The Visa ordeal – A Christmas wish come true.

The Visa ordeal – A Christmas wish come true.

Chinese visas. What is more nerve racking than trying to attain a Visa for China? Well, try being a Chinese national and trying to get a Visa out of the country!

Believe me, there is nothing worse…

The past few months Jin and me were secretly working on getting him a visa to come visit my family over Christmas in Germany. The journey was hard, lots of hair turned grey, sometimes we were nearly on the brink of collapse, or about to storm the embassy to punch everyone in their faces…

I remember when I came back from China end of July this year. A terrible feeling to leave your loved one behind (again). To make me feel better, my mother asked why we don’t invite him for Christmas. I will be in Germany anyway, and he has never even met my mother, not talking about never even left China before. Ever.

So, we went on the Visa quest. Determined to get it done latest by the end of October (so naive, so naive). Being myself I started a meticulous research on the internet on what documents are required to obtain a Schengen Visa. And dear god, they want a lot! I will write a more detailed post about Chinese Visa another time, so I am not going to go into specific details.

I had all documents together he needed from the German site by mid-August. German bureaucracy can be tricky, but if you know your way around you can get things done pretty quickly. Not so in China.

The moment I told him we are going to try to apply for a Visa, he started preparing. That was beginning of August. But his home town is not a town at all. A village at least. And as they have never ever seen a foreigner, they also have never ever processed any documents for a German Visa. You have to know, before you can get Chinese documents ready to use for a Visa application, you need to get them translated into German, than notarized by the main office in the town he was born, than again notarized by the capital of the province he was born, and then send to the German embassy to get it legalized. That’s the simple version of it. But as those people didn’t know what to do, they did it wrong. And it took them till mid-October to do it wrong. When the documents arrived in the capital of Anhui, Hefei, they realized its useless. So, we had to do the whole procedure all over again! From scratch. And of course you pay, right. You made the poor office people work twice. How dare you give them such a difficult task? If they do it wrong, it’s your fault, so you pay AGAIN.

Second round. This time they managed to do a better job. It was already end of November when the documents reached Hefei. The extremely motivated ladies in the office in Hefei told us, everything is ok, they will send it to the German embassy in Shanghai to get it legalised. “When will it be done?”, I asked. “Why would we tell you? Do we look like we are working here?”, the overly bored office lady. I know people told me, if you get on the visa adventure you need a lot of patience. But, sorry, patience is the one thing I don’t have. Never had. Especially in that situation.

As long as you have no Visa, you cannot book a flight. It’s too risky. And we were running out of time. It was already mid-November. We were still waiting.

Meanwhile, he was also waiting for all those documents I sent from Germany. Mid of August, remember? It is not the first time mail took ages to reach its destination in China. But this time it was ridiculously long! After 13 weeks, and still no mail, I had to redo all German documents, and find a miraculous mail carrier. The only way to get your mail safe to a Chinese countryside? Do it yourself, not by post.

It was already end of November and I kinda gave up on the whole idea of spending my first Christmas with my loved one. We planned for him to come on December the 15th. Even when he finally got the legalised documents, I had not much hope. It was already November 29th, a Friday. So, the earliest he could make it to the German Embassy in Beijing was Monday, December the 2nd! Not even two weeks till the planned arrival date!

And man I can tell you, the people in the embassy are evil. We really had every document you can think of. More than necessary. BUT they still thought of something to make us cry. My invitation letter was not enough with its original signature. They wanted a handwritten invitation letter. Yes, in the digital age of computers and printers, they want it handwritten! I could not find this rule anywhere. That I was really upset seems to be obvious. Within days I had to get that nicely handwritten invitation letter to China. By post? Are you kidding me? The last one never made it. But luck was on our site. A friendly soul took my beautifully handwritten invitation letter by plane to China.

So, the actual date he applied for his Visa was last Friday, December the 6th! My hope was shattered. Again no one was willing to tell us how long it will take to process. And if he gets a visa at all. They told as five days to five weeks, depending on the mood swings of the friendly ladies processing your application. You can imagine that it seemed hopeless to say the least…

Can you imagine my shock when I opened my WeChat today to find a little picture.


I still can’t believe it… We actually made it. And the application went through in less than two working days! Santa must have heard my wish.

This Wednesday is epic. And a turning point. It will be the first time for him to leave China. The first time to go take an international flight over 10 hours. The first time he will visit a foreign country. But more importantly, it will be the first time he meets my mother…

I am not sure who is more excited. Him or me. I guess both equally. He will be coming next week on Monday, I hope (still has to get a ticket).

This visa ordeal turned out to be all worth it; doesn’t even seem that stressful anymore.

Did any of you ever experience something similar? Or was it easy to get a visa for your Chinese boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife?

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Anna Z. is a freelance illustrator and portrait artist in her late 20s, with a passion for Martial Arts and Chinese culture, and is the creator of Lost Panda, a blog to China and Art. Together with her husband, a Chinese national, she writes about daily life in rural China, focusing on cultural and social differences and the joys (and sometimes difficulties) as an intercultural couple. Apart from China related topics, she publishes her artwork, photography, art material reviews and tutorials to help more people discover their creative side. She is fluent in German, English and Mandarin Chinese.

21 thoughts on “The Visa ordeal – A Christmas wish come true.

  1. congratulations :)
    as far as I remember at least tourist visa to China is veeery easy to get, especially in HK through HK and China travel agencies :) I was much more scared to get US visa (yes, my country is the last one in EU zone who needs it haha).
    for my husband to get to Europe is soooo easy, since HK is allowed to go visa-free for 90 days around whole EU zone :) lucky us!

    • Yeah for a European passport holder it’s actually pretty easy to get a visa to China. You don’t even have to go via Hongkong.
      Ha your husband is so lucky. Having a normal Chinese passport it’s so difficult to get a visa, especially for the EU. I don’t know about the US though, I guess the same, right?

  2. That sounds pretty hard. I would say the rule about the handwritten invitation letter is bullshit, I tried looking it up just now and couldnt find anything about it. Sometimes they just love to make your life as hard as possible.

    We had no problems with the visas when my parents in law came to visit us in Finland. They did not even had to go to the embassy in China, they only needed to sent their applications with all neccessary papers to it and voila, they got their visas. Ofcourse there is so much paperwork needed for us, such as income statements, invitation letter (which was typed with a normal signature) etc.

    • I know, right, the handwritten invitation letter is just a way of showing us who has the power… I guess it was so difficult for us because we both don’t have a big income. It seems always to be about money. And they wanna see that you are willing to return to China.

      Maybe next time we go over Finland haha Though I hope now with the visa in his passport it’s gonna be easier next time.

    • Hi! I would love to hear more about applying the visa to Finland. I’m hoping to take my Chinese boyfriend to see my family some day. He might be a husband at that point and guess it’s easier to get visa if you are married?

      • I guess it is easier when you are married but I am not sure how much the whole ordeal will improve.
        For the visa application you need to write an invitation letter which also states the period of the stay of the parents. We had both of our information written in it (full names, birthdays, adress, phone numbers etc). Furthermore we stated in it that we would take care of all the expenses while the parents in law are with us in Finland. For that we needed to send both of our income statements (copies) for the past 3(4?) months. Furthermore this invitation letter had to be certified by maistraati. Then we send that letter to China (a friend brought it there, don’t trust the mail services…).
        After that the parents in law needed the reservation for the flight tickets and travel insurance + the invitation letter and all other papers we gave them to apply for the visa. As they live in Xi’an they did not had to travel to Beijing but could apply for the visa per mail at the Hungarian! embassy in Chongqing. Sounds weird? I think so too but appearently Hungary and Finland have some kind of contract allowing for it.

        I don’t know if I forgot to mention anything yet. At this point we go through all the visa annoyance again as mom in law is coming to visit us early next year for 3 months.

  3. Yeah I hate the matter of money but well, they need some kind of assurance that the person will return again.
    Finland has been rather easy with all the visa stuff, I am already afraid how it will turn out when we move to Germany next year. Beginning of next year my wife can get the permanent residence permit, so there won’t be any surprises for us at least. Only trouble might be to get visas when for example her cousin is visiting us and so forth. Really wish sometimes they would easen up that stuff or develope a more friendly system

  4. Congratulations, Anna! I’ve had my ups and downs with getting visas…though I’ve found that things usually seems to work out fine if you’re married to him. I’ve also noticed that visas have become easier to obtain over the years, so I’m definitely optimistic that with time it will continue to improve.

    • Hey thanks :) Visas are always a hassle, but somehow I think it got more difficult to get visas, to get into China, and to get out. I remember eight years ago, I handed in an application form and my passport and got a three months tourist visa. Now you need a whole lot of documents. But it’s ok because I understand the reasons behind all those new regulations, and most of them are totally justified.

      I hope though, next time we apply for a German visa it will be easier. As of now he has his first visa in his passport hehe

  5. The next time I recommend using UPS Express service. Even in CHina, these guys are… well meticulously fast and crazy. They love China, since in China, at least they are ALLOWED to put as much pressure on people as they went. More so than in their home.

    UPS express would get your letter there in under 24 hours, have it signed and even get every document for you back if you just pay them. It is a bit expensive, but they do their job thoroughly and have enough Guan Xi World wide ;)

  6. Congrats on obtaining the visa just in time!

    My husband and I went back to Austria to get married there – it was his first time in the Schengen area, but after all the hassle we had been through preparing all the documents for getting married, the visa process seemed like a piece of cake (we already had most of the documents ready because we needed them to get married). He had to travel from Shenzhen to Beijing to apply for the visa, which was a hassle, but other than that, everything went quite smoothly (we booked the plane tickets in advance, but you can also reserve them via an agency and get your money back if things don’t work out). My mother did an EVE for him (electronic guarantee letter) and that one was considered enough of an invitation letter (it’s not handwritten and is done via the Austrian immigration authorities which will send it directly to the embassy or consulate in China you’re applying at).

    I’ve heard it’s usually easier to apply for a visa the second time, and fortunately my husband can hand in the application at the Austrian visa application center in Guangzhou instead of having to travel all the way to Beijing again.

  7. I have never had any problems with my visa to China, as it all went through my dad’s company :) Although my fiance who is from China and studying in Glasgow have to apply for a Schengen visa to Norway everytime he wants to visit me.. It’s not very difficult to get it for him as he has a residence permit in the UK. However, the Norwegian embassy has made this really silly rule, the embassy is in London, but they have a office where you can apply for a visa to several countries within Schengen. The only country that stands out is of course Norway.. Never have I been more annoyed. They only allow 5 people to apply for a visa to Norway everyday.. 5 people?!? You can imagine how many Asians studying in Scotland, wanting to travel to other places in Europe just for fun.. So when my boyfriend went to apply for his visa in late November, he was number 6 in line, 2 days in a row.. The second day he decided not to go back home, instead he went outside the Visa office again and started waiting in line for the office to open the next day.. The whole night he had to camp outside to make sure he was able to apply for a visa..Only after 30 minutes of camping outside (it was then 4 pm the same day) the queue of 5 people was already full.. Can you imagine?? What kind of rule is that… gosh .. really made me sooo frustrated. But of course we knew he would get his visa, we just didn’t think it would be that many people wanting to apply for a visa to Norway.. But once he arrived in Norway all the problems were forgotten :D ..

    • Oh my god! Who made up such a rule?! That is so crazy… It’s insane how difficult they make it for people to move freely from country to country. I am glad he got the visa in the end :)

      • The Norwegians…. It’s only for Norway though.. >.<.. Of course, they always want to stand out .. soo crazy. and my bf actually wanted to wait in line after the first day also but then he was number 6.. and he asked some girls if he could get one of their spots, as he actually had plans and a good reason of why he had to go to Norway. But of course as every other Chinese would answer they said no, and their reason was because they wanted to spend some money so they wanted to go to norway to find boys and go shopping… and there he was standing begging them, telling them he just wanted to be with his Norwegian family.. haha poor kid.

  8. Wow how come it was so complicated to get the visa? My boyfriend also applied for a Schengen visa to go to Spain (next week!!!!) and it was easier than I expected. Yes, we had to give a lot of documents, but nothing translated, or legalized, or anything!! We asked for the “visit to visit friends or relatives” and as I was the one inviting him to go to Spain and I work in China I had to give them copy of my passport, work visa, a letter from my company stating my salary and an invitation letter saying that I’m taking him with me on my holidays; my boyfriend also needed a letter from his company declaring that they will keep his job until he comes back, how much money he makes, copy of the hukou, bank statements… Just in case I also made my mum write a letter inviting us to stay in her home (it was just a typed letter, signed and scanned) and I printed my bank statement from Spain (so they could see I have money to spend while we are in Spain haha). They also asked for some proof that we really knew each other so I printed some photographs. And voila!! In just 5 days we had the visa :) I had been concerned that they would deny it because there wasn’t much money on his bank statements but everything was ok!

    • Well, I am great it was so easy for you :) Sometimes there are no problems at all.
      For us however it is another story. None of as has a real job. I am a student with zero income, and he teaches Kungfu in China (which is a low status job). And to prove our relationship we had to get the marriage certificate translated and notarized which is only possible in his hometown. Unfortunately, his hometown is more a village where they never saw a foreigner before, nor did they know how to get those formal documents done…
      Well, it worked out in the end. And we knew it was difficult because our situation is not very favorable. No money, no status, nothing.

        • Yeah though it was still ridiculous and you could see people looking down on us. There was no hint he would stay in Germany whatsoever. First of all I live and study in the UK and second we are already married? What’s to fear? Haha

          • I know. I hate bureaucracy and visa issues. Also in China it is not easy for us… I would like to change jobs but I’m terrified of losing my work visa (not all companies can get you one). And I don’t want to marry in a hurry just to be able to get a spousal visa… (which still wouldn’t allow me to work!! is my husband supposed to support me or what??).

          • Getting married in china has no advantage of obtaining a visa. They still kick you out. I would get six months visa, if the visa guy feels good that day maybe one year. But what’s the use if you cannot work?!

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