It’s really not as bad as it sounds. It’s just the biggest pain in the neck about the visa process here!
The set-up is basically two floors, spacious, with about 8 different rooms you go to for different procedures, and you can do them in any order, avoiding the longest lines as you choose. Each room is very quick:
~Blood pressure and Heart-rate
~Plus a photo room – everyone needs a headshot for everything. They seem to attach passport photos to everything.
All that, plus registering and paying up front, and I was in and out in less than an hour. Not too shabby! These Chinese are very efficient!
Except the place is impossible to find, and no one had told me how much the fee was.
Using our handy Google Maps, we located a route to the address we thought. We spent about 3 hours trekking to that location and not finding the right building.
Then I was sent a different address.
So I spent over 2 hours trekking to that site, only to quickly realize that the intense business district was all wrong, plus realizing the address was for the 23rd floor! Not right at all.
Finally, my would be employer sent me a third address, that at least seemed to be in the same area as the place we went last fall. So, undeterred, Brett and I looked up the easiest route and trekked optimistically beyond the fifth ring road. No dice.
After three hours wandering through the no-man’s-land of the extreme outskirts of Beijing, we hopped on a bus, rerouted ourselves toward pizza, and I asked my boss to help me by providing a car for Monday morning. Because naturally, the place is only open on weekday mornings!
That was the worst part. The feeling of helplessness because, after looking up how to get somewhere, if our directions are wrong we, a) don’t know the language well enough to ask for directions and b) don’t yet have data open in China on our American phones, which means no live GPS. It can be very disheartening.
Again, the exam is simple and quick. However, either I mis-remembered the fee, or they have gone way up! I brought along 300RMB (about $45), according to my memory of the last time. I did not think to take our debit card, which Brett typically holds, because my backup money is in my phone, through WeChat, the Chinese super-app.
When the cashier asked for 502.50, I showed her my 300, and said, “weixin” (way-shin) which is the Mandarin name for Wechat. She looked extremely annoyed as she indicated I needed to go back out to the main counter.
Eventually, with the help of my boss on the phone talking to another staff person there, they finally let me pay the remainder via WeChat.
I'm glad that ordeal is done. Now as long as they can finalize my new visa before it expires in six months!