false information

It’s happened to us all, right? You ask where the office to do X is, someone gives you directions, you get there, and the office isn’t for doing X at all. They tell you where to go. You get there and it’s not right either. Or, someone at some window gives you completely false information about some step (or all the steps) to complete whatever process it is you want to do.

There are many variations of this story, but the commonality is being given misinformation, even by people who should know, and it’s one of the most frustrating aspects of life as a foreigner in Hohhot. (Or am I the only one?)

Today’s post is dedicated to the craziest things (WRONG, FALSE) we’ve heard from people who should know.

  1.  There’s a US Consulate in Hohhot.

    When my husband was studying at Nei Da, we had to submit all kinds of documents for our family to be dependents on his visa. Some such documents were authenticated copies of our marriage license and our children’s birth certificates. We didn’t have our documents authenticated when we arrived and it was a hassle to do from China (it’s not as difficult from your country of residence). Anyway, in the course of asking about the process he told us we could just stop in and ask at the consulate. As we talked further, we realized that he thought there was a US Consulate in Hohhot. The guy whose job it is to process student visas for foreign students on a daily basis thought there was a US Consulate in Hohhot. My best guess is that his office deals so much with Mongolian students, and there is a Mongolian Consulate here, that they just forget that no other country has a consular presence here.

  2. Getting your passport authenticated is easy and free.We are in the final steps of our WOFE registration. At two of the steps, the offices required our passports to be authenticated. It was a crazy request anyway, but what was even more crazy was that the boss of the bureau told my husband, “I don’t know why you’re complaining about having to do it. It’s an easy process and free.” It’s neither. It requires going in person the Embassy in Beijing, sending documents to a processing service in the States who then take them to the US Department of State to be signed by the Secretary of State, then taken to the Chinese Consulate/Embassy in the US for authentication. Each step has a fee, plus shipping and the agency fee. Altogether it took a few weeks and about 3000 RMB each time.
  3. Your kids don’t have to exit/enter.We recently got (what we thought) was our newest daughter’s visa. Turns out, it was not actually a visa, just a document that allowed her to stay until the time of our next exit/entry requirement. In the process of asking all the questions about how to get her an actual visa, the worker at the counter who processes visas daily told us our kids don’t need to exit/re-enter, just the adults do. I suppose this could technically be true since we’ve never actually tried not bringing them when we cross an international border, but since they each have a passport and a visa that says they have to exit every 120 days, I’m guessing they do actually need to. Also, since we have to provide copies of our entry/exit stamps all the time, I’m guessing that someone is actually checking to make sure they do exit/re-enter.
  4. You can’t buy train tickets here.There’s a small window to buy train tickets near the gate of Gong Da. It’s near our house so we’ve bought our tickets there before. The last time we went the same worker who had helped my husband before told him he couldn’t buy them there with a passport. (instead of Chinese ID card). He asked her, “Didn’t I just buy the here recently? Weren’t you the one who helped me?” Just a little pushing and she agreed to help us, and we did indeed get our tickets….at the very window she said we couldn’t. I don’t advocate being polite, but sometimes a “no” here isn’t a “no” and in this case the worker probably just initially didn’t want to go to the hassle of entering foreign names into the computer. However, our desire to not be hassled into going to the train station and waiting in a long line won. (this time).
  5. You can’t be here.This wasn’t a false request, it was true, but it’s still crazy. As I said, we are in the final stages of our business registration. This week we’ve been busy preparing the 200 or so pages of documents to change our visas to be employment visas issued by our company. These documents have to be submitted to the employment bureau. But here’s the crazy thing…..the guy at the counter refused to speak to my husband, asked him to leave, and required someone else submit the documents on our behalf. It’s a good thing we’ve hired our first employees, otherwise we’d have to trouble a friend to do it. It just seems weird to me that it’s our business which has been properly registered, and they are our documents which we have painstakingly prepared and we (foreigners) can’t go into the office that processes our visa to present them ourselves???


How about you? What’s the craziest bit of misinformation you’ve ever been given?


  1. Preston says:

    There’s quite a bit of misleading information out there about visas. Case in point, last summer I had just finished my teaching job in Xiamen. Just as the school year concluded, I went down to the PSB and changed from my working residence permit to a one month tourist visa–these seem to be available to anyone on a working visa who needs some extra time to get their things in order.

    After another three weeks, my (then) fiancee and I went on holiday to Hong Kong, also planning to apply for a new tourist visa for me to re-enter China with. When we arrived in Hong Kong, we were told by several sources (including a couple of visa agencies) that it would be essentially impossible for me to be get a new visa in HK, as Chinese policy was that anyone who had applied for the extra one month visa after an employment residence permit was ineligible to apply for a new tourist visa to Mainland China in Hong Kong.

    As we really had no other choice, my fiancee and I went down to the Ministry that handles foreign visas for Mainland China in Hong Kong with a letter from my fiancee stating that we wanted to go back to China so that I could meet her family and start our marriage preparations. Lo and behold, the supposedly impossible visa was granted (a 10 year S visa nonetheless). If we had taken what the agencies said at face value I would have had to spend quite a pretty sum on a plane ticket home.

    Not that this is confined only to the Chinese government: there are lots of stories online that suggest it’s very difficult to apply for the Chinese girlfriend of a US citizen to come to America on a tourist visa. Others state the same thing about fiancees and spouses. We’ve applied once successfully for all three categories (girlfriend, fiancee, and after we were married), again going to show that embassy rules (regardless of the country) are less written in stone than some would believe.

  2. weibaili says:

    After finally getting the paperwork to change to our Z visas complete and after a trip to the US to get our baby’s visa, I actually have a few more things to add to this list now….like the lady at the Chinese consulate telling me it was impossible to have 120 day entries….except that she was holding my passport with a visa issued by her Consulate with 120 day entries stamped in it.

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