The longer I live in China the more I am thankful my parents made the decision all those years ago to move to England. I hear many stories of horrific experiences Chinese friends have when trying to apply for visas to travel abroad.
In the last month I’ve heard of two completely independent stories relating the the Canadian visa centre in Shanghai that I found shocking.
My friend is Canadian but his wife is Chinese and they have a young child who was born here. The list of complaints is quite long and started with the usual ones, such as being incorrectly informed of what documents needed to be presented, resulting in wasted trips back and forth. Fine if you are unemployed, more problematic if like most people you actually work.
When my friend’s wife returned to the visa office with the correct documents, they had to wait for 2 hours with the small child who understandably became restless and started crying as babies are known to do from time to time. The response to this by one of the Chinese visa centre staff was to mutter “I wish I could just slap that baby across the mouth to shut him up”!
Another friend also applied in July for a visa. She has family / friends there so the apllication was classed as “family visit”. For this the Canadian visa office demanded the following:
1. An invitation letter stating the purpose and duration of the visit (quite reasonable).
2. A list showing the number of people in inviter’s household (erm, okay).
3. A copy of the inviter’s citizenship or immigration status document (e.g. Permanent Resident Card – please copy both sides, Study Permit, Work Permit, etc.)
4. Proof of inviter’s income and financial situation in the form of independent, third-party documentation from a Canadian source which is reliable or easily verifiable (seriously??).
When my friend called the visa hotline, she was also told she needed the inviter to visit the visa office in Shanghai. Yes, in addition to providing the items listed above, they were suggesting the inviter fly from Canada to Shanghai to visit the visa office in person! My friend pointed out that this could not possibly be correct but the girl on the phone insisted this was a requirement. When my friend went to the visa office in person, she was told this was (of course) untrue and there was no need for the friend in Canada to fly over.
Throughout the whole process the visa centre staff seemed unsure of the process and constantly referred to the staff manual whenever they were asked a question.
In a word, it was a shambles and my Canadian friend wrote a strongly worded complaint letter to the consulate. Apparently one change has already been implemented as a result : people with infants no longer need to wait in line.
My friend eventually gave up on the friend visit visa and applied instead for a standard tourist visa, which is what you apply for if you know nobody there and just want to go travelling. Surprisingly, it seems easier to get a visa if you don’t know anyone there!
So both friends eventually got their visas so it has all worked out nicely. And this little story is nothing compared to the US visa application story I have lined up for you, so stay tuned!