Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Traveling Through China

Post-Olympics China appears to be a more closed China than pre-Olympics China. I just spent two hours this morning standing in line to apply for a Chinese visa that will allow me to transfer from one plane to another on my way to the US. The days of visa-less transfers through China to or from Mongolia seem to be over for now. In order to transit through China, when applying for a visa in Mongolia, you need to bring your passport, visa application with passport sized photo, copy of your passport, and copy of your itinerary. If you plan to actually stay in China, I think you need bank statements and hotel reservations, too. US citizens pay $130 for a visa for regular slow service. Everyone else pays much, much less.

My natural inclination is to whine and complain about the process and the price. But, I am too aware of the world to take that too far. After all, what if I were Chinese trying to transit through the US? Would I even get a visa? I know I would have to pay $130 for the interview, and I suspect that is why US citizens, unlike everyone else, has to pay that amount for a Chinese visa. I will probably have a visa waiting for me next week, which makes complaining a bit hard given the current state of US immigration policy, which, for those of you unaware, is a complete mess. I think a Chinese citizen trying to get a visa to the US is playing game of roulette with a $130 bet on black. That is a much worse prospect than I face, which is mostly the inconvenience of standing in line for several hours (you can no longer send other people on your behalf to apply at the PRC Embassy in Mongolia).

The process for attaining a Chinese visa could change at any time, so don't take my word for it. Be sure to check with the nearest consulate or embassy website for the most up-to-date visa information. And, happy transiting.

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