A new bank account, my first HUT paycheck, and a new residence permit


ZHENGZHOU, HENAN — Still busy here, but midterms are now over. My time has been spent marking the exams, and getting a new bank account and finishing the paperwork to get a new residence permit.

Marking exams is more fun.

OK, I’m exaggerating, but it took most of one Saturday morning to open the bank account, and most of another afternoon to run around getting the paperwork submitted for the residence permit. It all seemed needlessly complicated, but at least the bank account was available for my first paycheck yesterday (YAY!) and for China’s big online shopping day — “Singles Day” — today.

THE BANK ACCOUNT

Although I already have two Chinese bank accounts, I had to open a new one. To be honest, I’m not entirely clear why, but it seems to have to do with my existing accounts being opened in Hunan, while my employer is in Henan. Even the bank worker was perplexed, as he told my student assistants that there was no need to open a new account, as I already had an account with that bank.

After a few phone conversations with our staff assistant, it was decided that, to be on the safe side, I should close out the old account (which I already had cleaned out) and open a new one.

For a foreigner to open an account in China, you need to show your passport, which the bank will scan, get your picture taken at the branch, and sign several forms. US residents get to sign an additional form listing our tax ID number (otherwise known as our Social Security number), now that China has signed the FATCA and FBAR tax treaties with the USA.

As I already had an account with ICBC (Industrial and Commercial Bank of China), I had to enter my PIN on the desktop console in order to close that account. Fortunately, I remembered my code. My co-worker, Teran, had also taught in China before, but had forgotten her ICBC PIN. She had to wait another week to complete the account opening process because This Is China and I guess it’s absolutely impossible for one person to have two accounts at the same bank at the same time. Or something.

Enabling online banking is yet another process, requiring a working cellphone (to receive authentication text messages), more forms, and a second bank employee to finalize the process. My phone’s battery inconveniently died during the account opening process, and there was no charger or compatible phone available to accept my SIM card. So, I also would have to return to the bank to complete the process.

Now, it turns out that although I had a bank card and an account number, without online banking turned on, the account could not yet accept direct deposits, such as — my paycheck. So, I came back with our office manager, Queen, the day before payday, because I really wanted to be paid.

[Aside from the USA, and a few other backward nations, hardly anyone else around the world pays people with paper checks now. It was direct deposit this week, or wait another month to get paid.]

Everything went well, until the bank’s WiFi went wonky and none of their terminals could access the Internet to send the necessary security codes to my now operational phone. Instead, we used Queen’s phone and 4G connection to finish the process, and an hour after entering the bank, my account was finally fully operational.

For details on how I moved some of my pay to my US bank account, see this post on my new blog. The avenues I used before, sending a PayPal-to-PayPal payment or using a Bitcoin exchange, are now closed by new regulations.

As for shopping on Singles Day, I bought new bed pillows and a mattress pad to replace the ones I left behind in Jishou in June. I know you’re impressed.

THE RESIDENCE PERMIT

Yesterday, Howard, our staff assistant, and I set off at 1 pm to submit the paperwork needed for my work permit and residence permit. These errands required an hour-long ride on the subway and visits to no less than four offices. The work permits are handled at one office — we foreign experts now get a plastic card which looks rather like a Chinese national ID card, but with none of the added benefits — while the residence permit requires a visit to the Public Security Bureau visa and passport office, which naturally is not located anywhere near the work permit office.

Along the way, we also had to visit a print shop to scan the QR code on the work permit card and get a printout of its contents to submit to the PSB, and another office to get my photo taken yet again, because China can’t get enough of my handsome mug.

These hassles were bad enough, but Howard said the process was even more complicated last year. I can’t imagine.

By the way, a residence permit costs 400 yuan, about $60. The university pays for that. Also, the PSB holds your passport for up to 21 days, and they give you a substitute passport form in case you need to book a hotel or train tickets while they hold the real thing.

Again, I have no idea why it takes three weeks to generate a residence permit and affix it to your passport. I had the same wait in Hunan each of the previous nine times I’ve done this. It’s just the way it is.

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Also published on Medium.

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