The final segment of the planning was the most tedious and bureaucratic. And whenever there is bureaucracy there are, shall we say, ‘interesting’ requirements and requests. First, Marc needed to get a work permit for China. And what do you need for a work permit for China you might want to know? Well they place great importance on a person’s health. They want to know if you have any sexually transmitted diseases or suffer from tuberculosis, poor heart health or poor mental health.
We are unclear what happens if your doctor answers in the affirmative for any of these conditions. Fortunately, Marc is in good health (or at least our doctor says so) and the work permit was granted in the nick of time. With a window of a week to get the visa, we waited patiently at the door for the work permit to be couriered from China.
Thanks to Marc’s regular travel to China, he was quite familiar with the Chinese visa application process and we arrived at the visa centre well prepared (or so we thought) with forms filled out and copies of required documents. Two patient hours waiting with children, our number was called. The clerk reviewed Marc’s application: no problem. Isabella’s: no problem. Dominic’s: no problem. Shirley’s application: problem:
Clerk: You haven’t written your name in Chinese.
Me: Pardon me?
Clerk: You were born in China, the government requires that you write your name in Chinese.
Me: I’m not sure I can write it properly.
Clerk: Well the government requires it.
I complied and crossed my fingers that it would be close enough. Lesson: If you were born in China, even if you moved away as a baby, you better learn how to write your name in Chinese if you would like to be granted a visa to China.
Clerk: Where is your Chinese passport?
Me: I don’t have one. I immigrated when I was a young child. I’m Canadian.
Clerk: Well then I need your last Chinese visa.
Me: I last visited China 11 years ago. I don’t have that passport anymore.
Clerk: Well, that’s a problem.
Really?! No idea why they would need to see your last visa but don’t question it. Lesson: Make sure you keep all the visas to China no matter how long ago you last visited.
Clerk: I need your immigration card then.
Me: Here it is.
Clerk: There’s a problem. Your immigration card and your passport are in different names.
Me: The name on the immigration card is in the passport.
Clerk: Yes but you have the extra name of Shirley on your passport.
Me: Yes, because when I immigrated to Canada I didn’t have my English name yet and all the names are in my passport.
Clerk: Well you need to get a notarized document or affidavit stating that the two identification documents is the same person. You should go downstairs to see if there is someone in the building who can help you.
Me: It’s 2:50pm and you stop taking applications at 3:00pm
Clerk: Yes, I will wait for you until 3:00pm.
Me (in my head): Thanks, thanks a lot.
A race downstairs: yes there’s a law firm on the 20th floor who can help you. A race to the 20th floor: yes one of our lawyers can help you but he charges $50. Five minutes and $50 later, I had an affidavit stating the exact same thing that I stated to the clerk. Lesson: If you have even the slightest difference in name on any pieces of identification, get a notarized statement itemizing all of the IDs indicating they are all the same person.
At 2:59pm, I handed the clerk the affidavit. Application approved. It will be ready in four days for pick up. $580+$50. Thank you. Thank you very much.
With the visa application process completed, it was time to sort out our health coverage. Off we went to Service Ontario. I’m not sure about the other Canadian provinces but in Ontario you are allowed coverage for a total of two years in your lifetime while being absent from the province/country. The process was surprisingly painless, unless you count the hour waiting and then another hour waiting for the clerk to fill out forms for each of us. Once we got our Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) extended to cover our year abroad it was time to get our secondary insurance extended as well. We have additional health insurance benefits from Marc’s work through Green Shield and they will extend their coverage as long as the government insurance (OHIP) extends their coverage. This process was as painless as the process with OHIP.
The upside of all the forms that we’ve had to fill out: we now know Marc is of sound mind and body; the government of China has permitted us to enter and work; and we are doubly covered for any medical emergencies. All set to get from here to there.