Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Passport Panic

PassportFor the last few weeks, I have been a nervous wreck, virtually unable to function. What has reduced me to such a state? I had to renew my passport!

You would think this would be relatively painless. Not so.

First of all, I check out the Beijing British Embassy website and, for good measure, the Guangzhou Consulate site. From the Beijing site I download the application form. Reading this, I find it tells me to refer to the notes. What notes? There are no notes. I get back onto the computer and search for the notes. Nope. I go to the Guangzhou site and find them there! (Actually they are just different parts of the same website. Each contains different and contradictory information.)

When I’m there I find this.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and UK Passport Service (UKPS) have been working closely on the development of biometric passports. From March 2006 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will initiate a programme to rollout Biometric passport-producing-equipment to all overseas British passport issuing posts.

Beijing should be ready to start producing Biometric passports from 7 June 2006. We will not be producing the current digital passports from this date.


Fair enough, I think. Genetically modified passports! I’ll have some of that!

But then I read on and discover (after very slowly downloading all sorts of forms and leaflets) that the photograph specifications are somewhat specific!

Read them and weep! (PDF file 1.7Mb) (I suggest you start the download and then go on holiday. It may have finished when you get back! In fact, I could probably walk to Guangzhou and pick up a copy more quickly!)

The main part is this:

This looks nothing like me!

Well, I rush off and translate that and head for the local photo guy! First of all, I have to convince him that I don’t really want a pink background (Oh! I didn’t mention that the background must be white!) and that No! It is not against the law to have your photograph taken without holding up two fingers, Churchill style.

I then spend several hours explaining that the dimensions are not just random numbers to be ignored and that ‘nearly’ is not near enough.

Finally after several attempts, I end up with a picture which resembles me and seems to fit the requirements. No! I’m not about to post it here!

(By the way, the aforementioned PDF file gives many examples of unacceptable photographs and explains why they are unacceptable. They forget to mention that the main reason they are unacceptable is that they aren’t me!)

Anyway, armed with completed form and pictures, it is time to send the thing off. I have a choice. I have several choices.

But before we get to choices, I spot one vital piece of information! They want ¥1,365 for the privilege of issuing me a passport! Are they extracting the urine? That is more than the average annual earnings round here!

And they can’t issue a 48 page genetically modified passport! That always was a rip-off! The price was almost double for a 48 page passport. Come on guys, It’s just a few bits of paper!

Anyway! Here I come to the crunch of the story! Anyone still there?

It is time to send the application off! This is so terrible a concept, trusting my passport to China’s postal service, that I spend a few days curled up on the floor shaking and twitching. But, eventually, I drag myself off to the post office, put my beloved passport into an EMS (Express Mail Service) envelope along with application form, photos, fee etc. and say goodbye.

Now I am trapped in China! Until new passport arrives I can’t leave and I can’t stay. Every time I walk down the street, I am technically breaking the law!

One of my best friends in China – my first real friend in China – got married last week. I couldn’t go. Can’t travel without a passport. Sorry, Jacky!

Then I wait.

Sorry! I got so incensed by the price that I forgot the choices! I sent the application to Beijing. Guangzhou is nearer, but they don’t have the technology to issue the genetically modified passports and they send all applications to Beijing anyway! Cut out the middle man!

Then I start worrying!

What if….

I start to imagine all sorts of scenarios!

What if…

In two weeks my residence permit expires. I can’t renew it without the new passport! If everything screws up, I will have to go to the Guangzhou consulate – but I can’t go to Guangzhou because I don’t have a passport (You need a passport to book into a hotel!)

So, for two weeks I sit in dread. Sweat drips. I wake up screaming in the night! Passport Panic!

Then yesterday, my shiny new genetically modified passport rattled through the letterbox! (Not literally – I had to sign for it!)

I have, in the past, had to take extreme measures to get myself out of highly inconvenient situations regarding passports, so I may be a little more sensitive than most. Never lose your passport! (Other than deliberately. I’ve had to do that, too!)

Now I have to renew the residence permit! Piece of piss!

. This entry was posted on Sunday, July 16th, 2006 at 1:13 pm and is filed under Humour, Travel. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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