Posts Tagged ‘work’

How not to renew a work visa

April 7, 2009

It’s taken me a while to get round to writing this post. As I’ve mentioned previously, as an imported worker, I need a work visa to be able to work here, and last year the immigration department gave me a one year visa. This is pretty much the norm, despite me requesting a two year visa. Normally, I’d be reminded by our office manager/admin prior to the expiry of the visa to start putting the paperwork together. Unfortunately, she had been made redundant towards the end of last year. As a result I never got a reminder, and continued in complete ignorance … right up until departure time for a hockey tour to Bangkok, whereupon trying to exit Hong Kong via the ID card controlled electronic gates, the gates wouldn’t open. An official from immigration arrives and starts typing away on a computer, and the gate opens to release me, and I’m directed down a corridor to the immigration department.

They’re not all that impressed that my visa has expired, and ask for my passport and boarding card, which I hand over, and then begin to panic ever so slightly. After a few awkward questions about expired visas, and submitting visa extension applications, I’m told that I can pay for an extension to the current day for HK$160. I’m pretty sure that’s the fastest I’ve reached for my wallet and am thrusting the money at the immigration officer as quickly as possible. After another 10 minutes or so my boarding card and passport are returned to me, and I’m told to go on my way, with a lot of relief. The beer at the airport bar is most welcome – as well as trying to explain my interview with immigration to the rest of the team …

On arrival back I need to enter on a visitor visa, where I’m told I can’t work. In fact this is a similar situation as to when I first arrived. The first thing I do when I get home is access the immigration website and start downloading extension of stay forms, and getting in touch with the office to get my letter of employment drafted. This all takes a bit of time to oragnise and collate, and in between I have another hockey tour which I exit for and return on my touist visa with no problems whatsoever, thankfully.

Back in Hong Kong the form requires a letter from my employer and the employer’s business registration number. Realising on the day of my appointment, I don’t know this number I quickly IM the office finance guy who says he’ll have it to hand and we agree I’ll drop into the office in about half an hour. Twenty minutes later I’m in the office and there’s no sign of anyone as they’ve all cleared off for lunch. Not helpful. As time ticks onwards towards my appointment time I realise he’s not coming back in time, and am about to give up with a view to phoning the office on my way to immigration when I notice the stupid registration certificate is framed on the wall. Number printed clearly. Smack forehead a bit, but overall a result! Upon reaching immigration with the various paperwork ready, I wait in the seated area for my interview for the extension of stay application, when an immigration officer comes up to the seats near where I’m sitting and starts barking at a lady ‘why you overstay your visa?’. I’m almost tempted to stand up and say he has the wrong person, and he probably means me, but decide to sit tight and see if I get called to one of the booths instead. This proves to be the correct action, and I’m called to a booth to be informed that my visa has expired and I’m currently in on a tourist visa. Well, duh! Apparently, what I need is a change of status not a visa extension. I’m also asked if I’m working for the same employer as before. This is awkward, as technically, I believe I am not allowed to work. Unapid leave is agreed with the immigration authorities, but that work will recommence with the same employer. I’m in the wrong office however, and can apply for the change of status back on Hong Kong island.

I get back to Hong Kong island (from Kowloon Bay) as quickly as possible and push through the usual crowds that walk slowly in both directions to immigration in Wanchai, and start the process of applying for a change of status. This seems to be pretty straightforward, until they notice that my employment letter is not the original, but a print out. It’s a pretty good print out – in my rush from the office I’d not noticed. My worry is that this is only going to delay matters further, but it turns out that my application is processed and I’m told to return three weeks later, with passport, HK$140, and the original employment letter and that it will all be sorted.

Fast forward three weeks, and true to their word, the visa is completed – I now have a new sticker in my passport, and everything is legal again. I think it goes without saying that the next time I need a visa extension, I’ll make sure I get it sorted in plenty of time before it expires though. Plenty of uncomfortable minutes spent trying to get this sorted out. It’s a definite relief to be legal again!


Macau follow-up

March 11, 2008

Unsurprisingly Macau felt like a wasted trip to me. My main reason for being there was to leave Hong Kong and re-enter under my now extended working visa. Upon reaching the immigration desk having returned from Macau and handing over my passport to the immigration officer expecting to get it stamped and updated I’m told this is unnecessary as it has already been activated when the extension was issued. So from that point of view it was an unnecessary trip entirely.

Of course I was also over in Macau to deliver a presentation – with the riveting title of Linux in the Enterprise – at a luncheon briefing for current customers or potential customers. I’m not really sure as I must admit I didn’t really pay attention when being ‘asked’ to do this. Bearing in mind other presentations I’ve delivered have felt like hard work, or had people dozing off, or just had no response at all from the audience I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this one either. Unfortunately this time was no different. Myself and a room of perhaps 20 people have 30 minutes of time wasted by me. I’m convinced either no-one listens or no-one understands what I’m saying (all other presentations are in Cantonese, and not in English with a slight N Irish accent). I know I can speak quite quickly when presenting and always suggest the audience ask if they want something repeated/explained. No queries or questions at all – I could be speaking to a blank wall and get more response. Slowly but surely any joy or confidence I have in presenting is being chipped away. Still it looks good for my employer to be able to wheel out a Brit to present, so I guess that’s why I’m there. Only one noticeable sleeper this time, so I guess that’s an improvement of sorts.

I’ve also had my main office of work shifted from the centre of Hong Kong (the originally named Central area) out to Tsuen Kwan O. After a bit of searching to find out where exactly this place is, I found it’s on the (east) Kowloon side and in the middle of an industrial estate. In fact, it’s not too dissimilar to Bracknell really. There’s an (unfunny) irony there to be sure. It also means my 20 minute stroll to work or 5 minute cab ride has become a 50 minute MTR swapping and shuttle bus trip. I also managed to leave my house flat keys in the office yesterday only realising when I was back at Admiralty MTR necessitating a full return journey back again. Much muttered swearing to myself as it was basically 90 minutes completely wasted.

On an unrelated note, I see that the Netscape browser is now officially dead. I first ran into Netscape at the university computer centre where it basically Netscape = worldwide web, and also meant I could waste some time playing networked Doom with my lab partner when we pulled an all-nighter to write up our boring dissertations in thrid year. It’s strange to think that from that initial exposure to networked computers I’ve now wound up working in Hong Kong in the IT industry. Considering my choice, I hope it’s a more interesting career than bouncing NO molecules off platinum (which I think was one of the dissertation subjects).