go to the local office, which evidently exists in its own visa regulation dementia dimension.

The 笑里藏刀 of a woman at the desk grinned politely for the foreigner and treated Maggie like she just stepped off the slow train from Ningxia.

She basically told Maggie she had no right to request this type of visa for her husband because she had no right to live in Suzhou (Maggie, for those that don’t remember/know, is from the north-eastern part of China). Despite Maggie displaying that she had the proper identity card showing her registration in Suzhou, and despite the downtown bureau explaining that’s exactly what we would require, this woman wasn’t having any of it.

Finally, just a hair before Maggie ripped off the woman’s face and fed it to her, the woman caved and told us to fill out the application, maybe we could get a 30 day visa – and that we were lucky she was feeling so benevolent.

After filling out the application we had to wait for our number to come up, which was made confusing as there were two separate number systems going depending on what you were looking to accomplish – normally no problem, but in this case the numbers were running in the same sequence.

I passed the time watching another foreigner hopelessly try to figure out why the woman under the #194 LED was refusing to help him – despite is #194 ticket. Two booths over #194 came and went.

Eventually we got back up to the counter to submit our application to a young girl sitting right beside our Mao’er than thou application hander outer benefactor. The young girl seemed a bit confused by Maggie being from outside of Suzhou, but not at all as hostile as her neighbour. When she wasn’t sure what to do they looked it up in a book and made a couple of calls. Apparently it was entirely possible to get the visa we wanted, but only for a 3 month period – special circumstances and all.

In the end we left the visa office feeling good about things, but dreading what might change between the application being processed and the visa being stickied into my passport. Fortunately the visa arrived by courier the other day and I’ve 90 days before I need to worry about things again – just enough time to catch the opening ceremonies of the Special Circumstances, and then to watch as the whole event withers and fades, leaving everyone with a “what the fuck was the big effin’ deal?” look on their face.

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  1. Pingback: A Son of Dalian | A China Blog on Suzhou Expat Life | The Humanaught

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