Just noticed this answer by the foreign ministry spokesman on Monday.....
Zhao Lijian: "The Chinese government has suspended entry for most foreigners holding valid visa or residence permit starting from March 28, but at the same time we've facilitated visa applications of foreign nationals seeking entry for essential economic, trade, scientific and technological activities or out of emergency humanitarian needs. Recently, as the situation has been brought under control in many countries, people are looking forward to making foreign trips. Thus, China is relaxing in an orderly and gradual manner visa restrictions for foreigners entering China to resume economic activities and for other essential purposes. One more point to highlight is that for those who hold valid visa or residence permit but need visa renewal, Chinese embassies and consulates will provide them visa service for free."
So i decided to marry my long-term Chinese girlfriend, Jessica. I thought I ought to ask her, so did so on May 9 and she said yes!
so how can a foreigner marry a Chinese person in Kunming
during the virus?
1- We went to the local register office nearest to my apartment. They said no. foreigners can only marry Chinese in one specific register office 1.5 hours and 35km away at the end of the metro!
2-So we went to find this office and ask them what we need to do. They gave us an instruction leaflet in Chinese, which for Jessica meant ID card and Hukou (Family registration document)
For me, passport, visa and proof of singleness.
plus 3 photos of the two of us together on a red background..
3-We showed a picture of Jessica's Hukou, but they said it was too old. Jessica's mum had to contact her ex husband to agree to it being renewed. Luckily he agreed, so DONE!
4-The form said that the affidavit for proof of singleness could be sworn in one of three ways....at the Chinese embassy in London, British embassy in china or by a notary public.
5-We contacted a local notary public, and asked if they could witness this document. They said they could witness Jessica swearing she was single to get married in the UK, but not the other way round! So we called the register office to query the incorrect advice and they said some countries could use a notary public, but not the UK.
6-since it is not possible to leave China and re enter as China has closed its borders to non-Chinese, the only option is to go to one of the three British embassies in China. They each have their own online appointment booking service, but all were closed because of the virus, but I checked them daily anyway, just in case they re-opened. At the beginning of May, Beijing embassy suddenly offered appointments at the beginning of June, so I booked June 2nd. Immediately, I received an automatic email reply. It said that it was only an “acknowledgement”, not a confirmation and to not book flights until they confirmed.
7-After two weeks they put up more appointments. Since i had heard nothing about the June 2 appointment, I booked another appointment for June 4. I received another acknowledgement, but still no confirmations.
8-As I was planning and expecting to be visiting Beijing on either 2nd or 4th June, I decided to visit my friends in Shanghai just before that, with a view to then taking the high speed train from Shanghai to Beijing (around 4 hours), if the appointment was confirmed. This was an opportunity to introduce Jessica to Nina and her family and either say “goodbye”, if I was leaving China, or to resume our friendship, if I was able to stay.
9- The next week I received an email cancelling all appointments. I replied asking for five minutes of their time before June 26, when my resident permit expired. I received a reply saying they “may” reply during the first week of June and “may” offer appointments later in June. So we booked to fly to Shanghai on 29 May and waited until the cancellation of the Beijing appointments to book a return flight on June 2.
10-The beginning of June, Shanghai consulate offered an appointment on July 2, so I booked it. This time I immediately received a “confirmation” and a second email shortly after offering a “pre-checking” service for documents - much more helpful than Beijing. Still nothing from Beijing.
11) After booking the appointment in Shanghai for 2 July, then there was the problem that my automatic 60 day extension ran out on 26 June. So how could I stay longer?
So in the afternoon of Monday June 8th, having NOT heard from Beijing at all during the first week of June, as they had originally promised, and having seen no new appointments appear on the websites that morning, we returned to the immigration department to ask that question. They now recognised us as old friends, saying “what, you again?” in Chinese when we entered.
I had printed the email confirming the appointment in Shanghai for 2 July, so I had a genuine reason for asking for the extension. They said that before they could accept the application for an extension/temporary visa, I would need TWO letters from my language school - one confirming I had completed the course and the other indicating the reasons for the request for an extension. They had, of course, not told us about this “extra” requirement before. I tried not to get angry and didn't know what to say. I was surprised when she decided to pick up her phone and ring my language school herself to ask for these letters. An angry Chinese conversation ensued. Apparently, according to Jessica, the school ought to have know that they needed to supply these letters and the immigration department were angry that they had not done so. After the call, I was told to go to the school head office to collect them.
Not quite knowing what to expect, given the bad feeling at the school resulting from me finding out that they had deliberately withheld the reduction in age limits for student visas for nine months, which had led to all my difficulties in staying in China, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the school office acquiesced in providing these letters after only around a wait of 15-20 minutes.
We returned to the immigration department by taxi, as it was near their closing time, got some new special photos and extra photocopies as requested and handed in the application at 4:45pm - they were in a hurry as they didn't want to wait until the 5pm closing time, but wanted to leave as soon as they had accepted my application. They said it would be ready “on Thursday”.
12-I went home, turned on my computer and checked the embassy websites - I was surprised to find LOTS of new appointments at Beijing - for June!!!!!!! Also at Guangzhou!!!!! I had not needed to ask for the visa extension after all!!!! I immediately booked for June 16 in Beijing and Guangzhou. I received yet another mere “acknowledgement” from Beijing, but a “confirmation” from Guangzhou.
13-On Wednesday, I received a further email from Beijing confirming the appointment and offering to “pre-check” all the paperwork. I immediately sent a scan of all the documents, except for a “credit card mandate”, which I asked for a copy of. I received the blank mandate the next day, presumably confirming that they had received the other documents. Guanzhou also sent a follow up email, which included an unexpected extra sentence saying that “maybe, only six provinces accepted Guangzhou documents (not including Yunnan) so I should check with my register office before attending in case the document was not acceptable! Another unexpectedly withheld useful piece of information. Since I had the confirmed appointment at Beijing, I waited until Friday afternoon before sending a complaining email back to Guangzhou, pointing out that IF they had mentioned this ANYWHERE on their website before I started the application process, I would not have bothered. They did say sorry,
14-So, we returned Thursday afternoon at 3pm to collect my passport. We were asked, why are you here already? We said we had been told it would be ready “on Thursday” - she checked on her system and said - “return after 4pm” - another useful piece of withheld information.
So we went to sit in a nearby cafe for an hour. Returned at 4pm and duly paid the 160 rmb and collected my passport with a new temporary visa until July 7 - I could now go to Shanghai on July 2 to swear the affidavit, if the Beijing and Guangzhou appointments were cancelled.
15-I had been told by the immigration department that if I got married I would get a one year visa. However, if I did a medical check, then i could get a two year visa. So on Friday morning, we made the long trek to the opposite corner of Kunming to a special “hospital” used for medical health checks mainly for air stewards/stewardesses and foreigners needing a visa. The process was relatively straightforward, taking about an hour, but the results would not be available for three days - and they could not post them, we would have to return to collect them.
16-We then went to the local Police station near my apartment to report the change of visa and give them a copy so I could get a new “foreigner registration certificate” - one of the many government monitoring pieces of paper foreigners need in China.
17-We then waited until 5pm on Friday afternoon, when the embassy in Beijing would have closed to book the flights from Kunming to Beijing on Monday 15 and returning on Wednesday 17.
18-I tried to find a hotel located on the main metro line from the airport to the centre, but most of them stated on the website, no foreigners. I found one that didn't say that and had reviews in English from foreigners as recent as January and Jessica called them, but they said over the phone that they no longer took foreigners.
The process from now is that:
we need to find a hotel in Beijing to stay for two nights.
19-We then need to take three “special” wedding photos in a special format, white shirts on a red background, which apparently will be used on the “wedding licence”,
20-We then go to Beijing and I swear the affidavit and get it stamped by the British Embassy worker.
We return to Kunming on Wednesday 17.
21-Thursday 18 morning we go to the register office to apply for a “wedding licence” = get legally married.
22-Then go back to the “hospital” to collect my medical report
23- Then go to the immigration department to make the application to switch to a married visa - and then discover whether this process actually achieved the twin aims of legally marrying Jessica and of staying in China or not!
24 - Of course there will be extra steps that I have not yet been told about....
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