Travelling on a Chinese passport
Being a Spanish citizen and possessing an European passport has a lot of advantages I wasn’t really fully aware of until I started dating C. I was used to travelling freely almost everywhere, without having to think of obtaining visas beforehand (with the exception of China, of course, and one time I went to Vietnam and had to apply for a visa in the Vietnamese Consulate in Beijing).
But when I met C. and we started planning trips for our holidays I realized that now I should start adding one more requisite to my pre-trip planning: “Will he need to obtain a visa beforehand?”. And, sometimes, “Can he go there at all?”.
For example, the time we went to Seoul was with a tour group, together with his workmates. It was a trip organized by his company. I seriously doubt we could have gone there otherwise. For me, I have no problem, I can go and stay for 3 months visa free. For him, he would need to obtain a visa beforehand and would probably need to give proof that he owns an apartment (which he doesn’t) and that he has more than a certain amount of money in the bank. For Japan it’s the same, and we have read online that the Japanese authorities can even freeze a huge amount of the money in your bank account and don’t give it back until you prove you are back to China. Well, the truth is we have never tried to obtain a visa for South Korea or Japan, maybe it is not as hard as we think it is, for sure there must be ways. But what is clear is that it is way more difficult for him, a Chinese citizen, than for me.
When he went to Spain with me last January we applied for a “visiting friends or family visa”. I was afraid he wouldn’t get it so we prepared even more documents than the officially required. We handed a pretty thick bundle of papers which included his and my bank account statements, a letter from my mum inviting us to stay at her home, certificates from his and my company stating how much we earn and how long we have been working there and pictures of the two of us together to prove that we really know each other.
C. has 3 passports: one is the normal Chinese passport, used to travel to other countries; the second one is the “special pass” to go to Hong Kong and Macau; and the third one is the “special pass” to go to Taiwan. Mainland Chinese citizens need to apply for a visa to go to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan; Europeans, on the other hand, can go visa-free and stay for 3 months. Well, at least for mainlanders obtaining the visa for Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan is pretty easy. (Although I think for Taiwan it also depends on the province you are from). And apart from all this hassle, “thanks” to the good relations of China with other countries, its citizens also get additional trouble. For example, when we go to the Philippines C. can apply and obtain a visa with no problem, but he will get it in a separate sheet of paper, not on his passport. When he enters the country, the border official will stamp that paper and not his passport. This is because the new Chinese passports have a drawing of a map which includes some islands that Philippines claims. C.’s passport is still the old version but Filipino border officials just don’t stamp any Chinese passport.
Anyway, we have travelled a lot since we met. Even though C. does not have many holidays, but we have tried to make the most of them. In these two years we have been to Beijing (twice), Seoul & Jeju island, Hong Kong (twice), Xiamen, Shengsi island, Philippines (twice, to Boracay and Cebu), Taiwan, Spain and Wuyuan county. Not bad! He says he has travelled more in these two years than in the rest of his life!