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StChris

Travelling to Beijing on an out of date passport

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StChris

While I'm here I may as well ask for a little advice. 

 

Do you think it will be possible to get a train to Beijing and find accommodation there with an out of date ID? IIRC, the train people normally only take your ID number, I'm hoping they won't check the expiry date. An airbnb host might not bother looking too closely at ID either (I hope). My passport expired in April and I have been unable to renew it due to the passport issuing office being closed during the epidemic. They are open again now, but need you to go to Beijing to apply in person, which because of the above might be difficult for me to do.

 

The Beijing passport service don't have a number, and any emails to them just gets an automated response telling you to call the main office in the UK. I called them, but they say they can offer no help at all and asked me to contact the FCO (foreign office). The foreign office said I need to speak to somebody at the embassy in Beijing, but all calls there (including the emergency line) are just getting re-routed to the FCO in London. I'm a little at a loss of what to do.

 

These are my options:

- try to pretend that I'm in the UK and apply online for a passport there (they don't require an in-person interview), getting family to send it on to me in Harbin when ready. The problem with this is that they don't seem to be accepting any new applications without some kind of written reason as to why it's an emergency. I would have to make something up, as they won't accept applications from abroad.

- try to get a train to Beijing and hope my expired passport doesn't cause problems with travel and accommodation

- buy a bicycle and ride to Beijing (but the accommodation problem still exists)

 

I'm going to keep trying to call the embassy in the hope of catching someone there. If that doesn't work, then maybe I can try to contact my local MP to see if they can help. If not, then I guess I'm on my bike (I did a 2 month long cycling trip in China in 2018, so the week long journey to Beijing shouldn't be too difficult). The local immigration police were understanding when my passport first expired in April, and still granted the 2 month automatic visa extension, but I'm not sure if they will be so nice two months later. That 2 month extension is up tomorrow, but my school hasn't contacted me, so maybe I shouldn't bring it up until I finally have a new passport at hand.

 

Any advice?

 

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889

As for trains, for language reasons I don't think they do much more than match the name and passport number.

 

As for rooms, the old pink forms did call for the "validity of document." It's fair to assume the online system is the same, so there might be a problem there.

 

https://www.beijingesc.com/images/stories/Shanghai-Registration-Form.jpg

 

As an aside, does your phone still work? I recall that when I registered my number with my passport, they stressed the registration would become invalid when my passport expired.

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xinoxanu

Whatever you do, don't try to get through your embassy's door... as I did. The PLA officer was not happy about it, kept asking me "is there some problem?" (as in, are you an spy or have you done something bad and are trying to flee?) and my Chinese kept getting more broken by the second, which only aided what I guess was a guilty/embarrassed look on my face. Eventually they let me in, only for the person inside to tell me that the Consulate's door was... next door. Who'd know they had split the building in two? The most awkward thing yet was to have to walk out, passing the PLA officer not once, but thrice in the next hour, since I had to go take some pictures in a nearby shop. I still cringe to this day 😅

 

Funny stories aside, some things to consider:

 

- Where are you currently located? While cycling to Beijing wouldn't be an issue if you have the means, I am more concerned about the fact that if the "highway police" (not exclusive to highways, mind you) stops you, they will do a whole check on your passport and you could get into trouble then (specially if your local 派出所 doesn't have records of your special situation). Same if a Chinese farmer gets scared of a "crazy laowai on a bike with coronavirus" and calls the cops on you.

- While 899 is correct, and they'll rarely do more than glance at your passport, we are talking about trains to Beijing, not somewhere in Yunnan: security and training will be more tight. On the other hand, I've handed my closed passport to many people and they are not even able to locate the identity page... and more than once they have thought another visa in my passport was the Chinese one... yes, even my Iranian visa, which is 90% written in Persian.

- If you go that way, I don't recommend your family sending you a passport/credit card via mail, unless it's done via DHL or something like that (which is rather expensive, mind you). These companies may even deny transportation of identity-related documents outside of the UK, even more if we are talking about China... and they have machines that detect such documents. 

- Have you considered a bus instead? Perhaps not directly to Beijing, as you could potentially face the same situation as with the train, but instead do some jumps to nearby cities until you are able to use the local Beijing transportation system?

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StChris

@889 thanks for your help.

 

My phone is still working fine, as is my bank account (I got a text asking telling me that my ID was about to expire, but I can still access funds from it while using Wechat).

 

Hmm, I think the train should be fine too, accommodation might be a different matter (expired passport and visa). Does Beijing have public baths? In Harbin, some of them are open 24/7. I've had friends who have gone to one to bathe and sleep after a night at the bars or the internet cafe. That would solve both sleeping and washing arrangements.

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xinoxanu
2 minutes ago, StChris said:

accommodation might be a different matter (expired passport and visa)

 

Yes, be certain that they'll scan your passport and send it to the police, which will run a background check during the night (hence why many times the cops show up a couple hours later after you have registered).

 

Don't know about public baths, but I've heard of 24h libraries. There's always 24h McDonald's that will get quiet enough for you to sleep... in fact many invisible homeless people do that.

 

You can always try couchsurfing to avoid all of this, specially if you explain your situation beforehand to your host, but it's been ages since last time I use it so I am not sure on the availability of hosts at the moment.

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mackie1402

How about once you've submitted the application for a new passport. Can't you get a document to say who you are and your passport is in the renewal process? I know it works like that for visas (the form they give you so you can still use trains and hotels etc). Maybe there's a similar one which would work in China once you've submitted the application. In that case, you could book accommodation after you've applied for the renewal. But of course, it still comes with a risk if they don't provide anything. Secondly, when you take the train, perhaps you could print something out to show you have booked an appointment at the passport office in Beijing for the renewal? 

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StChris

@xinoxanu I think the embassy and passport office are two different places, so hopefully won't even have to go to the embassy at all.

 

Maybe a bus would be a better option, they will likely be less circumspect. I suppose I could get a buss to somewhere like Chengde first and then get a smaller bus in.

 

It would help if I could get some kind of document from immigration in Harbin proving that they know my status, but I don't think they would want to get involved in anything which may include the Beijing police. One of the ladies who works at immigration did add me to wechat when I went there last time, but I'm not sure I can 托 that 关系 - maybe she adds everyone so she can keep an eye on their friends moments to check for any illegal activity.

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mackie1402

I just quickly ran this past my wife (Chinese). She said you should be able to go to the local police station where you registered. Explain the situation to them and they can give you a document as 证明。 Then you can use this to take the train and book accommodation. It's exactly what the locals do if they lose their 身份证 and need to book tickets while they wait for the new one. 

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StChris

@xinoxanu I used to couchsurf, but assumed it had been destroyed by airbnb. I actually slept in a 24 hour McDonalds on my first night in Beijing (my first ever night in China in fact), so I suppose it would be like coming full circle.

 

@mackie1402 I think if I can't get in touch with the embassy tomorrow I will just send the email to make the appointment at the passport office (I believe you then have to go and hand in the application in person). I could then print that email - it's better than nothing, I suppose.

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StChris
2 minutes ago, mackie1402 said:

I just quickly ran this past my wife (Chinese). She said you should be able to go to the local police station where you registered. Explain the situation to them and they can give you a document as 证明。 Then you can use this to take the train and book accommodation. It's exactly what the locals do if they lose their 身份证 and need to book tickets while they wait for the new one. 

 

Thanks, that cold be a good option too. Argh, I hate going to the local station. They are all just sitting around smoking and drinking tea and always seem so resentful of you for disturbing them.

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roddy

I'd be asking local PSB and also school for some kind of "due to exceptional circumstances, StChris has an expired passport. Please help him" letter. 

 

Edit: I'd say this is an entry-exit bureau option, rather than local police. Where do you go for residence permit renewals and the like?

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xinoxanu

What I can't wrap my mind around is how the UK embassy can be so careless with their own citizens abroad. My embassy kinda forces us to register when we are in-country (specially to those in Chengdu, due to the '08 earthquake's ripple effect) and constantly checks up on us. It takes, however, a couple tries to get through their voicemail, but when they do answer they are rather helpful.

 

Don't you have a separate 24h emergency number for the embassy/consulate that you can use to explain this whole situation?

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xinoxanu
2 minutes ago, roddy said:

I'd say this is an entry-exit bureau option, rather than local police

 

Based on my experience, the PSB only handles visa matters, everything else is done through your local 派出所... In fact, the PSB will redirect you there for many queries.

 

I haven't faced this situation yet, nor know anyone, so don't quote me on that.

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889

Aiports have special PSB offices to issue these documents, at least for Chinese who've lost or forgotten their ID cards. Perhaps big train stations also have them tucked away somewhere.

 

EDIT: It looks like this service is only for Mainland Chinese.

 

http://www.cdairport.com/parking_lot.aspx?t=61

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StChris

@roddy The local PSB. I'll remind the school that my visa is up tomorrow and see what they say. I'd rather get something from them rather than have to go to the station.

 

@xinoxanu They seem pretty hopeless. The emergency number is the one I tried, but it always seems to go to the foreign office in London, even during office hours. I spent a few minutes speaking to a bored sounding lady in London yesterday, who basically said to call the embassy. No luck today, I'll try again tomorrow.

 

I suppose they could say they warned everyone to leave in February, but it sounded like a bad idea to go back and potentially spread the virus to my friends and family (and onto wider society from then). Well, 60k UK deaths later and that sounds a little silly, but I think it was sound thinking at the time.

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xinoxanu

You made the right call @StChris, considering how disastrous the western response to the virus as a whole has been.

 

Call this number: +86 (0) 10 8529 6600 (+86) (23) 6369 1400 / 1500 (Chongqing consulate)

 

Edit: the UK's China's emergency line is +86 (0) 10 8529 6600

 

It's the UK consulate in Chongqing's emergency line. Explain your situation to them and they should provide you/redirect you to the UK consulate in Beijing. 

 

PS: You can try other consulates in China. I recommended this one because it's probably the one that is better prepared to deal with weird emergencies, considering the location.

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roddy

Actually - I wonder if flying might actually be the better option. Refundable, or cheap, ticket, turn up early, explain situation. 

 

Do you need to stay in Beijing, or is getting in early and out late an option?

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Shelley
15 minutes ago, StChris said:

60k UK deaths

 

Officially its 40k. Still bad.

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StChris

@xinoxanu thanks, I'll give them a try tomorrow morning.

 

@roddy I think anything would be better than flying to be honest, airports tend to be the strictest. I suppose I could try hitch-hiking at a pinch, but I'm not sure how common it is in northern China.

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StChris

@Shelley I think 60k is from the number of excess deaths when compared to the 5 year average for the same period, but yeah still bad whatever the figure. 

 

Thanks everyone, I'll give an update tomorrow once I've tried the various embassy numbers again.

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