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Paperwork

14 Aug

Did you know that when you get a new US passport you get a new passport number? 

Did you know that to travel to most countries you need at least six months remaining on your passport?

Now you know. 

I found out earlier this summer when I had to apply for passport renewal.  My China work and residence permits were expiring at the end of August and my previous passport was set to expire in January of 2012.  It started a process that took me six weeks, two trips to the police station, two trips to the US Consulate and plane and train travel using only a receipt in South China. 

I first had to  get the new passport.   This isn’t as easy as mailing it in because in China, my passport is my ID.  It is the way I can change money, get on an airplane, validate my mobile phone, check into a hotel, etc…  Because of this, the US Consulate lets you keep your current passport during the process, but you do need to make an appointment first.  I dropped off my new pictures, application form, paid my money and waited a couple of weeks for an email saying I could pick up my new passport.  The following week I collected it. 

Shortly after getting my new passport, I then provided all the necessary materials to HR to extend my work and residence permits.  Or at least I thought.  Because my passport number had changed, I had to go to the police station and get a new temporary residence permit so that I was in the system.   I guess not a lot of other countries require a change in passport number and explaining it to the woman processing the applications took me a while, but we eventually got it sorted.

At that point I then had to give HR my passport, the new temporary residence permit and other materials.  But, there was a problem.  I was supposed to go to Guangzhou and Shenzhen to speak at two seminars.  How could I fly without my passport?  HR’s solution was to give me the receipt from the processing bureau with my picture stapled to it.  The half sheet of paper said that the Chinese government had my passport and it was ok to let me fly.  It looked like the receipt you get for an oil change with my picture stapled to it —  but it worked!

I used the receipt to board two airplanes, purchase train tickets and check into my hotel.  Back in Shanghai the next week I received my real passport – with extended permits – just in time to go to Singapore.  After another trip to the local police station, re-registering my new permit numbers, I was good to go.

Luckily, I only have to get a new passport every ten years.  I’ve had enough paperwork for a while.

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