"Entry Requirements for Foreign Employees and Their Dependants
FINALLY!!! Closing in on the visa finish line! Got the last doc I need authenticated by the Ch. Embassy. The post office is gonna get to refund me like $50 because their "guarantees" are not really that! Mofos!
BUT... I'll call the visa agent Monday to ensure the docs are acceptable, then overnight them to her. It will take up to 10 biz days to get them back. From there the (veryfrustratingandunreliable) HR Dept will send the scans to the visa bureau in Shanghai for my work permit and PU letter (permission letter that allows me in although borders are closed due pandemic). It could take 2 weeks or 2 months to get those.
Once emailed to me, I can officially apply for the work visa and then start figuring out how the hell to get out of the US and into China, which is a whole other set of regulations and requirements regarding COVID-19 testing flights. But it feels good to be in the home stretch and a helluva lot less stressful!!! I actually might make it into China in August!!! Then I can look forward to 3 weeks of quarantine and hopefully skating into the first day of school on Sept. 1!!!!! YAY!!!!!!! Light at the end of this sodamnedstressful tunnel!
Finally good news in the Very-Alt Universe of Chinese Work Visas: I found a good visa agent.
Some of the document requirements changed and I wasn't aware of this until a few days ago, so I have to get another background check, but I can get that done through Colorado and have it apostilled here as well. Once I receive this and and the other apostilled certificate I'm waiting on back from the Colorado Secretary of State, I'll send both to the visa agency in Austin... then ...
I'll be teaching a completely new-to-me curriculum based on the UK's Design Thinking/Technology curriculum. Luckily for me, it's simply a version of project-based learning with a focus on science, reading, and art with the goal of creating compassionate global citizens who utilize critical-thinking skills in day-to-day life (the PERFECT fit for me!!).
For today, I'm just gonna do what I can do and try to be less anxious about this process. I will get my background check process started, send that paperwork of to the Secretary of State, run some errands, and prepare to leave for my next house sit in the San Juan Mountains of SoCo. I depart on Saturday for another 7-hour, twisty-turny, s-curve drive south. In the meantime, I will try to maintain what little sanity and the keep-on-keepin-on-ness determination that I have left.
It's stressful AF but I'm doing the best I can!
post in progress
work verification letters "english Teacher"
background check FBI apostilled by federal SOS
contradictions lack of instructions, lack of clairty and thoroughness
Each province has different requirements. I have worked in Chengdu, Sichuan, and their requirements for a work permit differ from Shanghai where I will be living and working this fall (2021). Each province has differing requirements for the work verification letters, physical exams, and criminal history checks. If you get a local or state criminal history check, you can get it apostilled at the state level by the Sec. of State. If you go the FBI route, expect 2-3 months delays to have it apostilled by the U.S. Sec. of State. Hire a visa agency that is based in the US and knows the local background check policy, as well as what documents require apostille (University degree, TEFL, background check), vs. authentication. Documents will need to be authenticated by the Chinese Consulate/Embassy AFTER they are apostilled by the state-level Sec. of State. Keep in mind each Ch. consulate is attached to a particular state and the Ch. consulate in Houston, which is assigned several southern states, is closed and those states are assigned to the Ch. Embassy in DC. Authentication takes about 10 days (with help of visa agency) and once your Chinese HR has received your work permit and PU letter, you can apply through the Embassy/Consulate for your work permit to enter China (5 days). Then the hard part begins because now you have to learn the restrictions for flight, get covid tested at a Ch. Embassy/Consulate designated clinic and get a QR health code that allows you on the flight and into China. China now has enacted a 3 week quarantine period as well. Good luck!
Once again, SHITtic will do everything to make getting your money out of the country an all afternoon affair--although as always, the bank agents are polite and helpful. It crossed my mind to tape a bunch of bills all over my body when I fly home, like in the movies. It takes all my effort not to go crazy while sitting in the bank for hours--quite literally hours! Don’t try to use a blue pen for bank forms, because after filling out forms for 20 minutes, they won’t tell you until you are finished, that no, you can't use a blue pen, and then yes, you must fill out the effing form again.
The fund transfer process goes a little like this:
1. Get income and tax form from employer (easy breezy)
2. Get tax form from gov’t Tax Bureau (easier the second time around)
3. Sit in bank for several hours while you: fill out forms, (curse under breath) answer invasive questions as to WHY you are sending money back to your home country (acceptable answer: to pay bills), fill out forms again (curse — but not under your breath), sit and wait for 20 minutes at a time while the rep types in every detail about your life, (continued cursing under breath), sit and fake smile while they take your photo, (another curse under breath), sit another 20 minutes while she types again, (too tired to curse anymore), put in PIN # numerous times into the little PIN machine, (giving up frustration at this point to accept that I'll be here through dinner), wait (impatient again) while the bank exchanges the RMB into USD (which requires two separate accounts, so I had to open an "exchange account")...after waiting an hour, insist you do not want to be here for two hours like you were last time, listen to response “okay, okay”, and wait again while the bank finally transfers the money to the US bank. After the first 45 minutes, try not to verbalize what is going on in your head, or alternatively, walk out in fury.* Finally, realize that this situation is beyond your control and it's much easier to accept the process as bureaucratic, and read a book.
Previously, at the tax bureau...
TAX BUREAU PROCESS:
The afternoon started out surprisingly well as I found the Tax Bureau so easily, found an empty service window, and got help immediately after pulling my Foreigner Card, aka acting (not acting??) like an ignorant and confused expat**. I didn’t have to wait long to get the form, and then I was on my way. I had everything I needed to exchange and transfer money, which is quite a long list:
Meanwhile, back at the bank, sitting at the teller window.
So now I’ve been here over an hour and she is still typing data into the computer.
NOW THEY WANT ANOTHER !*&%@#$%^+ FORM FILLED OUT BECAUSE THERE WAS AN ERROR ON ONE LINE (not my fault) and my signing for the error is not okay. WE ARE NOW ON THREE OF THE SAME EFFING FORMS FILLED OUT BECAUSE OF aaaaaaaargh! However, the clerk said she would fill it out, which is smart, because I can no longer contain my need to curse.
In the time I’ve been waiting, I’ve managed to type this entire blog post. Nothing has actually been accomplished in 30 minutes... just the clerk typing on the computer. F*** THIS. On the other hand, my reaction is telling me I need to work on acceptance and patience! They are doing their job with utmost haste and patience with me. Although I am frustrated, I am able to post it here and not take it out on the innocent bank staff!
I’ve been here now nearly two hours, and the teller suddenly communicates to me that she thinks the form I've filled out (three freakin times!) is the wrong form -- even though we are using the exact same form as last time. Then the staff begins questioning the addresses on the form, even though the form is filled out exactly how the bank manager instructed the first time I went through this hell.
*Important to note that all employees of the bank are exceptionally courteous, friendly, and helpful. Several even speak enough English to help with the forms. It is not their fault that this process is so IDIOCRATIC!
**The Foreigner Card is just like the Blonde Card, though I don’t know if it works with traffic tickets here like it used to in the USA! ;-))
This post is still in process, and has not been edited for clarity or punctuation yet, oops!
Finally! I found a new apartment and I am moving this week. However, just like everything else that needs to get accomplished in China, I have to constantly bring to mind Rule #4: Nothing is easy in China (for non-Chinese??).
We haven't had a Cultural Liaison at school for several months, making everything twice as difficult, despite the fact that our wonderful Asst. Principal is pulling double duty--make that three jobs now-- as Cultural Liaison, IB Director, and Asst. Principal.
That aside, my school offered to help me find an apartment, but I wanted to try on my own first. Luckily, the very first one I looked at was perfect, and through 2 weeks of hassles, it is finally mine! My situation may differ from those finding housing on their own, who speak the language, and handle the contract signing.
I am finally in the apartment, but spent a few nights without gas for cooking and hot water, along with no WIFI. Ugh. I am convinced that speaking Mandarin would have made this entire process much easier; perhaps still with hassles, but minus the frustration caused by pure misapprehension due to my lack of speaking the native language!
WIFI - China Telecom is a(nother) bureaucratic nightmare modeled on the most inefficient and stupid entity one can think of. I officially despise this company and their methods. Three times I visited their office to get my WIFI service switched from my old apartment to my new place. The first visit, on the last day of the month, they claimed I could not make an appointment for the following day because, since it was the end of the month, appointments cannot be made in the new month. Thus, I would have to return the next day, in the new month of September, to have service connected in September.
The second visit was a fail, because they couldn't schedule a time convenient to me and wanted me to come back again, the next day, to schedule an appointment for that day. One of the guys in the shop was also a complete Ahole -- I mean rude! On the third try, I was able to schedule an appointment, but didn't know it because both the clerk's and my translation apps were translating non-sensical words. I could not get the clerk to answer Yes or No to my question: "Is a technician coming to my house tonight or not?" I finally reached my school liaison (who should have been helping me with this all along, but that's another drama!), who told me that yes, I had arranged a technician and they would call prior to coming that evening. Geesh.
Of course, when the techs arrived (two of them) the following day--they could not come that day because they said it would be a two hour job and they were already running late at another job, which was also taking two hours, and by then it was after 6:30pm. Further, they claimed that the router had to be placed in the middle bedroom, not in the living room. After an hour of back-and-forth with the school liaison, a neighbor teacher, translation apps, and both technicians, I finally convinced them to place the router in the living room which is where I wanted it! It was all rather stupid, since the connection box was idiotically placed in the bottom cabinet of the kitchen and they would have to run a wire through the dining room and living room, down the hall, across the ceiling, and into the guest room. So why not shorten the wire and put it in the living room where the WIFI is most accessible to the rest of the house? Who the hell knows My friend had to actually send a video of her set up, which I showed to one of the techs, and he quickly exclaimed: "Oh, okay, no problem!" in English. WTF? In the end, I have WIFI but not TV, which happens to run through the same damn company and is somehow connected to the WIFI set up. There is supposed to be a "box" that enables the cable channels, or something like that, which is missing.
Back to the landlord, who doesn't speak English. (With this comment, I am NOT implying he should--I am the guest in China, and I am the one who should be speaking a second language in their home country, not vice versa.) I can look forward to another round of communication struggles and frustrations, just like yesterday, with the gas problem.
Oh, yeah. There's that... sigh.
Anyway, I have WIFI, so yay!
To be continued... The gas saga...OMFG! Help me!
Wanna transfer money to your stateside bank?
Is your account in China with CITIC aka SHITTIC Bank because it is truly a shit experience. Opening an account takes 3-4 hours for foreigners -- this is not hyperbole!! Be prepared for a long slice of sour-tasting Frustration Pie!
First, you need a tax statement from the tax bureau.
Second, a salary statement from your employer.
Third, your passport (with work/resident permit, of course), and CITIC bank ATM card.
Fourth, your stateside bank's SWIFT code, routing #, address, phone number, and a (yours?) stateside address--assume it's the "billing address" used for your bank statements.
Thinking to myself...Hmmm, I switched my address to China, so now what???
And fifth, and most importantly (!), you need a whole can of ALotOfEffingPatience!!
Details forthcoming... like I said, you need a whole lot of ALotOfEffingPatience!!, even with this blog post!
At SHITTIC, you will need:
August 30 update
I spent two hours of lunchtime at the bank and accomplished absolutely zero. I missed lunch, was late to work, and needed to pee for two hours, and left the bank with the exact same documents and nothing accomplished They must have asked me ten times, "So you want to send US Dollars to your US Bank?" I am not exaggerating! After waiting nearly an hour, sitting at a teller window another hour while I was asked inane questions, such as "Why do you want to transfer this money?" and "What will you use the money for?"; taking pictures of me; asking the same questions over and over again ("So you want to exchange Chinese RMB for US Dollars?", "So you want to send US Dollars to your US Bank?", "So you want to send xxx dollars to your US Bank?", "So you want to exchange xxx RMB into xxx US Dollars?", "So your name is xxx?"...); and typing god-knows-what into the computer, they told me I had to open a different account to transfer money and that the exchange rate in that account is nearly a percentage point less, so I will lose even more money during the transfer.
Money transfer here is an unpleasant, time-sucking experience. Be warned, be prepared! Bring a book and a bucket of patience!
According to the bank, foreigners are not allowed to have savings accounts, any kind of interest-bearing accounts, or investment accounts. That sucks too, because my money will just sit there and lose value as inflation increases. Sigh.
As an aside, you are not allowed to have an iHerb account unless you are a citizen/permanent resident.
This is why I drink in China, LOL!
Felt like hell in the process, but it’s done!
In Texas, I called my Uni, sent them $15, and they mailed me a notarized copy of my diploma in less than 2 weeks. I went downtown to the police station for a local background check, waited 30 minutes, paid $24, and they took my prints and info. Came back 2 days later for the notarized copy. I took both of these down to the Sec. of State (yes, I live in the capital city, so that did expedite this part of the process!), waited less than 5 minutes, and walked out with both my degree and background check apostilled for $15 each.
Florida, oh Florida Idiocracy: a month of phone calls and money and paperwork. Can you believe that for this one sheet of paper (the apostille by FL on my teaching license), I had to get THREE NOTARY STAMPS!!
1) On the the license,
2) on a SEPARATE statement by the notary affirming that their stamp on the license was “true”, and finally,
3) on a letter from me which “describes” the document (apparently FL govt is too stupid to look at a teaching license and see: “oh, it’s a teaching license for so-and-so from the FLDOE”—so I had to write a letter *describing* “this is a teaching license issued by FLDOES for Gina...” (Spokes very, VERY slowly like you are talking to an ESL learner or a 3-year-old) Aargh! But it’s done! Felt like hell in the process, but it’s done!
Blessings and some sort of special universe magic to ya’ll dealing from this abroad... yours is a special ring of hell. Can’t even imagine that, so I got two apostilled license copies so I don’t have to deal with the FL Idiocracy again for some years!
Whoo Hoo! Going to China!!! Countdown 53 hours!
Blessing and some sort of special universe magic to ya’ll dealing from this abroad... yours is a special ring of hell. Can’t even imagine that, so I got two apostilled license copies so I don’t have to deal with the FL Idiocracy again for some years!
Whoo Hoo! Going to China!!! Countdown 53 hours!
Well the stress of all this finally hit me over the weekend.
I woke up and realized I had little more than TWO weeks until I am supposed to board an aeroplane, and I had yet to start packing. It seems like this visa process consumes all days and partial nights! I have no time to exercise, for instance. Yesterday I didn't get to eat breakfast until 11:30 because I had to get the car detailed for the potential buyers coming that morning. The breakfast turned into breakfast/lunch, and then I was never able to get dinner because I was dealing with more car buyers and had to run out to another appointment as soon as the last person left. As much as I need to do and in the small amount of time, I am determined to self-care at least a little and prevent anxiety, which I differentiate from stress... so I went to AFS last night to watch the new David Byrne doc and thank goddess for their egg salad toasts and hot choco!
I have been unsuccessful in finding a shipping company or even a method to get my belongings over to China! I'm hearing horror stories about Chinese customs charging 30% import tariffs on your own belongings, obviously worn clothing and such! Aaagh! It's already going to cost me tons to get my belongings over there, and I certainly don't want to pay imports on personal items I am NOT importing, that will "repatriate" with me if I depart China! I know they want very precise wording on customs forms...just like with everything having to do with the visa---PRC is very OCD!!! (I love China!)
It does not seem like there is enough time to do everything that needs doing and for me to remain anxiety-free and still take care of my self physically and emotionally! I was hoping to be able to work out MORE not LESS once I stopped teaching, but my to-do list grows longer with each call I make, with each informational piece I receive, with each message of advice I receive from the expats in China... aaargh! I can manage the stress to a degree, but when I get to a certain point, I recognize something has to give, and I don't want it to be my sanity and health. I am approaching that line: I am going to bed exhausted and waking up feeling stressed. I want to work out, but it seems if I make time for that, something else is given up--or I just run out of time and then it's noon and I am immersed in a day of tasks! I am going to re-center myself and prioritize my yoga practice once again (a week off, ugh!). I can feel a direct correlation to rising stress levels and decreasing asana and pranayama practice--and being still and calm! Rather, this is directly proportional and possibly cause-and-effect! I have to reduce the social time I'm spending with friends; I just can't afford those few hours right now!
I'm pretty sure I've already spent double what is allotted to me by my new school in reimbursement for the visa procedures. I KNOW I will be spending double what I am to receive for relocation expenses.
Today, I have to go back to the Capitol to get the second copy of my degree authenticated. I will also get my car appraised at Carmax to see if I can get a higher price for it (thanks for the suggestion, DW!). I was supposed to travel to HTX tomorrow to get my visa, but I think it is wiser to wait until next week because of Lunar New Year; they will close Thursday and Friday and I can only imagine the work load they will have tomorrow. I do NOT want to rent a car and drive to HTX more than this one last time!!
It's supposed to rain the night of my Bon Voyage party :-(( which is outdoors on a lovely patio... I'm considering whether I should postpone that as well. I'm due to drive to FTW to visit fam on Thursday or Friday, might postpone that 'til next week as well. If I can get my stuff packed, figure out how to clear customs, find a good flight over... much of this stress will be relieved.
Part of my 50+ item To Do List:
Much to do, but as usual... wo nang sheen!!! I can do it!
Obtaining a Chinese "Z" (work) visa is not the easiest task in the world, thought it is definitely easier if you are in your country of origin. The steps enumerated below are specific to teaching at an International School; are specific to my school in Chengdu, Sichuan; and are designated to U.S. citizenry. From what I have heard through other teachers, requirements are different for each school, different in each province in China, and change frequently as well. For instance, my friend that moved to China years ago did not have to provide the same documentation that is now required.
To be honest, it is not an unduly onerous process, just one that is time-consuming! Give yourself 3 months to complete all paperwork, if you have the time and wish to proceed sans anxiety. Many of us, it seems, have to complete all this on the fly, and so it is stressful! The long duration to get your visa is due to state, local, and federal government bureaucracies taking so damn long (especially the idiocracy in Florida, but that headache is in a previous post!)
First, I will list the documents needed. Next, I will describe how to procure each. Third, I will list cost (to me). And lastly, I'll add the timeline and any other relevant details, and maybe even some griping about the entire confusing process. I'll save that for the end so you can skip it if you wish!
As you wade through this time-leeching, money-devouring, patience-killing morass of document certification, please look toward the future to consider whether you plan to be overseas beyond your initial contract duration (stay at job, get new job, move to another province within China, move to another country). I strongly recommend that you go ahead and obtain two official copies of every required doc (document)! It is a nightmare to try to get this stuff done from abroad (I have friends who can testify to the thousands of dollars and months of waiting); a bad dream of bureaucratic-caused waiting and a sad, sucking sound caused by the black hole in your wallet! Get TWO official, apostilled copies of all required documents. Prepare to carry these to China (onboard, not checked luggage). Scan copies of these documents to keep in your phone for easy access, and print 2 copies as well (do this for all your IDs and credit cards, as if that needs to be said).
Each province in China and each overseas (like USA) Chinese Consulate-General has unique requirements! Check the location-specific website and inform your employer as to which one you will use: www.china-embassy.org/eng/zmzlljs/t84229.htm. Since I'm in TX, I got lucky that there is a Consulate in Houston, only 3 1/2 hours away. All the links I supply below of from the Houston Consulate houston.china-consulate.org/eng/vp/zgqz/t1251843.htm; applicable only to those states that are linked to the Houston consulate. If you are in CO, for example, you are required to to apply through the Consulate in Chicago.
Let's do this! Just say to yourself: "我能行!" (I can do it!)
******START WITH THE FLDOE FIRST IF YOU HAVE A FL TEACHING LICENSE BECAUSE IT TAKES THEM 4-6 WEEKS TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO PRINT A DOCUMENT!******
Notarized, Apostilled, and Authenticated) Documents - START THIS PROCESS ASAP!!!
How certifications differ: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/07/notary-basics-understanding-apostilles
Notary - A state-authorized statement and/or stamp, stating the document is authentic (pictures below). Some notaries only offer a notary stamp, but China requires both the notary statement and stamp: "I certify this is a true and legal document... blah blah blah..." or similar wording, picture below). You must be present for a notary to verify your identity and the document; they ask for ID.
Apostille - Validates the notary stamp/statement so that it will be accepted abroad; can be issued by state or federal Secretary of State; relevant to countries included in Hague Convention of 1961. Texas: www.sos.state.tx.us/authinfo.shtml Federal (US): travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/internl-judicial-asst/authentications-and-apostilles/apostille-requirements.html
Consular Authentication - Additional certification made by a foreign government not part of Hague Convention (like China). houston.china-consulate.org/eng/vp/gzrz/t1253950.htm
**GET 2 OF EVERYTHING SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS FROM OVERSEAS!!
The following items require notarization, apostille, then authentication (in that order!):
Authentication by Chinese Consulate-General
(Please remember the following is specific to the Consulate in Houston, TX - which covers several states. I do not claim any knowledge or experience with other Consulates. You should check the website of the Consulate attached to your state to note any differing requirements.
This is the last step prior to your school applying online for a work permit. Once the above three docs are authenticated in-person at the Chinese Consulate, your school will apply online in China, get the go ahead (5 days), email you back the work permit; then and only then, you head back to the Consulate (in-person) for your Visa!
A few important items to note:
Florida Apostille of your FL Teaching License
(more coming soon, I'm tired of typing... :-)
Other required documents:
Costs (so far!)
Very, very loooooooonnnnnnnngggggggg!