On Wednesday, having looked at all the advice again, I went to the Visa Exit and Entry offices to get my visa extended until January 2012. Cindy had written a letter, to say I was here at her invitation to look after the children. I had passport, registration forms, Cindy and Donal’s marriage certificate which has my name on and proves I am the mother-in-law. And I had new photos of me and Cindy’s identity card too. I timed the journey, being worried about being held up and not able to collect the boys in time, at 4pm. It takes one and three-quarter hours – walk ten minutes to the Metro station, very crowded train, one long walk five minute change at People’s Square, another train, fortunately with a seat available, another 10 minute walk to the offices. Find the right floor, get a queue number, and sit and wait till called.
Just in case you think this is all unpleasant, I took some photos of the walk near the boys school. Forgetting the traffic noise behind me, there are lots of really nice parts of Shanghai, both near where we live and in other districts.
When I eventually got to the desk, and showed my documents, they were the right ones for a one month extension, and a one month extension can only be given twice. So, I need more documents to get a six month extension. It was now about 12 noon, so I kept my cool and asked the pleasant official what was it that I did need. AAAGH she said I also needed Cindy’s passport, her registration papers to show she was entitled to be in Shanghai – she is from a different province – and her work permit. I knew enough to know that she does not have any of this as she intends to end up living in New Zealand again soon, so I just said OK and left. She who runs away and all that…
After discussion at home, we decided that Cindy’s letter was the mistake which led to needing to know exactly who she was, and we would ‘do it through Donal’ instead. So next day, Thursday, after leaving the boys to school, I went first to Donal’s work and got his birth certificate (declares I am his mother) and his work permit, and his registration papers. for good luck I took the boys’ registration papers too, and the house rental agreement which shows I have somewhere to live. Back to Metro station, back to crowded trains, less crowded because I am travelling later today, and back to the Visa Entry and Exit offices. As there are about a dozen desks, I am fortunately called to a completely different person from yesterday, and I start all over again as a new applicant, no mention of Cindy. But I do not have enough papers to get a six month visa extension! I am sent to the chief supervisor who says I need an invitation from Donal’s employers, not just from Donal. However, she also tells me there is a fax facility (I have already discovered there is a photocopy facility as everything has to be copied as well as shown) and I can phone Donal to ask for the relevant requirements to be faxed. So, I do that.
This is where bureaucracy does become absurd, as getting the fax simply means Donal asks his secretary to use some of the headed notepaper, and create the required certification. So they run around for half-an-hour whileI wait some more, and then I get the fax. It is now after 12 noon, and the supervisor and the official I spoke to, in fact all but three officials, are at lunch. They will return at 1.30pm. I am thinking of my collect the boys deadline, so I wait till one of the three is available, and nip in with all my papers without a numbered ticket. I explain that I was number 218, now long past, and the supervisor is at lunch. She says OK, I feel a little guilty about number 299 or whoever is now waiting longer, but not too much.
So this person starts looking at everything again, and she is the only person so far seen who spots that my name on Donal’s birth certificate, written 46 years ago, IS NOT THE SAME NAME AS ON MY PASSPORT. It says Elizabeth Mary Gabrielle, and the passport says Elspeth. Now, I do have a lawyer’s certification which says I am this person, with two names, as I had to get that when I got my USA green card, but I know this precious piece of paper is in Edinburgh. Fortunately I remember in time that I am still carrying the Donal and Cindy Wedding Certificate, and it has all the right names, being only 8 years old. She accepts it!!! She agrees to extend the visa. I do not run to the photocopier with the wedding certificate, but just give it to her, I know there is another copy somewhere at home, and I am too scared that if I leave the desk the situation will change again. She takes a large bundle of papers, stamps them all, takes my passport and my application, takes my photo with a camera on her computer, puts the lot in an envelope and gives me a tiny slip of paper which is my receipt.
Step 2 successful. Next Friday I go to pay the fee and collect the passport with new extended visa. I hope.
Here is Ali, half the reason why I am doing all this.
This is the small park near where we live, and like most children now, the boys get tired of having their photos taken.