Visas I have known

This is the first visa in my passport, the student visa from when I studied abroad at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan in 2002. Note that although it is a multiple entry vis, in Japan one still must obtain a re-entry permit sticker at the local immigration bureau to be placed in one’s passport before leaving the country, or the visa becomes invalid. Naturally, this is an extra fee.

This is my first tourist visa for the People’s Republic of China. Note that unlike the Japanese visa, it actually uses Chinese characters the fill out some of the fields, most notably the “Issued at” field, which is marked “Osaka.” In fact, I applied for this visa at a very strange “travel agency” office around the corner from the Japan immigration bureau in Kyoto, which in addition to accepting applications for visas to China also serves the role of selling the payment stamps which one must use to pay fees at the Japan immigration bureau in lieu of actual cash when paying for such things as reentry permits or visa extensions.

The only differences from the first one is that A: this one is double entry, so I could reenter China after my bus trip to Kazakhstan from Urumqi, and that it was glued to my passport in an extremely crooked fashion.

This is actually two separate, but related documents. The yellow thing is my tourist visa for Kazakhstan, and the blue thing above it is the “Registration Certificate” that non residents are required to keep in their passports until they leave the country. Notice that the visa is glues, and the certificate is stapled so it can be removed. It is, however, too cool to remove. The Kazakh visa is notable for a couple of things. First of all, it is handwritten-the only 21st century visa I have ever seen which is. Secondly, the “Inviting Organization” of “Sunrise Travel.” One cannot just apply for a Kazakh tourist visa like with most countries-instead you must have a letter of “invitation.” Tourist agencies, such as Sunrise Travel, will provide these letters for a small fee-I believe it was on the order of US $20.

There is an item I wish I could place right next to mine, and there is a story to it. My traveling companion on this particular trip was “Saru”, formerly also a contributor to this site. For some reason instead of indicating a one month span as I did on my visa application, he listed the exact seven-day period we had been planning to be there. Unfortunately, he got the range slightly off, so that if we had actually left on the date indicated on his passport we would just barely miss the local celebration of Nauryz-the biggest public holiday of the year! Obviously, this would have been extremely undesirable, so on the day after we arrived in Almaty, our local friends with whom we were staying took us to the office of this Sunrise Travel who had “invited” us to the country and asked how to resolve it.

Saru asked, “what happen if I overstay my visa?”

In reply, the tall, somewhat manly Russian woman with coarse black hair and a gigantic mole on her nose laughed heartily saying, “you go to jail!”

In the end, for a moderate fee she managed to work something out for Saru, but it was a rather odd solution. Instead of an extension to his tourist visa, or even a new tourist visa, she got him a business visa, which kicked in the day after the tourist visa ended. A one-day business visa. It looks much like the tourist visa, except for being blue, but I imagine that a single day business visa for Kazakhstan must be very nearly unique in the history of travel.

This is my “Visitor Visa” for Taiwan (legal name, “Republic of China”). I went there to study Mandarin in Taipei immediately following my undergraduate graduation from Rutgers University on a Taiwan government Summer term scholarship for Mandarin study, originally planning only to stay for the three-month Summer term. You may notice that the Duration of Stay is only 60 days. This is because a Visitor Visa has a term of only 60 days, which may be extended twice, for a total stay of 180 days. Why was I on a Visitor Visa instead of a Student Visa? Due to a very peculiar visa system, Taiwan does not actually HAVE such a thing as a Student Visa-only Visitor and Resident. Although a full time university student from abroad would qualify for a Resident Visa, since ordinary Chinese language schools there only enroll on a quarterly basis, language students are issued Visitor Visas. But what if you want to stay and study for longer than 180 days? The answer is below.

This is my Resident Visa for The Republic of China (Taiwan). After studying in Taiwan on a Visitor Visa for four months, one is eligible to apply for a Resident Visa. Once you have a Resident Visa, you are then eligible to apply for the ARC (Alien Registration Card) and upon having that, to the national health system (which incidentally works very much like the one in Japan).

The entire system is absurdly cumbersome, with Visitor Visa extensions and ARC applications being handled by an office of the county or city police, but the Resident Visa application being handled by the immigration department, in an entirely different part of the city (at least in the case of Taipei). Visitor visa extensions for language study also require the submission of an attendance tracking form, which one obtains from the administrative office of the language school. If a student has more than a couple of absences, they may then be subject to questioning and browbeating by a member of the foreigner registration section of the Taiwan police.

All in all, it is extremely bureaucratic, containing a number of overly complex and supervisory elements which I suspect (but do not know) are based in the former police state period of Chiang Kai Shek’s regime.

After leaving Taiwan, I got a job working in the office of the College of Information Science and Engineering at Ritsumeikan University’s Biwako Kusatsu Campus, near Kyoto. Although the contract was technically only for one year, it was of a type commonly renewed twice, which I suppose explains why I was granted a 3-year visa.

This is the one I got yesterday.

14 thoughts on “Visas I have known”

  1. Visas and passport stamps are fun. I note the student visa is two years now. That’s a nice change from when I had to renew mine annually – for over a dozen years. And how the hell the immigration authorities can tell who you are from that incredibly grainy pic I will never know. I could grow a thick beard and put on glasses and look like that….

  2. Chinese visas still look pretty much the same, although the rules keep changing. When I applied for my tourist visa last year, the one-year unlimited entry visa was as expensive as any other tourist visa for Americans, so I got one of those. Now I believe the standard tourist visa for Americans is two years unlimited entry. It almost seems like a government policy to encourage handbag and DVD smugglers to keep traveling to Beijing.

    As for Japanese visas, I wonder whether the color scheme changed in the last few months or whether they might just use different color schemes for different categories. My humanities visa, issued in Seoul last year, looks just like your humanities visa from 2006–green flowers at the top and a blue/yellow background.

    Actually, my very first Japanese visa, issued in Miami in 1999, consisted of a rubber stamp background with the details handwritten in and the consul’s signature. My father has a few US visas in his passport dating back to the 1980s and they look pretty similar. I guess the Kazakhs are just being retro.

  3. My first Japanese visa was the same – colourful rubber stamp occupying most of the page with the details hand-written. In fact it wasn’t until I came over again in 2004 that I got the sticker type.

  4. Glad to see your latest “Gov SCHOLAR” visa.Roy.

    BTW,you on the Taiwanese student visa…You were not intended to look like some Bolshevik figure or villain from 007 movie,are you?

  5. Thanks Aceface. I’ll write some more about that last visa another day.

    I wasn’t deliberately trying to look like a 007 Bolshevik, but maybe the camera captures an inner truth…

  6. “it is handwritten-the only 21st century visa I have ever seen which is”

    Lao visas-on-arrival are handwritten; I’ve got three of them in my passport. No idea if they are typed out if you actually get the visa at a Lao embassy/consulate ahead of time.

  7. So what did the the people in the PRC think about the fact that you had a Taiwanese visa. Anything?

    And those photos are insane! Like Aceface I was going to comment that you looked like a stereotypical Russian villian. Lenin with a headache.

    I don’t think I have any interesting looking visas, but I’ve found some odd stuff in the currency category lately. When I travelled to the Cooks a year or two ago, I found that they had a rather lewd three dollar note and very groovy $2 coins:

    But there aren’t enough of them, so they use the $NZ instead. Shame. Fiji used to have a picture of their airport on their $1 bill. That was pretty cool too.

  8. Bryce, they’re all in sequential order, so if you look again you’ll see that I actually got both PRC visas before I got either of the Taiwan visas. Taiwan certainly didn’t care about the PRC visa though, and as far as I know PRC couldn’t care less if you have a Taiwan visa- you just can’t GET a PRC visa anywhere in Taiwan, and have to fly to Hong Kong or Japan or something to apply for it.

  9. Damn, I think I want to go to the Cook Islands now. Pity the real Cookettes don’t look like (or wear) that….

  10. How do you know if you haven’t been? And I take it you’re talking about the chick on the shark, not the statue of the guy!

  11. I’ve seen a few Cook Islanders in my time before. Also, photographs etc are a great help. And yeah, I was referring to the Shark Rider (hence the “ettes” ending).

  12. Japan’s foreign ministry seems to be saying that you can still get a handwritten visa if you go to one of their smaller diplomatic posts:

    At present Japan has two types of visa: a seal type, in which a visa seal is stuck inside the passport, and a stamp type, in which a visa stamp is marked in the passport. The seal type is used by overseas Japanese diplomatic establishments that issue a large number of visas, as in the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, and the Philippines. Other Japanese diplomatic establishments use the stamp-type visa.

  13. Thanks so much for showing ur visa cux I applied for a visa to taiwan for tourist and the agency did it to china. Thanks…..

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