Once I got back to Beijing I headed over to the visa office to start the extension process. I had my passport, photo, application filled out and a receipt from the hotel proving I was staying in Beijing. But when I got up to the counter the woman helping me asked where my birth certificate was. Stunned, I repeated, “birth certificate”? She affirmed that was correct, so I asked where in the heck I get a copy of my birth certificate in Beijing?! From a bank, I was told. She then pointed to a sheet of paper that was a certificate of deposit from a bank. Turns out she was saying “bank” and not “birth”. When I asked if she wanted a “bank” certificate – accentuating the “k” – she gave me a glaring “yes” then moved to person next in line.
I went to the information officer and asked what the bank certificate was about. She said that in order for me to extend my visa, I needed to have $3,000 USD in a bank account in China – $100 a day for 30 days. This was to prove that I could support myself while in China. I tried to explain that currently I was living off of about $25 a day, but she didn’t seem impressed with my thrifty self.
There were so many problems with this bank business. 1) how was I going to get $3,000? You can only withdraw about $250 a day from an ATM, so it would take over a week to get the money. 2) wiring money internationally would be really expensive, plus I have no idea how that works. 3) can I even open a bank account in China? 4) I only had two more days left on my current visa.
So after calling my mom to ask if she could transfer money from my account to me if needed, I called Tina to come up with a game plan. We decided that Tina would bring over $3,000 in cash and I’d put it in a bank. Dang she’s smart.
Then I went to some banks to find out if I could open an account, and more importantly, get my money out without penalty and in a timely fashion. The only catch was that if I opened an account in Beijing, I’d have to close it here, too. That would mean at some point I’d have to come back here just to close my account. And I still was clear on things because I was never sure they understood what I was asking, and I kept being transferred to someone else.
After talking to the banks, I went online to the official site of the Beijing police and read that they also accept traveler’s cheques. Sweet! Tina thought this would be a safer option so we decided on that. But when she got here, and we went back to the police, they refused the cheques and demanded a statement from a bank.
So we went down the block and opened an account at the Bank of Beijing and asked to deposit the money. This took an hour. They said they would accept the cheques and asked me to sign them all in front of the cashier (I had 30 $100 cheques). Then she said I could only deposit $500 unless I had the receipt for the cheques – and if not, I could take the cheques around to other banks and resign them, get cash, then come back and deposit the money. Oh, and I needed to use the hotel’s address for my account.
After explaining that for security reasons you don’t carry the cheques and the reciept, and that since I signed them in front of her, I could only cash them with her, they let me deposit all the money as long as I returned the next day with the reciept. She then asked when I wanted to close the account. I remembered that the infromation officer at the police explained they need a certificate because during the approvial process, lots of people check to make sure I have the money, and if I took my money out too soon, I won’t get my visa extended. So I said I’d like to get my money out the same day I get my visa – in a week. She then informed me that until then, my account was frozen.