The problem is that it takes two weeks to process a visa, but I am heading overseas in less than 12 days. Given the razor-thin time frame, I contacted the Swiss Embassy in DC. All I wanted to know was whether I should send my visa application or wait until I return.
The lady who answered the phone was polite. After a long list of questions about me, here are the highlights of her response. “No, I cannot recommend either to send visa or wait.” “It does not matter whether you have visited Switzerland before. No difference.” “There is no expedite service.”
I would say the experience is slightly better than talking to a robot or a glass door. Except that robots are cute. In the end, for that entire 5-minute conversation, I got nothing more than what their website says.
Suddenly, the old memories about Swiss flashed back.
The first time I learned about their relentless and reckless pursuit of procedures is at Gerzensee a couple of years ago at a conference. One of my Dutch friends is the hard-core sport type. One evening he decided to skip the group dinner (starting at 6:00PM), grab a banana and go for a bike ride.
It was 5:58PM, to be precise.
The head of the waitress had a stone-face and a thick German accent.
“No, sir. Dinner does not start until 6:00PM.”
“No, sir. You cannot have a banana unless the dessert is served.”
“No, sir. Banana is part of the dessert. It has to be served after the main course. To get a banana you have to wait until the main course is done.”
I was there among others, watching the whole scene unbelievably.
Now, the reality is, I need the visa; given my flight schedules all over the places in the next two months, I came up with a strategy — applying for the visa during my overseas trip. I even noted down that in China, it takes 5 business days (rather than two weeks) to process a visa.
Well, it turns out that overseas people’s life is even more miserable than people in this country.
Here are the guidelines for Chinese citizens applying for a Swiss business visa in China (highlighted in blue):
In order to process the visa application, the following documents in English, French, German or Italian are required:
1. Passport, valid at least three months after leaving Switzerland
2. Two recent passport photos in colour, according to our instructions published on our homepage, with white background, size 3.5cmx4.5cm
3. Visa application form, duly filled in, dated and signed (can be downloaded from www.eda.admin.ch/beijing)
4. Photocopies of the first 6 pages and of all visas and stamps in the passport
5. If you possess so, old passports (original and copies of all visas and stamps)
6. Business card
7. Residence permit (original and copy)
8. Hukou (original and copies of all pages, translation of all family related information)
9. An invitation letter from the inviting company/organisation in Switzerland with detailed programme, purpose of visit, date of entrance and leave, full name, passport number and date of birth of the invited person, coverage of accommodation and travelling expenses, business address, e-mail address of the Swiss enterprise and direct e-mail address of the official representative, telephone numbers and signature
10. Detailed programme of the entire trip in the Schengen area
11. Relevant insurance covering the journey in the Schengen area, which must be valid for the entire duration of the stay, with cover of at least EUR 30,000.— and covering the cost of any emergency medical treatment and/or repatriation for medical reasons. (original and copy)
12. Dispatch letter with name, date of birth and function of the employee, monthly salary, duration of employment, authorisation for absence from the employer and explanation on how expenses will be covered, full address, e-mail and telephone number of employer, stamped and signed, name and function of the person representing the company (original and translation, if the letter is written in Chinese language)
13. Copy of business license of the employer and a translation
14. Full flight booking in English
15. Visa fee EUR 60 the fee with the current exchange rate into CNY is available on our homepage (No change! Only the exact amount is accepted. Not refundable in case of refusal or withdraw! )
After the visa section has approved the visa application and the respective visa fee has been paid, a visa will generally be issued after at least 5 working days after receiving the complete file.
Wow! I stared at the laundry list, speechless.
I would need a pair of bigger and thicker glasses.
After all, I wonder whose eyes will pop up if I fulfill requirement #5. I am on my fifth passport. All previous four passports were full of visas and had to be replaced.
My sympathy to the visa officer who will have to go through these pages of records.
My condolence to these trees that will be sacrificed to make copy of pages of pages of my old passports.