How We Almost Got Stuck in China

Today is the last day of work (yay!!), but we don’t leave Beijing until next Saturday. It’s not because we wanted to just stick around the smog, but because our visa is being processed by the government. Basically, to do things by the book visa-wise, you have to convert your working visa into a short term tourist visa, so if you want to work again in China you are set to do so. In theory this sounds fine, but in reality, it takes the government 7 working days of holding your passport to do this. Combine that with the fact that you can’t convert it until you are within 3 days of the end of your contract and the fact that we needed our passport to send Albus home (more info on sending our Chinese dog to the USA), and that our apartment lease is up a week after we finish work, and you have a big messy timeline for coming home.


The way we worked it out was to send Albus home on Wednesday, convert our visa on Thursday, get our visa back the next Friday and leave on Saturday. If anything went wrong, it would mess everything up. Sending Albus home went without a snag, so we were ready for stage two. Yesterday, we went to the Public Security Bureau (PSB) to convert the visa. We hit our first snag when the officer said that our residency registration had expired. Even though it still had another day on it, the police station system showed that it was no longer valid. After trying to reach them by phone, we had to embark on a one-hour-trek to sort it out in person. After getting no satisfactory answer on why they had cancelled it early without telling us, we were told that the “quickest” way to take care of this was to re-register, super frustrating. To register you need a copy of all these documents per person: 1. a copy of your passport 2. a copy of your most recent entry stamp 3. a copy of your rent contract 4. a copy of the landlord ID and 5. a copy of the landlord’s certificate of ownership. Basically, we didn’t have the last document and had to go print it. While we went to print it, the police station closed for a two hour lunch break.

Beijing Police Registration Desk

While this was super frustrating, it was also really stressful. If we weren’t able to get everything done in one day, we would have to completely rearrange our travel plans because we wouldn’t get our passport back in time.

Public Security Bureau (PSB)


We were at the front of the line when the police station reopened and mercifully were able to re-register quickly. We then went directly back to the PSB to get in line, again, to try and get them to accept the visa. We arrived and got a number to wait. Our number was 305 and they were processing…….. 203-208. #ChinaLine. It took about 20 minutes for them to process this group. I was running the math, at their current rate, the PSB would close before we were able to go to a window. I imagined the sloths at the DMV in Zootopia…. would these sloths cost me hundreds of dollars in changed airline tickets? An hour went by as we waited. Suddenly, the line started moving much faster. Then, yes, our number!! We were able to talk to an officer and walked out twenty minutes before they closed with everything completed. We went straight to work and taught our classes, a huge weight lifted off. Living in China means dealing with a lot of bureaucracy that I don’t and probably will never understand. Thankfully, even though we had a stressful day, it didn’t result in a more costly mistake.


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