We live in a city of vagabonds. I guess ‘most any big city is like this, but I have the feeling that it’s just a bit more so here. People are always coming and going. It feels like you’re having a coming back or going away party every other day. You get accustomed to it, but you never really get used to it. No matter how many times you do it, there’s always that person that comes along who tears a little piece of your heart out when they go. For many of us that stay, and bear the tide like that jetty full of barnacles, there is something a little less sappy and more formal that we also have to deal with—the visa.
As if it’s not bad enough that we have to keep having that last parting drink, we have to continually go through the pain of scarring new pages in that little book that we, if all else fails, can always fall back on. My old passport looked like it had been in someone’s left boot for a fifty-four hour hard seat train journey. Though it’s near impossible to become immune to constantly saying hello and goodbye, any smart person should be able to figure out the visa process. There are rules and regulations. They are clear and reasonable. You just follow them right? Wrong. While I might be very quick with the lip, I’m anything but smart. Some might even say terribly stupid, amongst other things that this passage is too short to comment on. I keep messing up my visa. I warn you not to mess up yours.
I know the rules and I know what I need, but this month I forgot again. Maybe it was because I was too busy collecting all this info for you lazy people that can’t get it yourselves. Maybe it was because I’m losing my mind. I don’t know. Regardless, I got stuck and paid a huge 4,000RMB fine. When people arrive here, I tell them all the same things: tattoo the date of your visa on your forehead, get tons of those two inch photos taken, and avoid getting married within the first year. Sound advice, so I have been told. Why can’t I remember it? Do yourselves a favor. Get that health check very early, start your paperwork a month in advance, make sure you have that little strip of paper from your local police, and hand in all your documentation with plenty of time to spare. Also understand that it’s not easy to change one type of visa to another. Getting an “F” visa in Hong Kong and changing it to a “Z” when you arrive is just not happening these days. Go to the PSB with plenty of time to spare and just ask them what to do. If you can’t speak Chinese, then ask someone to help you who can. Saying goodbye is not easy. Being thrown out of the country is not good at all. Get your visa done.
By Tim Hoerle