Visa to Ride…

Matt | Chinese consulate Toronto,Visas | Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Yesterday I got my visa to return to China and it feels, sooooo, darnnnn, gooooood.

Actually, there are few things I have done in the past 8 months that have felt as good as getting this visa.  I know it sounds strange.  How can waiting in a government office to get a document with huge lines be a good thing?  It was.

When I first arrived at the Chinese consulate in Toronto I was early.  The office opens at 9am and runs until 3:30pm.  My plan was to get there before nine to beat the crowd.  By 8:45am there was already a line up outside.  Still it felt good to be in this line.  A few minutes before nine they let us enter the building.  My body was on edge as it always is when I enter a Chinese governmental building.

Inside the building reminded me of any Chinese post office or police station or university.  It was sparsely decorated; with many wickets and windows and only a few tellers; I could almost feel a draft coming from the poorly insulated building.  But I loved it.  I was surrounded by Chinese people mostly speaking Mandarin and for a second I felt like I was back in China.  It felt great.  Looking at the few pictures on the wall and seeing a beautiful bridge from the Summer Palace, knowing that I had taken a similar (but not so nice) picture of that same bridge, was exciting.  The kicker for me was the flat screen on the wall that was playing CCTV 4.  Was this ever a treat.

Can you tell that I miss China?

Soon I’ll be back into the land of food.

The point of this post was actually to give some tips if you need to get a visa from Canada.

Before this I do want to mention how impressed I was with the speed in which they processed visas.  Now most of the people in the line, myself included already had the form filled out (you can download it from the website), already had a photo attached and all we needed was to drop it off.  The 10 people ahead of me were processed in about 15 minutes, which seemed shockingly fast.  Now to pick up the visa, normally it takes a few days, but you can pay $50 extra to get “same day” service.  Which means you can pick it up at 3pm (but before 3:30pm).  This was what I did.  And again it was very efficient.  By the time the wicket opened at 3pm, I was about 15 people deep and again it only took about 20 minutes.  Shockingly quick compared to my experiences at the Canadian embassies.

As for tips for getting a visa I’d recommend:

– Arrive early 8:45am and you’ll be out early

– Have everything ready: print off and fill in the form, have your picture ready, bring your passport, bring cash ($75 for a double entry visa + $50 for same day service).

– If you want same day service note that you can only pick up after 3pm which can shoot your day if you’re there at 8:45am and again at 3pm, like a split shift.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how quick and painless the process was and I was overwhelmed by those little things I miss so much about China: minimalist decor, a mass of people and CCTV.  Someone even let a great hoark to clear their throat.  This made me miss Beijing even more!

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