“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” ~ Ibn Battuta
I am now officially a short-timer and the countdown to China has formally begun for me! Here’s a bit of a recap…
Having completed all the requirements of my employer (which included a criminal background obtained via the local police department or Department of Justice, a complete medical physical including an EKG, lung x-ray for Tuberculosis, blood panel for HIV/AIDS, and all certified by a doctor), I waited with anticipation for the next steps from my employer. Next steps included approval of my request for Z-visa (expert working visa) from the national Chinese government and the local municipality, all of which my employer filed for on my behalf. The wait seemed a life-time, which was really only about seven weeks, and when I received the email of the approval it was just a couple of days before the courier delivered the documents to my door!
The documents were sent in duplicate, all complete with the official government stamp, and they were all in Chinese! I could make out a few things because there was also a copy of the formal job offer from my employer. The next day, I headed to my local Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco, and waited four hours to present my passport along with my Chinese government approval documents, and my identification to the Consulate’s representative. My passport was taken (with an additional passport photo, a photo copy of my driver’s license and passport) and then I was given a receipt and told to return in a week to pick up my passport, complete with the visa (same day service was not an option, which would have been ideal for me).
During my four-hour wait at the Consulate General’s location, I met other American’s with promises of employment in various cities in China to teach! What was interesting is that, these ladies were there to have their university diplomas verified and certified by the Consulate General for their prospective employers. I have since learned that the Chinese government is quite strict on who they approve for coming in to China to work. I also learned what a valuable partnership I had working with ELS Suite. They represented me to employers, which for me, was the best scenario. ELS Suite advised me on what exact visa I would to avoid any challenges (Z-Visa, expert working visa), what to expect in the interview process, and then beyond. The team at ELS remained in contact with me every step of the way, which gave me confidence working from a distance and by electronic means (Skype video and email) meeting my employer. It was clear to me what was required and what next steps would be, and also, I had an introduction to potential employers! I definitely recommend working with a recruiter in this case.
A bit more than a week after dropping my passport and docs at the Consulate’s office, I returned to find it was a holiday and the Consulate was closed! This wasn’t noted on their website, but I did find there was a holiday upcoming by reviewing Chinese holidays! There were several of us caught unawares of the closure, but not all was lost. I ended up spending the day in one of my favorite cities doing a few things for the last time (for some time). I returned the next week and was able to pick up my passport with visa!
Since I’m chronicling the beginning of my travels, I wanted to take snaps inside the Consulate, which I learned was not allowed… prior to learning this rule, I did manage to snap a couple of photos! This rule was not posted anywhere, though when I asked the agent taking my payment if I could have a photo of her giving me my passport, she told me sternly that no photos were allowed inside the Consulate. This is a reminder of courtesy as a guest in another country and possibly a security issue, too, a heads up for you. This Consulate space is quite small for the number of people they see each day.
Finally, having my passport with visa, I contacted my employer, English First Zhengzhou, and the team that has been working with me these past few months. I let them know I had my visa in hand and to also asked about my accommodations and airport pick-up.
Part of my package with English First included a choice between company provided lodging (which included all security deposits and help establishing with internet), or a stipend towards accommodations that I would find and negotiate on my own. I chose the company provided accommodations which will be in a government approved foreigner location (meaning they are registered with the government for foreign residents, the property has required surveillance, western style toilets, and that overall the property represents China in a positive way to an outsider). The flat will come furnished with basic furniture, bedding, and kitchen supplies. The style could be a studio, a single bedroom, or a two bedroom shared with another teacher; I am flexible with any of the scenarios. Letting the team in Zhengzhou know I had my visa, I was hopeful to learn what my new address would be…my team in China secures accommodations a few days prior to my arrival, so I’ll learn my address when I arrive (possibly before I leave).
My package with my employer also includes someone to meet me at the airport to help me navigate the city to my flat for the first time. The team responded promptly and advised me of a possible delay in customs, that the officials may want verbal verification of my employment. The team included telephone numbers for me in case this occurs and confirmed that someone will be waiting for me, when I make it through customs and baggage claim, to take me to my flat.
So, I am beside myself with anticipation of the whole airport experience here and in Asia, as well as my transitional flight in Taipei. I have ten days and counting till my journey begins in earnest and then on to my city, Zhengzhou, in China!