Day in the Life: Getting a Chinese Visa

Part One:

When I found out that I was going to have surgery at the end of last week, there was one major to-do that I needed to check off my list before getting cut open: getting my Chinese visa. I'm traveling to China at the end of October and need to get a visa for the trip. This includes handing over my passport to the Chinese Embassy for a few days/weeks until it's approved. As an expat living in a foreign country, I never really feel comfortable when I don't have my passport at arm's reach.

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The big catch here: the Chinese Embassy is closed the first week of October and I fly to Japan for a trip in mid-October. I couldn't wait until after surgery to get it done, so I had to push people to expedite my invitation letter and then spend one of my last mobile days in Brussels.

I scrambled to get all my paperwork together. This included copies of my passport, Belgian ID card, stamped documents explaining why my name is different on my Belgian ID card and my passport, proof of travel/payment, stamped invitation letter from China, lengthy application form, and a passport photo. Then I drove a car for potentially the last time in 2016 (isn't that crazy to think?!) to Brussels.

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The whole process was actually much smoother than I anticipated. When I tried to make an appointment on their website and then called, both times I was told there were no appointments available but that I could come in and wait. I anticipated a six-hour wait....

Instead, the man who checked over my paperwork was super nice and encouraging. He said it looked great, that I should get approved and the wait wouldn't take long. I took a number, sat down and lost myself in blogs about the same surgery I was about to have (this maybe wasn't the world's best idea.....)

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Barely 90 minutes later, I was walking back out into the Brussels sunshine and heading back home. They told me that I could come pick up my passport and visa on Sept 28th, two days after surgery. I asked to push it to Sept 30th, hoping I would be recovered enough to ride in the car to Brussels (a little over an hour from Gent with traffic). She warned me that if I didn't pick it up on the 30th that I would have to wait until Oct 10th because they closed for holidays. This was too close to leaving for Japan and didn't leave any wiggle room, so I was motivated to get there on the 30th.

Part Two:

Sept 30th: I've only left the house once in the past four days but I have to get to the embassy. I had my best night sleep last night and am nearly completely off all pain killers, so I figure I'm as good as I can be to head to Brussels. We load me up into the car, the long way, and set off. Traffic isn't too bad and it only takes about an hour. Sitting in the back allowed me to keep my foot slightly elevated and I spent the trip catching up on work.

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The Embassy was as quick and efficient as my last trip. I waited maybe 30 minutes before my number was called. To my surprise, I was given a Chinese work visa that's good for 10 years and allows for multiple entries. We loaded me back into the car and then hit loads of Brussels Friday afternoon traffic. Lovely....

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Now that I survived that little adventure without much pain or problems with the foot, I'm going to push to be allowed out of the house again later today. Maybe read a book at a cafe?! Or something so crazy as getting to go grocery shopping!