Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blue-faced rant.

First in a series of unfortunate events, the Chinese consulate delayed the renewal of my passport by a full two weeks. Despite telling me that I would receive it by August 17th, and despite my repeated phone calls when that date came and went, they continued to put it on hold at their office. Their only reason was that the Chicago office, where I applied, did not have Tennessee under their jurisdiction, despite my expressly telling them from the beginning that I paid Illinois taxes for four years, and despite getting the okay from an official during the application process.

By this time, I already had to send an official email to my company telling them to push my start date back from September 1st to September 15th. Frustrating, yes, but it pales to the ensuing mess of getting my visa.

Immediately upon receiving my passport, I shipped it out again to get it visa-approved. At first, I applied for a 6-month employment visa, but they called me from the beginning to tell me that my salary wouldn't be big enough for that type of visa. That was reasonable enough, so I switched my application to a 6-month entry visa. Fee of $113 paid.

The website specifically says that non-US citizens could expect a processing time of 4-6 days. Six days later, I called them asking about the status, only to hear a sleepy voice say, "Oh actually, you're a Chinese citizen, so the processing time is 2-3 weeks."

What? So now, I had to send another official email to the company pushing my start-date yet again to October 1st. By now, this is starting to reflect badly on me.

But surprise, this morning, I received an email saying that my passport has been shipped out with a visa successfully processed, and that I will be receiving it tomorrow in the mail.

What's this? Something happening on time? Dare I say, with some degree of efficiency? I called them once more to confirm, only to hear the same unthinking voice have this conversation with me:

"Your visa was only issued for 3 months."
"Because you're a Chinese citizen."
"But my credit card was charged for the full 6 months!"
"We don't do refunds."
"Can't you give me a better reason for the shorter-term issue?"
"Talk to the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Officers)."
"Will I be able to extend this to 6 months?"
"Talk to the FRRO."
"But I have a job lined up in India! It was you who told me to switch it to an entry visa, and now, that job contract is not recognized in the visa I've been issued!"
"There's nothing I can do about it."

Not once did they notify me that my 6-month request would be denied. Not once was I given the impression that Chinese citizens would be given this impartial treatment. There must be some other legitimate reason my request was denied, but they purposefully eluded an explanation. Instead of trying to help me solve my problem, they point me to another faceless agency whose fine print I must dig through all over again. This entire month-long process of making travel preparations culminates in a 3-month visa, issued from government agencies run by automatons. The worst part of this is how helpless I feel.

I can see how this is profitable for them. They charged my card the full price, and only give me half the product, knowing full well that I'd be willing to pay extra to get the full product like I originally requested. My incentives and the incentives of these government bureaucrats don't line up. Did I mention that the only reason why I didn't want to go for more than 6 months is because I'd otherwise have to pay a ridiculous and unnecessary $450 re-entry permit back into the US?

If I don't get to go to India for more than 3 months, my dreams for the entire past year will have been dashed. This will not be the end of it.

UPDATE// What at first was indignation, now is panic. According to everything I've read so far, it seems like a virtual impossibility to get a 3-month visa extended. I've never felt anger of this intensity, but I simply can't find anywhere to direct it. I'm screaming curses at a towering wall of giant suited men, and they don't give a shit about me. I'm small, insignificant, just another applicant, just another ripple in the stream of paperwork that they sift through, 9-5, every day, every week, every year. This problem doesn't have a face.


Eugenia said...


I'm really sorry to hear about this situation. Please keep posting if you can, to let us know how it goes.

I don't know if it would help to try to contact NU fellowships - even though they didn't directly sponsor your fellowship, you are a recent alum, and they may have dealt with similar situations before and may be able to find somebody to pull some strings for you.

Jon said...

This is the Chinese consulate you're dealing with?

And I guess the Indian consulate for the visa business?