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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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(Don't be) A Single-Minded Excursion to Futility.    

By Garreth Humphris
3590 Views | 11 Comments | 9/19/2012 2:26:44 PM

A still from the Austrian film 'Import/Export', about Immigration in Europe.

I have a cautionary tale I want to share with you - one that is important if you are intending to meet a lady and want to take her back with you to your home-country and this is the topic of immigration and marriage.

I have a Chinese friend who I have known for about 8 years - she started dating a foreign colleague of mine and over the ensuing years I helped her with paperwork and immigration and other stuff to try to get organized to get herself overseas.

My foreign colleague was married but had become estranged from his wife, although they had not divorced - his appointment in China was about a year and in the course of this, my Chinese female friend and he met!

I don't think she had too many expectations at the start - they seemed to just “hang-out” with friends and share dinners with each other. Regular boyfriend-girlfriend activities. Then sometime close to the end of his tenure, the ’M’ word made it’s appearance.

My colleague’s situation had changed, his wife had started dating and they had commenced the divorce proceedings! But no Chinese marriage could happen until the paperwork cleared and all was settled.

My foreign colleague returned home and my Chinese female friend was happy in ’M-land’! Whenever I saw her, she would start her conversation with “When *colleague* and I are married, ...”

Every 5 minutes she would repeat this sentence - it started to consume her life!

They asked me to help her complete the paperwork. About 6 documents in all - it was about 7-8 multi-page forms of information, often not so clear-cut and obvious, even to a native speaker! It required lots of family documents, birth and marriage papers, living documents and housing leases, some of it difficult to obtain in China - it all needed translation and notarisation - many asked the same questions in multiple ways - cross-checking and matching.

It was essential but expensive, time-consuming and frustrating to a lady in waiting!

She waited patiently for 6 months, but became more agitated - her conversations became more despondent; she was getting older, she complained, if she wanted to get married again to a Chinese man she would have to do it soon!

Her parents were pressuring her, if the man said he would marry you, why hasn’t he? What is wrong?

She would ask me why she couldn’t go overseas, why did she have to wait so long, why did they want more paperwork. Why did the government want to stop them from being married?

She worried about her work, heart overseas but reality firmly stuck in China!

The first application failed, after 12 months - not really sure why but something with paperwork! A technicality they said - but they always do!

My foreign colleague returned to China for a few weeks for work - they had a nice time and the “expectation” was renewed. Returning home, he went to a 'immigration agent’ and we redid the forms and files here in China. Sending them to his home country for a lawyer to check and then submitting them there.

The winter became longer, my Chinese friend seemed to focus more on this - she was wasting her life, things would not happen, he had lied to her, she wanted him to come back and marry her, but doing so would mean an immigration re-start...different marital status, different protocol.

She wanted to go to his country as a ’tourist’, to stay a few weeks with him, but this would complicate immigration! Life became about ’when we are married’, she could think, talk and act about nothing else!

And suddenly, an interview - travel halfway across China, sit an interview for Immigration, do an English Proficiency test, tomorrow!

Her application rejected, a technicality? What? We could not know! No feedback, not idea! 3 years of waiting for nothing. 

She could not reapply, had to wait! She talked about ending it! No marriage, no life!

She argued with my colleague, why couldn't he have tried harder, why was the paper so hard to come by?

They argued more and more, the phone bills were too expensive, her parents wanted her to meet another husband and stay in China, why couldn't he come back to China and live with her?

The uncertainty made them grow distant, the daily telephone calls became weekly and then finally not at all! 

He had cheated her, her life was ruined, 5 years wasted, for nothing - no marriage, no future!

About a year later I saw my colleague at a meeting - what happened I asked?

She had failed the Language Test, too nervous she had mistaken questions they had asked - she had given the wrong name when they asked his name, didn't know his hometown, the details didn't match. Immigration was suspicious.

He’d appealed, sent photos and more information, spend thousands of dollars to no avail - she didn't believe him, called him a cheat - he felt that she just wanted ’marriage’, to anyone, not necessarily him!

He’d felt helpless, done all he could, had to wait to reapply for the next yearly quota - but their love didn't survive...

I write this not to discourage you in your quest but to have you prepare for it. Gentlemen, the moral of the story is this...if you are coming to China to find a partner and thinking about the 'M' word please consider the following;

1) Get your $&@! together on the ’divorce’ front. Be able to be married before you broach the issue with a Chinese woman. If it is 12 months before you can start marriage paperwork, or will have an acrimonious “debate” with you ex that will sour your spirit then have it before you start searching for a new life! You need the paperwork correct to get married in another country!

2) Understand the immigration requirements of bringing a partner to your home country - don't assume that because you are a citizen, your home country will welcome your foreign wife with open arms and fast entry. Determine beforehand what visa will be easiest for her to apply for and which one sets you up the best long-term solution for you! There are usually a few routes to do it but you should know the details - Should you get married in her country (or can you explain to her why it is better not to!).

If your partner is in limbo for 2-3 years between saying yes and living in your home, then this will be trouble! You partner just “wants to be with you!” and probably doesn't want to understand the restrictions on her travel, by her country and yours...just saying “maybe” I will get a letter next week and “possibly” you can buy a plane ticket next month and “probably” I will see you in 3 months starts to get so stale after 18 months of the same language.

3) Use your “waiting time” to help your partner adjust to your lifestyle and culture - consider enrolling her in language classes while she waits! Get her ready for the entrance interview or other activities she will need to do to enter your country, get a job and get around! Send her photos, maps and ideas about what she might like to do when she goes there - help her to identify skills and things to improve her presentation at interviews and meetings with Immigration. Do things to positively show your commitment while she waits - it is small, but it counts!

4) Realise your Chinese partner may be on a shorter “marriage” pathway than you - while you are looking for the “perfect lady”, she is looking for a “suitable man”! And they might not be the same expectation!

5) Consider if getting a job in China is a possibility and how you might cope to be with your partner! If you can’t be together in your homeland quickly then maybe spending some time in her home country is a possibility - again check immigration and other issues.

6) She will probably need money to process paperwork, notaries and agents, and a whole bunch of other issues in her country - be ready for it!

There have been many successful relocations globally, this is not what I am arguing - but the key is “know, don't assume” and have a contingency plan or 2 in the wings!

Love may be blind, but Immigration ain't!

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
Comments
(Showing 1 to 10 of 11) 1 2 More...
#2012-09-20 02:19:04 by bmccull @bmccull

Sage advice Garreth.
Bringing your intended spouse to live with you is alot more difficult than it seems it should be.

#2012-09-20 05:28:38 by gravics @gravics

This is very useful and helpful information. Your article is timely because I have been dwelling on these issues. I have been feeling a little discouraged, not because of your article, but because the reality of this pursuit can be daunting.
Your suggestions definitely would demonstrate consideration for her needs.
Thanks Garreth.

#2012-09-20 14:14:34 by aussieghump @aussieghump

Certainly not trying to discourage anyone - but 'forewarned is forearmed'!

In the heat of the moment, you don't want to be worrying about what her (or your) visa status might be! And it might be shocking to see the 'wait' that it may take to get your partner with you.

For example, I have 2 other Chinese female friends who both waited at least 18 months before they had permission to enter the USA. Other countries will have different protocols and restrictions - so be sure you know before you go!

Another issue you might not know is that if the lady is from a rural background, she may not be able to read or write, even though she can speak well! Many poorer rural women and girls forego formal education to support family and work on farms etc. Some will leave school at quite a young age to provide for male siblings - although not so common in urban areas, I know 3-4 ladies from rural areas that are like this and have had to learn Chinese writing and English writing many years after finishing school.
Assuming she can complete paperwork etc may not be a good choice!

All the best everyone!

#2012-09-21 09:40:33 by aussieghump @aussieghump

Sorry, I just wanted to add a bit more - if you are planning to marry in China, you will have to bring original paperwork like your birth certificate, details of home ownership, annulment of marriage papers etc. and they will need to be translated to Chinese and notarized.

For foreigners to marry Chinese people, they usually have to process the documents through a Provincial Capital of the Province where the person is resident. The local office may not be authorized - check this first.

Be aware that there may be 'restrictions' due to the type of Visa you are travelling on - a friend of mine had difficulties because he had travelled back to China on a tourist visa - not a business or work visa. This meant that he was unable to work and support his wife, so the marriage bureau took exception to this idea!

#2012-09-24 18:38:56 by anonymous4409 @anonymous4409

Well done Gareth. Wise and useful information.

#2012-11-12 10:34:42 by Brian1954 @Brian1954

Thank you for posting this useful information. You mention that the lady "failed the Language Test". I am from the United States; this is the first I have heard of a "language test". Could you elaborate on the nature and difficulty of this test? Thanks!

#2012-11-12 14:35:01 by aussieghump @aussieghump

Hi Brian
There is an 'interview' procedure that is conducted in English - the interviewer collects information about both parties on a 'marriage-related' visa to check the 'relationship' of the partners.
My friend said that even though she was 'flustered' in the interview, unsure of some of the questions being asked and also asked the meaning of some technical words in Chinese, they were not give to her and she felt that the test was a 'language test'!

Again, I am just reporting what she said she felt - rather than an 'official' test.

If you are trying to help a friend, they probably need to be well versed on your family and friends, places and situations in your life that might be used as 'confirming relationship' questions -as a minimum!

#2012-11-14 13:33:52 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@Brian1954 - to add to Gareth's response I suggest that in addition to "information" about your prospective mate's family and friends, places and situations that you've shared, etc., all of which are important, as Gareth suggests, there is an additional component to the "language test". I believe another part of the "language test" is that the interviewer is seriously looking to hear the applicant speak in the "language of love". They are looking for signs that the person applying for the visa actually cares about and loves the one they are going to be with if they're successful. It may sound trite, but I have been told by two lawyers who act for spousal visa applicants that a key reason why their clients are denied the visa is because the interviewer simply heard no words or saw no excitement in the eyes of the applicant that suggested they really were in love with the prospective spouse.

People who are passionately in love can't hide it, and people who are not can rarely fake it. So tell your friend not to be shy, and to let her real emotions and excitement show.

#2014-02-26 03:40:42 by alasdair @alasdair

@Brian 1954.

Wow yes this is such great advice. Your right to point this out. Love cannot be faked.I think I may have found the right lady now through this great dating site. I will know for sure when I arrive in China to meet her face to face. As this blog points out the Authorities in all countries care little about love. Perhaps if they did we would not see so many peope troughout the world dying in pointless wars. So good preparation and following what regulations exist at the time is such good advice.

#2014-02-26 19:11:14 by aussieghump @aussieghump

Good luck... Really check out the options with immigration before you come across to China if it is your definite idea to be married.

Determine if having a Chinese Marriage Certificate is better or bringing your partner on a Fiancé Visa and marrying in your country is best.

You will need documents yourself in China if you are to be married...the minimum will be official details such as previous Marriage Certificate and Annulment documents, your birth certificate, a police check from the federal authority, a certified copy of your bank accounts and get a Chinese copy of the brochures on Marriage and Immigration from the authority (or request one at the your countries' embassy in China)...checkout the webpages etc beforehand and download a copy of the latest form. Even if you don't fill it out on the spot, you will know the documentary evidence both you and she will need to provide.

Also determine what you might need to do to get guardianship of younger children and bringing them to your country if this applies to her!

Get these ideas in order so that when you are ready to 'pop the question' you have a fair idea on the next 3 steps you will take! This way you can placate her cries to 'do it quickly'!

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