Several times last year while we were opening our business I used this blog to vent my frustration over the process. In fact I’m sure it often felt like post after post was nothing but a retelling of our company woes. Sadly a year and a half later the story hasn’t changed and the sage continues.
Last October the friend who had run the gauntlet of opening the company with me decided to move back to the states indefinitely. This was a bit of a blow as I struggled with how I would be able to run the company on my own. Thankful another good friend in town stepped up and said that after he and his wife returned from having their baby that they would love to buy out her half of the shares and join me in running the business. I was thrilled with the offer… it was like a light at the end of the tunnel, if I could just hold down the fort for a few month I wouldn’t have to do this alone.
Sure enough in March this couple came back and jumped right into the processes of formerly changing the paperwork to remove my original business pattern’s name and show that he was an investor in the company. He had originally planned to bring in more money from the states and increase our companies overall invested capital… right now Fusion is only worth $5000 USD. He was advised by one branch of the government, in an early step, not to bother investing more money, but to just buy my friends original half of the shares out from her. He was told it would mean a lot less paperwork and hassle for everyone. In this short of case it is always wise to trust the guy behind the desk, and so we started signing and stamping multiple copies of paperwork that allowed for the transfer of ownership.
After three months of his own running around from office to office adventure my new business partner was waiting outside of the country for us to send him a corrected visa invitation letter ( the first one had his middle name spelled wrong). The invitation letter allowed him to go to a consulate and get a work visa to enter the country. After obtaining the work visa there are still five office visits needed to switch it to a residence permit. He flew through the first four offices with record speed, indicated that there seemed to be no complication with the process. Ever sheet of paper was in order and handed in at the final location… they printed him off a slip and said “come back in two week to get your visa”. As he left the office he breathed a huge sigh of relief, the effort, struggle and running of the last few months was soon going to be totally worth it.
Less then a week later they called him in and said “our company did have enough invested capital to host four expat visas”. My workmate tried to argue that there weren’t four of us, only three they one girl had gone home to get married and never planned to work here again. He also reminded them of his original intention to invest more money, but that a different level of government had advised against it. The officer offered to consider his case a little longer. On Monday he sent someone to stop by our office to make sure we were working. I was leading a group on a culture walk about town, one of the services our company offers, and he was doing in person negoistating translation work between an American and their landlord. We were both busy out making money, but in this country it is only appearances that matter and since no one was in the office it did not look like we were doing anything. They called my work mate and demanded that he come back to their office the next day.
The next morning my business partner wasn’t alone as we traipsed into the office ready with our fight faces on. It had been a stressful night worrying about what they would say, practicing our answers. We had enlisted the help of two local friends to come with us… one of them even had good connection with officers who worked at their level of the police station. The women behind the desk looked at us blankly, “we didn’t call you to come in. Maybe you should try this other office”. While we were sure the phone call had come from them, if they didn’t have our application red flagged for some reason we didn’t want to be the ones to draw unnecessary attention to it. Instead we all jumped on the bus, hurried across to town to the office she had mentioned. They seemed equally as surprised by our visit and insisted they didn’t have a problem either. In fact they tried to send us back to the first place again. We were ready to give up for the day, while our friend kept making phone calls on our behalf.
Day two saw us bright and early once again up at the office ready to plead our case. The top officer called us into his office. He didn’t seem interested in talking to my business partner… instead he began to focus his questioning on me. When he found I wasn’t great at speaking the national language, he quickly sent for a Uyghur translator and continued to question me on the company’s activities and why we weren’t making loads of money (Which was rather unnecessary considering I could understand what he was saying in the first place). After ten minutes we were told rather briskly that we could leave, our questioning was over.
We exited the police station and found a patch of shade to stand and debate how the mini interrogation had gone. We didn’t have to wait long before the police guy called us back and confirmed they were going to turn down his application. My friend was not being given permission to work for his own company. The labor department agreed, the foreign investment bureau had given their stamp of approval, the local police station for both his home and our office building seemed fine with him coming on staff. All along right up to the very last step the answer had been a resounding ‘yes’… and suddenly he was saying “NO” load and clear.
A merida of emotions swept over all of us, anger, frustration, resentment, sadness, disappointment and more. It have been an indescribably long week and I am still not sure what sort of effect this visa rejection will have on me or my company long term… but we will continue to work hard and do our best.