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China: Visa tales

Just how how hard can it be, asks Sina blogger and freelance journalist Chen Zikun in his August 6 post, for Chinese travelers to get a visa—with Chen's answer apparently being: not too hard—in which he shares the stories behind visas for the many countries he's been to:

第一次出国办理签证前,一直喜滋滋地认为:来自一个经济快速发展的大国,特别是CCTV等根红苗正的媒体经常自鸣得意地报道“中国游客的奢侈品购买力高居世界第一”时,心里的底气就更足了。中国都已经“可以说不了!”哪个国家还敢不会笑脸相迎,顺利给予签证放行呢。

然而,事与愿违……

Until I went to apply for a visa for my first ever trip out of the country, I was always happily under the impression that, being from a country with a rapidly-developing economy, and especially with how smug red-to-the-root media like CCTV are in their frequent reports about how Chinese tourists always rank first in purchasing power of luxury goods. Couldn't have felt better. China had already learned how to say No, thus there probably wasn't any country that wouldn't greet me with a smile, never mind give me a visa hassle-free.

Then, the opposite turned out to be true…..

2003年深秋,第一次办理的出国旅游签证是申根国家的奥地利。要求我提供房产、车产、银行5万存款证明,单位介绍信,介绍信的职能是,汇报我年收入在10万人民币以上,担保我肯定如期归国、绝不滞留非法打工,当然,还要求“如实填写”八辈祖宗的详细履历……

In late fall 2003, the first overseas tourist visa I applied for was for a Schengen country, Austria. They required property ownership certificates, car ownership certificates, proof of bank balance exceeding RMB 50,000, a letter of introduction from my workplace, the purpose of which being to confirm my annual salary to be over RMB 100,000 as well as guarantee that I would return to the country and not overstay my visa to work illegally. Of course, they also needed an “accurate” record of my ancestry going back eight generations….

第二次去埃及和被欧盟一直不齿的土耳其。埃及相对简单,但先决条件也不少,本以为也遭受歧视的土耳其能够通情达理,不料,这个昔日的奥斯曼帝国,对中华人民共和国公民的态度跟欧盟国家一样的傲慢!

My second time was to Egypt and that country long despised by the EU, Turkey. Egypt was fairly simple, but which isn't to say there weren't a fair number of preconditions. Being so subject to discrimination as it is, I would have though Turkey would be reasonable about processing visas. Turns out, the former Ottoman Empire country is just as arrogant toward citizens of the People's Republic of China as it is to those of European Union countries!


话说回来,别责怪人家外国人,自家的香港、澳门也要求你先办理经过严格审核的签证,才可能放行呢。其手续与程序,同办理其别人家一样复杂好繁琐,更重要的是,日后还经常遭到导游的冷眼甚至辱骂。

Having said that, don't be too quick to judge the foreigners. Even our own Hong Kong and Macau require you to first undergo a strict process before they'll issue a visa. The paperwork and procedures involved are just as complicated and elaborate as those required by anybody else, but even more important is that once you do get it, you find yourself constantly stuck with cold glares and even abuse from tour guides.

第二次进入申根国家,是法国签证,照例又是复印一大沓资料以及银行存款等财产证明,再次发誓绝不赖在人家屋檐下,一定如期回来。

My second time applying to a Schengen country was with a visa to France. Per usual, they wanted copies of yet another stack of information as well as proof of financial statements, and again I had to swear that I wouldn't remain anywhere and that I would return on schedule.

毕竟是难兄难弟,越南明显地好客,不费心调查你是否有足够的资产和计较你是否拥有体面的工作,交钱后差不多就OK了!

We are brothers of the same misfortune, after all, and Vietnam is much friendlier, not taking the trouble to check whether or not you own sufficient assets or fixating on the suitability of your job; you pay your money and then you're more or less good to go!

太平洋上的美国托管地塞班岛,虽然有美国有亲戚关系,但美国东家知道中国人再怎么聪明,也无法把塞班做跳板蹦到美国本土,所以手续相对简单,但单位介绍信还是少不了的。

In the Pacific Ocean, Saipan, although administered by the United States, its masters know that even with as clever as Chinese are, there's no way for any of us to use the island as a springboard to land on American soil, and therefore applications are relatively straightforward, but of course that employee letter is still required.

虽然曾经体制相同,俄罗斯实际上也多次尝试给予昔日小兄弟一些宽松,但发现招惹不得,稍有松懈,中国人就非法涌入、大量滞留。屡放屡收的结果是,仅仅比苛刻的欧盟强一点,但有些公证、身份证明一样不少!

Despite the similar political system we once shared, Russia has in fact made multiple attempts to relax procedures for its former brethren, at least until it became clear that each time they did, large numbers of Chinese would flood in and end up staying. The result of this tightening and relaxing has been requirements that are only marginally more strict than those of the EU, and don't forget those notarized papers and proof of identity!

最亲密的盟国朝鲜,对于中国游客的财产证明并不看中,但对职业的审查却极为严格。记者休想进入!但以盈利为目的的旅行社自有对策,把职业一栏随便改成“教师”或“经理”就平安无事了。失望的是,签证是没有“伟大领袖”的头像和他们独自一国实行的“主体元年”年历划分日的期。

Oh-so-intimate North Korea, which doesn't place much emphasis on proof of assets for Chinese travelers; screening based on profession, however, is extremely strict. Journalists, don't even think about getting in! Travel agencies, however, in pursuit of profit, have found a way around this, by changing employment status to ‘instructor’ or ‘manager'. What's disappointing is that visas don't come with a picture of The Great Leader, or stamped with the special Juche year Gregorian calendar unique to their country alone.

马来西亚除了对中国年轻女子(大量性工作者活跃在马来西亚,使所有的中国良家女子也收到牵连)审查严格外,基本网开一面。新加坡也如此,只要有足够的存款证明就成。签证是另外一张纸,不占护照页面。

Malaysia, aside from harsh screening of young Chinese women (large numbers of sex workers are highly active in Malaysia, something which implicates even upstanding Chinese women), basically has its doors wide open. Singapore is the same, although proof of sufficient bank balance is needed. Visas are issued separately, not on a page in your passport.

虽然我们把他们的外交部、国防部、行政院统统打上引号,从心理上安慰自己。但是,在“一个中国原则”下,去台湾比办理去其他国家甚至还要繁琐。至少没有正式开放前的2004年是这样。

Although we put their foreign ministry, ministry of defence and Executive Yuan in quotation marks, that's just to comfort ourselves. Under the “One-China policy”, applying to go to Taiwan is far more complicated than for other countries. At least up until 2004 when things had yet to formally open up.

台湾签证与众不同,套用李登辉的话,毕竟这是“特殊的国与国”关系。幸好我不是军人、党员和官员,审查轻易通过。但去台湾却必须从香港经由第三国才能实现。

Taiwan's visas are different from most, covered in sayings from Lee Teng-hui. After all, these are “special state-to-state” relations. Fortunately I'm not a soldier, Party member or official, so getting approval was easy. Though if you go to Taiwan, you have to go through Hong Kong or another country.

这个第三国就选择了菲律宾。这个东南亚唯一的天主教国家,没有调查我的财产和职业。

For my third country, I chose the Philippines. This the only Catholic country in Southeast Asia, and neither my assets nor profession were checked.

韩国与朝鲜的签证区别明显,首尔机场人员见到我的朝鲜签证时,惊讶地问:我可以用手机拍照吗?

The difference between South and North Korean visas is obvious. When the employee at Seoul Airport saw my North Korean visa, they asked excitedly if they could take a picture of it with their cellphone.

柬埔寨既不担心中国记者的“负面报道”,更不害怕中国黑工的“非法滞留”。甚至落地再办理签证也来得及。

Cambodia is not worried about “negative reports” from Chinese journalists, and are definitely not worried about Chinese people working or staying illegally. You can even apply for a visa upon arrival.

经常被国际社会谴责践踏人权的缅甸军政权,与朝鲜有很多相同之处——都不欢迎喜欢追求真相的新闻记者。

With a military regime so frequently criticized by the international community for its human rights situation, Myanmar has a lot in common with North Korea: neither of them like journalists coming chasing after the truth.

泰国属于少有的几个最容易签证的国家之一,即使没有红衫军闹腾。不过,去那个国家没有兴趣,只不过,首都曼谷是交通枢纽,以这里放射状地飞向缅甸仰光、斯里兰卡的科伦坡、印度尼西亚的雅加达等地。

Thailand belongs to the small group of countries whose visas are easiest to obtain, even when the red shirt army isn't creating any disturbance. Although, I have no interest in traveling there except that the capital Bangkok is a transportation hub and from there one can fly on to Yangon in Myanmar, Colombo in Sri Lanka, Jakarta in Indonesia, and other places.

2005年。印度尼西亚还不对中国公民个人发放签证,必须多花一倍的钱委托旅行社办理才成。

In 2005, Indonesia was still not issuing visas to Chinese citizens; one had to pay a hundred times the normal cost to a travel agent to take care of the paperwork.

非洲的岛国塞舌尔,同另一个印度洋岛国毛里求斯相同,破例可以让中国游客同其他各国游客那样,平等免签进入。这是出入境盖的印章。只是每逢遇到中国人入境,检验就格外严格。

The African island nation of Seychelles, quite similar to the Indian Ocean island nation of Mauritius in that, unlike nearly all other countries, exempts Chinese travelers from a visa. This is the stamp given at the Immigration crossing. When Chinese go through, however, inspection is more thorough than normal.

满以为兄弟的非洲国家一定不会如此歧视中华人民共和国的护照,不料,强国梦在黑非洲照样破灭!坦桑尼亚与肯尼亚同样铁面无私,都必须在北京的大使馆先把签证办理完毕才能动身。幸好乌干达可以“搭车”进入。目前,在东非共同体内,有其中一个国家签证就可以通行。

With Africa full of countries we think of like brothers, definitely anyone with a People's Republic of China passport will not be faced with this kind of discrimination. Nope, turns out the Superpower Dream gets destroyed in black Africa too! Tanzania and Kenya were equally strict in requiring visa processing to be completed at their embassies in Beijing before I could go. Fortunately, I was able to “truck” into Uganda. Currently, one travel throughout the EAC with a visa from any of its member countries.

更有甚者,世界上最不发达国家之一的马达加斯加,在法文的申请表上还特意用汉字注明:本人在马达加斯加期间,保证不非法打工。另一个最不发达国家之一的赞比亚,更是明令规定:包括中国在内的六个国家不能享有落地签证待遇……

In Madagascar, the least developed country in the world, they went and stipulated in Chinese on the French-language form that “this person is not allowed to work illegally during their stay in Madagascar.” In Zambia, another least developed nation, it was much clearer: “China is one of the six countries not privy to visas upon arrival”……

要想获得津巴布韦签证,请记住,同朝鲜、缅甸一样,千万不能透露记者身份!专制政权都害怕舆论开放。

If you want a visa to Zimbabwe, please remember, as with North Korea and Myanmar, do not under any circumstances reveal that you are a journalist! Authoritarian regimes all fear open discussion.

美国签证最为麻烦,要象应聘工作那样先去使馆“面试”和按手印,北京人还好说,新疆人也得不远千里,来北京的秀水街碰运气,拒签后,100美元的签证费不退!不过,我面试时,所以的财产证明人家根本没有看!

American visas are the most troublesome. Like job-hunting, you have to first go to the embassy for an “interview” and be fingerprinted (Beijingers will tell you that Xinjiangers face the same thing when they show up and try their luck at the Xiushui Silk Market), and if you get rejected, you don't get that USD 100 back! Although, when I had my interview, they didn't even bother looking at my proof of assets!

早在1989年,遭到加拿大拒签,没想到,后来竟然去了三次这个国家。不过,第二次入境时遇到麻烦,签证官反复检查护照后,不解地质问:你为什么去伊朗?叙利亚、津巴布韦、缅甸和朝鲜这样的国家?你跟他们军人有联系吗?你见过他们的领导人吗?

Back in 1989, I got denied a Canadian visa. Who knew that I'd actually end up going there three times? Although, I had a lot of trouble the second time when the visa officer, after repeatedly going through my passport and with no explanation, kept asking my: why did you go to Iran? Or countries like Syria, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and North Korea? Were you in contact with any soldiers there? Did you meet with any of their leaders?

印度需要往返机票、1万元存款证明。但只能一次入境和30天期限。最恼火的是印度大使馆很没信誉,极不靠谱,当你按规定的时间去取护照时,往往会毫无歉意地说:“没有办好呢,明天来吧。”

India requires a return plane ticket and proof of RMB 10,000 in the bank. Only one entry is allowed for a maximum of thirty days. The biggest headache is that the Indian embassy is so unreliable—this was extremely uncool—such that when you go back to the embassy at the specified time to pick up your passport, you keep getting the completely unapologetic response of “it's not ready, come back tomorrow.”

尼泊尔是对中国最友好的国家,签证免费,且两天后即可来取。大使馆外门可罗雀,不用排队直接进入使馆内填表。不要财产证明。

Nepal is the friendliest of all countries to China: visas are free and processed in two days. No line-ups outside the embassy, you can go straight in and fill out the forms. No proof of assets necessary.

虽然,我们本家兄弟台湾、香港的游客,能够在申根以及欧盟其他许多国家享有免签厚爱,但安理会五大常任理事国之一的中国,其国民却享受不到这些待遇。去北欧四国时,又带着中国银行至少10000元的存款证明、本人在职证明和年收入证明、单位的营业代码、领导或法人代表的保证签字以及其他个人财产证明等等,来到芬兰大使馆签证。

Although travelers from our own brothers of Taiwan and Hong Kong are lovingly exempted visas for Schengen as well as European Union and many other countries, citizens of China, one of the five major permanent members of the UN Security Council, are unable to enjoy such treatment. When I went through four countries in Northern Europe, I had to bring proof of at least RMB 10,000 in savings at Bank of China, proof of employment and annual salary, my employer's company code and, among other things, a signed letter of guarantee from my leader or a legal representative as well as various proofs of assets, to get a visa from the Finnish embassy.

老挝签证费用130元,条件宽松。

A visa to Laos costs RMB 130 and requirements are loose.

同卡塔尔一样,作为中东最大的中转站,阿联酋的迪拜,也不在护照上贴签证。

As was the situation in Qatar, as the largest transportation hub in Middle East, the visa I was given in Dubai, UAE, was not stamped into the passport.

伊朗是唯一要求女性入境者提供的照片必须是带头巾的国家,不知海湾其他国家有没有类似强制规定的?

Iran is the only country that requires women to wear head scarves going through Immigration, unless other countries in the Gulf have similar forced requirements.

叙利亚,又一个以色列的敌国,为此,这本护照没有用完之前,我不敢贸然去以色列大使馆办理签证。

Syria, another enemy of Israel, which is why until this passport expires, I don't dare head to the Israeli embassy for a visa.

约旦驻华大使馆的工作人员,态度粗鲁无礼,甚至比其他驻华使馆里的一些中方雇员的态度还恶劣。

Staff at the Jordanian embassy to China were quite rude, far more vile even than attitudes of some Chinese staff at any other embassy in China.

蒙古的签证官居然能够把申请者的年月日写错,害得我发现后第二次找他们纠正。

The Mongolian visa officer actually got my date of birth wrong the first time, after I noticed I had to go back and ask them to correct it.

澳大利亚尽管要求必须把逝去了20多年、甚至40多年的父母姓名“如实填写”,彻底调查清楚我的底细,但还好允许一年内多次往返。第二次再去时,免受了一次心灵屈辱。

Although Australia required the names of both parents from the past 20-40 years “written accurately” and fully investigated my ever last detail, in the end gave my a multiple entry one year visa. The second time I went, I was spared the humiliating ritual.

日本虽然不断降低签证的门槛,但中国人要想像港台同胞一样从容第出入东京,还是一个遥不可及的梦想。也难怪,每个旅行团都面临游客中途脱逃的风险,10万现金被旅行社扣押,也依然挡不住脱逃的洪流。

Although Japan keeps lowering its visa requirements, it's a dream still years in the future when Chinese will be able to go in or out as freely as their Taiwan or Hong Kong compatriots. And no wonder, ever tour group runs the risk of travelers escaping partway through; even a deposit of RMB 100,000 kept by the travel company hasn't stopped the flood of runners.

没有与中国建交的不丹,自然不会在护照上留下签证,只是出入境是盖个章而已。

Bhutan, which has yet to establish diplomatic relations with China, naturally leaves no visa in the passport, instead just a stamp when pass through Immigration.

第三次办理尼泊尔的签证,免费时代早已结束。

By the time of my third visa to Nepal, the era of free visas had long passed.

孟加拉要求提供邀请函,没办法弄邀请函,只好委托旅行社办理,费用翻番,有的黑心旅行社甚至提高4倍!

Bangladesh requires an invitation letter, and if that can't be provided the travel agent will arrange it for several times the cost. Some evil travel agents will raise the fees as high as up to four times the original cost!

How does all that that compare to your experiences traveling?

In a final note, Chen writes:

现在,想必大家发现:一个国家的国际地位、国家实力、形象与声誉到底如何,通过办理签证得到了验证。但愿“提升国家形象”的宣传片快快播放吧,别让大陆的炎黄子孙总沦为不受欢迎的三等贱民(当然,有钱有势的人都有了其他“国籍”)。

By now, everyone must have noticed that people one can ascertain the international standing and national power, image and reputation of a country through the process of applying for visas. I hope they hurry up and release that propaganda film which will “improve China's national image” so that the Yellow children of China don't have to put up with being treated like third-rate scum any longer (of course, those with money and power already have have their own other “citizenship”).
  • http://cina.exil.sk Tibor Blazko

    “Syria, another enemy of Israel, which is why until this passport expires, I don’t dare head to the Israeli embassy for a visa.”
    for Europeans is common trick to have more passports

  • http://technoemedia.blogspot.com Mohamed ElGohary

    This is a very informative post! Thank you!

  • http://cnreviews.com Elliott Ng

    John, great post.

    Interesting final point by the blogger: “By now, everyone must have noticed that people one can ascertain the international standing and national power, image and reputation of a country through the process of applying for visas.” I suppose it’s a reasonable reaction, even without a cultivated sensitivity over foreign humiliation.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Palash

      I think Indians do face the same thing often .. although I didn’t.
      But then chinese people are well known around the world for getting their roots deep into developed countries and never going back … by some means or the other.
      I do agree that Indians are also know to do the same .. but for Chinese .. the number of people trying this is way too high …

  • Han-Teng Liao

    Hello,

    You may forget there is one important factor when it comes to visa, in additional to the socio-economic status for screening.

    It is usually referred as “visa reciprocity”. The best example will be the finger-print taking procedures in Iran. It is said that only US citizens will have their finger-print taken (not by machines but by physical prints” because US requires finger-prints from everyone.

    The idea of “visa reciprocity” should not be mixed up with “discrimination” or “unequal treatment”.

    cheers,

    h

  • Han-Teng Liao

    “Although travelers from our own brothers of Taiwan and Hong Kong are lovingly exempted visas for Schengen as well as European Union and many other countries, citizens of China, one of the five major permanent members of the UN Security Council, are unable to enjoy such treatment.”

    Not yet for Taiwanese. It is not true now. Taiwanese need to apply for Schegen visa, with all the documents required.

  • http://www.sirensongs.blogspot.com sirensongs

    Maybe the countries in question don’t appreciate China’s stand on certain human rights issues? Though so many countries mentioned have significant problems in this area themselves.

  • Rachel Page

    I agree with you. Another great post that hits home with me. Thanks. Attorney San Antonio

  • Karen Patrick

    I’ve just gotten a China visa, also multi-entry 1 year, and had none of
    the difficulties you describe. I used VisaHQ, recommended by my
    consolidator. The online form was easy to use, I sent a copy of my
    itinerary with hotels but a simple format, previous visa approximate
    dates of visit, all very straightforward. filing bankruptcy

  • Jenna Major

    We got our Visas at the Chinese Consulate in NYC a year ago, no problems at all. We returned a week later, paid their fee and were given our passports with Visa inside. We didn’t attach a copy of an earlier China visa but included hotel names and dates for our upcoming trip . The form was not complicated at all. The commercial Visa companies’ agents stood in another line next to us, each one with huge stacks of passports to process. Sorry you had such a bad experience.

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