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The $1,000 Visa To China

written by John Chow on March 20, 2013

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Last week, I was up in Vancouver to give a couple of presentations. While I was there, I also renewed my Canadian passport. Overall, it was a fun and productive one week trip.

A couple of days ago (Monday, March 18), I went to the Chinese Visa office in LA to get a visa for my trip to Shanghai. I had everything filled out properly, and all the required documents. However, because my passport was new, it didn’t have any of my previous visas from China, and I told Canada to destroy my old passport instead of taking it back.

The lady at the visa office told me that without the old passport, they can’t issue me a visa because they don’t have my visa records in the LA office. I would have to go to Vancouver to get a visa since that is where I got all my previous visas. I told the lady, “I just got back from Vancouver!” She replied, “Well, I guess you will need to go there again.”

I booked an 8PM flight to Vancouver that Monday afternoon. The plan was to get a same day rush visa on Tuesday, and then fly home. Just in case they can’t do it on the same day, I book a one-way flight.

Twitter tweet

On Tuesday morning, I went to China visa office in Vancouver. They asked for my old passport with the old visas. I told them Canada destroyed it. They then said they would need to see my Canadian Citizen card. I thought that was pretty stupid because my passport clearly states I’m a Canadian citizen, and my card was back in Orange County!

They told me that without seeing the card, they can’t issue me a visa. Lucky for me, I keep copies of all my documents in Evernote. A quick search of my Evernote iPad app produced the card for me the print out.

evernote rocks

I asked for a same day rush service. They said they no longer do same day, but the card will be ready by 9AM Wednesday.

I picked up my visa at 9AM Wednesday, got on an 11AM flight to the OC, and landed back at the John Wayne airport in time to take Sally to her skating class.

I'm back!

The rushed visa cost $196. Last minute one-way flights added another $804, making this one hell of an expensive visa! If you want to save yourself the pain I went through, then keep backups of your documents on Evernote, and ask for your old passport back when you apply for a new one. Had I asked for my old passport back, the China Visa office in LA would have been able to issue me a visa. That would have saved $1,000 and a two day trip. At least it made for a good blog post.

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{ 20 comments }

Yasmine March 20, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Hi John, I know exactly how you felt! I have a similar scenary here in New Zealand. I live in Queenstown (South Island) and had to go to Wellington (North Island and the Capital) to renew my Swiss Passport. The Swiss Embassy has ‘funny’ opening hours from 9am to something like 12pm and of course, there is no early flight from ZQN to WEL so I had to stay the night. Now that the new Passport is on its way, my old one was a cancelled. In my old Passport, I do have my Visa for New Zealand. But I am lucky: I was given my old cancelled Passport so that I can go to my immigration office to have my Visa transferred as soon as my new Passport is delivered. Crazy World, hey…?!
Those are the little ‘joys’ we people get while living in an other country :-)

ilias chelidonis March 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm

great story, evernote would love it

I. C. Daniel March 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Sorry to hear that John, but as you said at least you make a great post.

About the money don’t worry too much, from what I’ve read you’re making that much in one day of working online.

I know it might sound outrageous but just think that things like this could happen to anyone and you’ll get through this :D

Best Regards from I. C. Daniel – Romania

Valerie March 20, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Thanks for sharing your mistake. Sometimes it’s good to save the old physically as well as digitally. Glad you made it back safely.

James Flowers March 20, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Great story John. In Belize, whenever we renew our passports the Government usually give us the old passport to keep.

John Chow March 20, 2013 at 6:09 pm

In Canada, the default is to destroy the old passport unless you ask for it back.

faisal March 21, 2013 at 5:14 am

You have to show old passports everywhere too.

Pawel Reszka March 20, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Reminds me of when I was getting a visa to come to US 13 years ago. In Poland they actually charge you like $200 (that’s what it was back then) and there is no rush lol you wait like 6 months for a hearing.

sandi March 20, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Interesting story, I hope that these will not happen again.
in my country, our government old passport “canceled” and returned to us.

Pawan March 21, 2013 at 4:14 am

Thanks for the advice. Feel very sorry for you.

james March 21, 2013 at 4:39 am

This is really good info for all travelers John.
Best part is you were able to get home to take Sally to her skating lesson.
You rock John.

Jim B.

Jay Lin March 21, 2013 at 5:03 am

It’s really so Cool !

Erwin March 21, 2013 at 6:20 am

Hi everyone,

and thanks for this post John. It is always good to keep old documents and your example is perfect. It can save you a lot of money and time.

I try to do it myself and it never failed me. But the offices are hard to work with.

All the best, and see you on top.

Erwin.

Edson Hale March 21, 2013 at 8:10 am

wonderful John you are such a pro blogger who can create gold from the dust; or in a dot.com way I would say you are the person who can explore opportunities from problems. This should be the spirit of every blogger to derive positive benefits from worst type of negative situation. Once again warm regards to you

Alex Shaikh March 21, 2013 at 8:27 am

Nice story John!! Evernote going to love this one but i’m sorry i uses dropbox. DropBox gives you much more storage because the idea is to “back-up” the files on your computer and then access them from anywhere in the world. I don’t know they both are different, Evernote is a note storing and syncing application and with dropbox you can back up the whole computer.

Darnell Jackson March 21, 2013 at 9:50 am

…freaking government man same horsesh1t everywhere.

When it comes to actually HELPING you it’s always what they can’t do.

When it comes to spending your money nothing is impossible.

VKool March 21, 2013 at 10:56 am

John, I don’t know why sometimes people would make things more complicated than it seems. I went to China on a trip before, the cab driver stole my luaggage and he run away. Luckily, I was taking pictures while I was on the car, I got his face, Cab ID number, but his license plate. I came to the police office in Guangzhou. I was reluctant to help me file a claim a several times, and just tell me to go home. I never heard back from that police office even they got all the evidence to find the the CAB driver stole my luggage!

Abhishek March 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Sorry to hear this John and I am sure whosoever has read this post is not gonna commit that mistake again. Hope you dun face this kinda problem again :)

Dwight Cocran March 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Hey John,

Also being a Canadian who travels a lot I have always asked for my old passport to be returned. Not for the reasons that you came across but just for using it as a souvenir of the various countries I have been to.
I never thought to use evernote as a method of keeping documents handy, but that is a good idea since there may be a day where I need access to older documents just like yourself.

Mr.X March 24, 2013 at 7:42 am

I plan to visit China as well. There’s a lot going on in internet marketing over there.