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I Have Always Depended on the Kindness of Strangers

Or How to Extend your Chinese Visa in 17 Easy Steps

sunny 38 °C
View World Tour 2010-2012 on Lis.L's travel map.

We have reached the one month marker in our travel in China and you know what that means - time to extend our visa! Canadians typically are given a 30 day tourism visa, and that is in no way enough time to see all of what China has to offer. We barely explored the northern provinces and are eager to continue on to the southern and western areas. China is chalk-full of memorable cities, ancient villages, historical relics and natural wonders. I need more time; I'm not ready to leave yet.

Toby is the main researcher in our team, and little was found about the hows and wheres when it comes to visa extensions. The only tidbit we clung to was that it can be easier to obtain in a smaller town. So we set our sights on Suzhou (pop 6 million... small is relative in China).

Several days before the expiry, we collected our paperwork. We were blessed with an eager team at our hostel who happily printed several pages for us and meticulously edited our Google-translated intent letter. They didn't want any compensation for their time, so we brought them what anyone would want in this heat: popsicles.

We grabbed a taxi to the PSB (Public Security Bureau) listed in our Lonely Planet. A friendly lady walking her dog helped us to find the building on the narrow street. There, a helpful, English speaking officer told us that extensions are now dealt with through the Suzhou Administrative Service Center building. He wrote out the name and address in Chinese for our next taxi.

Once at the SASC, another helpful employee checked over our paperwork and helped us photocopy our passports. He then guided us to "the fat police officer". When the fat police officer laughed, we did too. His English was good and he communicated to us that the registration form the hostel gave us was not enough for proof of residency. Another officer came over and wrote out in Chinese where we needed to go - the local police office closest to our hostel.

Another taxi ride later and we were back on our pedestrian-only street. We walked the length of it without seeing the police building, so we asked a local waitress. She told us to go over a bridge, but that police building was closed. A man and a women were debating how to tell us where to go when a man came over from the street to explain in English. He showed us on our map and we were on our way. When the street was under construction, a tourist office employee showed us a detour. When we lined up at the traffic police counter, a security guide showed us where to go. The police officer who gave us the Registration Form of Temporary Residence also struggled to tell us where to go next and was relieved when we showed the first piece of paper with SASC's address on it.

There are two morals to this story. The first is intended to help others researching online about what is needed to extend a visa. Here is a list of what we needed to submit:

~we used the registration form filled out by our hostel to get a Registration Form of Temporary Residence from the police station closest to the hostel

~we filled out a Visa and Residence Permit Application Form - this was in English and available at SASC

~we each needed two passport photos

~we typed a letter of intent including our entry date and port, nationality, reason for application and signature

~we copied our passport, current visa page and entry stamp page

~we printed a web-statement of our banking information to prove we had $100 per day = $3000 each for a 30 day extension

~we paid 160 yuan (approx. $24 CND) each

The second moral of the story is that this 5 hour ordeal would not have been possible without the continual help of the local Suzhou people. Every taxi driver was fast and efficient, every police officer was helpful and kind, and every stranger we asked for help gave it with a smile. Once we left the SASC with a stamped receipt in our hands, we knew that China was where we wanted to be.


Posted by Lis.L 06:43 Archived in China

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What an appropriate title for this post! It's so nice to know that you can always find quite a few friendly faces all over the world (and that they're looking out for you too).

by Erika Ruta

hey! it's quite interesting following this blog, and your world tour path outline made my jaw drop... quite a few times.

anyways, it's nice to hear that ppl are friendly and you've gotten quite a bit of help, but from what i remembered, that wasn't always the case; cab drivers would take detours just to take more money from you haha, or even go in circles.

but sounds like you guys are having fun! keep it up!

by Aleck

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