For the first part of our journey we decided to book the Trans Siberian railway route from Russia through Mongolia to China. Seems simple enough right? To make our lives even simpler we decided to book through a travel agency. Yes, we know we could get it slightly cheaper by booking everything ourselves but when you are working crazy London hours with barely enough time to sleep and eat – an agency was the best option for us. So we booked all the tickets and visas with Real Russia who were fantastic and helped us sort out our itinerary. They are a really friendly bunch and very organised, and as far as I understood it, everything was sorted out and all we needed to do was wait and receive our train tickets and visas in the post…
A month before we leave I get a call from Real Russia…I am full of dread. Yes, we have all the visas apart from one. My Chinese Tourist Visa. Neil had all of this visas approved without a problem, however there seemed to be an issue with mine. *Cue panic* as far as Real Russia understood it, it was because I was born in Hong Kong and for some reason the Chinese consulate had trouble understanding that I was actually a British citizen. They decided to believe instead that I was a Chinese citizen trying to get into China on a tourist visa *cue confusion* as they seemed to have totally ignored the fact I had presented them a British passport and not a Chinese one! Maybe they thought I was a terrorist? I don’t know…
So that was that. My first application was rejected. Real Russia were great, they just refunded my application money for that and the only thing I could do was to apply myself directly through the Chinese Visa Application Centre in London. So I filled in the application form as before, but this time calling the Visa centre first for advice about my situation. They reassured me that it would be fine this time, I just need to bring my birth certificate, scans of my parent’s British passports and a letter to explain my situation. So I fill in the application form, submit online and book in an appointment to go to the centre. All seemed quite straightforward. Panic had subsided.
So the following week I had an appointment to go to the Visa Centre. The lady at the counter looked through my documents and looked confused. “Where is your Chinese passport or Hong Kong ID card?” and I reply “I don’t have one, as I explained on the phone, I am a naturalised British citizen.” Great, it seems like it’s not so straightforward after all. She doesn’t know what to do with me so I was passed onto one of her colleagues instead. I am then told that they will reject my visa application on the grounds that I don’t have any Chinese ID. I explain that I don’t have any other than my birth certificate and that my British passport should be proof enough that I am British! Plus they were the ones who told me what documents I had to bring. So the visa centre were also quite unhelpful. They then said I had to go directly to the Chinese Embassy and apply through them to prove I was British(?!)
So the following week I go to the Embassy. The lady at the counter looks through my documents and nods knowingly. Then she says “I want to see every single passport you have ever had.” and I’m like “Eh?” I told her they have been thrown away a long time ago and questioned why my current British passport wasn’t proof enough that I was British as every other British citizen in this country could apply for a Chinese tourist visa without a problem – including my fiance. She totally ignored me and asked again to see all my passports. I repeated what I said again. She repeated what she said again. This is the most tedious conversation I have ever had. This stupid verbal ping pong went on for quite a while. I was so livid at this point there was no way I was going to back down. Finally, she goes to speak with her supervisor. And hey presto my application is accepted as ‘under consideration only’ meaning they could still reject it if they wanted to (oh brilliant….) and they promised to call me the next day to let me know if I was successful or not. Ensue panic.
So two days pass and I hear nothing. Great…so much for efficient service! I called them up (there are about 9 layers of automated telephone options before you get to speak to an actual person) to find out about my application. The guy on the phone was actually very helpful, though it took him ages to locate my application. Finally he said “Yes you can come and collect your passport and visa anytime from Tuesday.” YAY! It was accepted! All that nonsense for nothing!
So, moral of the story is…if you were born in China then make sure you have your old ID or if you don’t, then argue the hell out of the fact a British passport means you are a British citizen! My application should never have been rejected in the first place. Though, there was another way around it. Neil did a bit of research and found out that I had another option to get into China (and no I wasn’t going to smuggle myself in!) which was for me to fly to Hong Kong from the Mongolian leg of our trip as anyone can get a visa to get into mainland China from Hong Kong. Agencies there guarantee they can ‘sort you out’. I am glad it didn’t resort to that, it would have been a big inconvenient, additional expense.
Phew…I thought I would share my plight. Though it would have been hilarious if I was officially rejected and wouldn’t be able to visit my own home country! How pathetic would that be?!