Obtaining a Chinese Visa: A tale of stress, formalities and bureaucracy!

Let me ask you a question…

When we gossip about Chinese culture and values, what key elements come to your mind first? If your answer revolves around words such as organisation, control, protocols and command, then the following story will probably confirm the first impressions you had about the people of China!

I am leaving for Asia in exactly 10 days, and my stress level was at its paramount this morning when I was on my way to Ottawa to obtain my visa for permission to enter the Chinese Mainland. There are 3 Chinese consuls in Canada, plus the embassy. They are located in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa. Ottawa being the closest to Montreal, I left at 6:00 AM this morning to be at the embassy around 8:30. I was told beforehand that the visa service was often very crowded, and that is why I should turn up early in the morning. This turned out to be true, as a dozen people had arrived by the time it was 9:00. Only one application booth was available and each application took anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes…

In order to receive a visa that suited my project in China, I applied for what they call an F-Visa. In most countries requiring a study visa, you have to submit to them official letters such as the acceptance letters of the host university, governmental forms filled by the Ministry of Education and all sorts of papers. Since Tsinghua University only delivered those papers to us this week, I could not complete my visa application in advance.

So! Once it was my turn to submit my application to the – I dare say ill-tempered – lady at the application counter, with my gazillion official papers, passport, photos and copies of just about anything I had with me, I must say I was hoping very hard I did not forget a mandatory document at my home back in Montreal, or that I had not made a mistake in spelling my name on any of the application forms!

Turns out I had all the necessary stuff, so I was told to come back at 12:30 (since I asked for a same-day service) to pick-up my passport with the Visa stamped in it. Here’s how it looks 😀

I felt very nervous about this whole story, as obtaining a visa is absolutely mandatory to pursuing my project of the next months. In a way, it was also my first contact with Chinese authorities and official institutions. Overall, the process was very efficient and smooth, but beware if you make a single mistake in your application!

I almost forgot! We are today the 15th of January, which means two things: First, I am celebrating the anniversary of my application to the exchange program of HEC, as it was at this date that I made myself a volunteer to this great adventure. Second, the new promotion of students who are at their first year can now apply for next year’s exchange program! So please, first year student reading this right now, If you have read my post this far, make yourself the greatest gift of your life and apply right now to the program! DO IT! If your not convinced, post your lame excuse on the discussion panel and I will do everything I can to make you think otherwise 😉


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