Baffled visa-seekers on road to nowhere

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, 12:00am

The mainland's visa office in Wan Chai echoed to the sounds of grumbling yesterday.

Weary applicants complained about long waits or of being turned away after going through 'confusing' procedures imposed under the pre-Olympic Games visit curbs.

Huddled masses and long queues have become a common sight outside the office in the China Resources Building since mainland authorities tightened application procedures.

An Indian merchant, Raman Jairath, said he had been denied a visa at the Shenzhen border after successfully applying for one during visits over the past few months.

'But this time they said the visa office had closed and asked me to come back to Hong Kong. But no one here can tell me what I should do,' said Mr Jairath, who landed at Chek Lap Kok yesterday morning.

Camara Mohamed, a tea trader from Mali, said he had been turned away after what he described as 'perpetual waiting in lines'.

'The staff said visitors from Africa have to go back to their home countries to apply,' Mr Mohamed said. 'It would be a waste of time and money for me to return to apply. And the deal would have expired by then.'

Both businessmen said they were unaware of the new entry visa rules, which took effect a day after they were made known to travel agencies earlier this month. They require people from all countries to apply for China visas in their home countries.

A spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry office in Hong Kong was not available for comment. A staff member at the visa office said Monday was normally busy, adding that the long processing time could be because some people failed to produce documents needed to support their applications.