Across Continents

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Fruitful but footsore

Her name was Yan – pronounced Yen she explained. And there was good news. Chances are she’d be able to secure me a fresh Chinese visa for ninety days, sufficient to reach Hong Kong without having to seek a further extension on the way. I’d quite enjoyed visiting the Kazakhstan Consulate, queuing mostly amongst couriers, observing the camaraderie, listening to the banter, the stories. Just the odd individual applicant. Adding to the richness of this venture. But I’d already visited two Chinese Consulates and really didn’t find the thought of a third that appealing. So I’d decided to use an agent.

Earlier in the day I’d retrieved my passport, complete with a fresh visa, from the Kazakhstan Consulate. A brief coffee to revive myself, still struggling with the time difference, and I’d headed off to an appointment at a non-descript Government office across the city. I’d a plan to sort out some travel papers whilst I’d some time on my hands, but success would depend largely on my ability to plead my case. Hadn’t exactly worked at the Chinese Consulate.

I’d found the building without too much difficulty, picking my way towards the entrance through people milling around outside, presumably waiting for their turn to enter. Inside, a lengthy queue, bag search, another line to join, a ticket, more waiting, then eventually my turn to make my request.

It started badly and seemed to get worse. None of my paperwork was in order, the letter of support I had wasn’t acceptable, passport photographs the wrong background. But I was quite convinced my case had genuine merit, so I stuck at it. Then a glimmer of hope. The official would at least discuss the matter with her supervisor, see if anything could be done. A lengthy wait, which I took to be a good thing. The woman – her name was Krishna – returned. Yes, there were exceptional circumstances, yours was a charitable venture. Others would have to consider your request further, no guarantees, but there was a good chance it would be accepted.

I left the office feeling content, a sense of progress being made, even if it had been a little tortuous, the outcome not entirely certain. And even if my request was eventually denied, I’d at least gleaned enough to know how to couch a further go in more favourable terms. I’d then headed off to visit a Chinese visa agent.

So, with my passport entrusted to Yan at the agency for a few days, I was off to meet an old friend with extensive experience of living under oppressive regimes, revolution, frequently travelling to countries devastated by conflict. Wanted to know what she made of this place.

[Author’s note: Using an agent to obtain visas incurs a fee, but saves time and hassle, especially if you have quite a few to obtain. But if you can afford the time, or your funds preclude you doing otherwise, going along to the various Consulates in person is quite a fascinating experience. Sometimes a little frustrating, but an enriching one nevertheless]

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