Good things come to those who wait and wait…? (part 1)


I like to have a plan, maybe not with all the details sorted, but at least some idea of the direction in which I will be heading.  And yes, a plan B as well, just in case things go pear-shaped.  I accept I may have to make some tweaks and adjustments, if not totally change course – life happens.  But it helps me to sleep at night.

So with the ink on my latest contract for another year in China barely dry, I started plotting my next destination.  Vietnam, or Thailand perhaps…  I was certainly very  much taken with Bangkok last summer.  Working abroad within the parameters of local employment laws for foreigners often requires meticulous preparation and mountains of paperwork and  I was determined to make good use of my unexpected and enforced return to Europe.

Most countries, including Vietnam,  expect the foreign English teachers to be graduates and as these days degrees can easily be photo-shopped and bought  rather than earned, most countries ask for official documents, such as degree certificates, to be legalised…  This had not been necessary for my last employment visa for China, nor for India, but rumblings on the Expat rumour mill indicated that even in China the mood may be changing and legalisation will be introduced from  April 2017 onward..…  And speaking as a real graduate, with a real degree, I can only support this.

I had looked into legalisation before – last year when I happened to be in Belgium – as documents need to be legalised in the country of their origin.  Of course, I have a host of  postgraduate qualifications obtained in the UK (I am British after all..), but the one that everyone seems to want to check is your Bachelors or Masters Degree.  Although my first attempts to get to the bottom of ‘legalisation’ had failed – well, I did not really need it last year – this time, I was more tenacious and the internet suggested a trip to Brussels to the Legalisation Division of the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs (FPSF) was involved.  I booked my flight to Belgium, allowing plenty of time for a trip to Brussels on Monday and booked the appointment…

It was only when scrolling down the confirmation email that I realised things were a little more complicated..  In Belgium, being the country that it is, consisting of two (or should I say three) autonomous regions speaking distinctly different languages, my appointment at the ‘Federal’ office had to be preceded by another visit to the ‘Flemish Community’ in Brussels after getting a certified copy of my degree from my Alma Mater…  ‘No problem,’ I thought, ‘I can fit in Leuven on my way from the airport on Friday… Hop  on the train, before visiting my family..’   only to find on my arrival in Leuven that the university admin office was closed on a Friday afternoon…


With my Monday appointment at the FPSF booked for 11 am, it was going to be a tall order to travel to two different cities and three different offices to collect all the necessary stamps and signatures…  But Belgium is not exactly a big country, so distances are relative.  Thanks to the efficiency of Belgian trains, the Brussels metro network, and of course Google Maps to fill in the blanks, I succeeded with even the slightest whisker of time to spare and some leniency on the part of the officials at the FPSF!!  Plus I learnt that my humble degree is now recognised as a Master’s Degree..  I suddenly felt so much more intelligent!!

For good measure, I asked for two copies of my degree to be legalised…  you never knew when this might come in handy.  At least I would be able to skip this first part of the legalisation next time around.  Not sure which country I would choose next, I left visiting a foreign embassy to complete the process of legalisation for a later date…

Before leaving China in January, I handed all the necessary documents  (I was aware of) to my new agent, so he could apply for the Foreign Expert Certificate and my work permit whilst I squeezed in some European travel before handing my passport to the Chinese authorities in the UK for my new visa..  Throughout January I had implored the agent to double check the requirements, to make sure no sudden surprises would be sprung…  ‘Of course,’ he put me at ease, ‘You go and enjoy yourself…  I will let you know when I have the work permit…’


I travelled to Italy whilst China was waking up after the New Year festivities and long national holiday, and my agent returned from his home town…   ‘I have had some feedback,’ his email read. ‘They need one more document from you…’ Suddenly it transpired that the ‘Foreigner Affairs Office’ insisted on a legalised copy of my Masters degree.    ‘Masters Degree?’ I questioned…  Since when had a Masters Degree been one of the demands for getting a Z-Visa for teaching English…???  And legalisation was not meant to take effect in Hangzhou until April…

‘I am sorry not let you know before [sic],’ he apologised, ‘for the new policy is just beginning from this year.  Everyone who want [sic] teaching in China need [sic] this document from this year.’   And had the Chinese authorities kept this a well-guarded secret? Or just decided to implement this without giving anyone due notice to be able to comply??  I wondered…   Or did the agent just not bother to check in advance when the impending changes would come into effect…  Or did only expats have knowledge of the new legislation, rather than the agents whose job it is to prepare the visa application paperwork…

‘They need you to go to the China Embassy of British [sic] to make your diploma to certificating authority [sic]. can you understand that? It is easy to get from the Embassy,’ he continued.  ‘Not so simple,’ I retorted. ‘A Belgian degree means a visit to the Chinese Embassy in Belgium…’  I had only been a stone’s throw from the correct Chinese Embassy when I was in Brussels less than a week before…  At least I did not have to start from scratch…

Flights  to Brussels at short notice were quite expensive… so expensive that I got a much better deal booking a city break in Brussels staying in a plush hotel…   Of course, even using the express service at the Chinese Consulate I would only be able to pick up my duly legalised degree the next day…  I secured my flight and hotel, scheduled to leave  Heathrow  on Thursday morning at 7 am to arrive in Brussels at 9am, with plenty of time to make it to the consulate before closing time at 11.30, or so I thought… (to be continued)

5 thoughts on “Good things come to those who wait and wait…? (part 1)

    1. lievelee Post author

      I did!!!! Although I have yet to see the money, the agent has agreed to refund me for the trip to Brussels… We’ll see.

      Things did not exactly go any quicker afterwards. Today, one month later, I am picking up my passport (hopefully with visa…) and have my flight booked for this evening… It is a long story…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. andy pickersgill

    You certainly like to live life on the edge. Makes applying for a Mozambique visa seem like a stroll in the park. Happy days. Take care


  2. Judie Freedman

    What a performance Lieve. The things we do because we want something. It’s getting more and more difficult to teach overseas without a degree and I don’t have one. Infact the TEFL school in Thailand recommended I bought one from the Internet and even sent me a couple of sites to go to. Interesting they took my money knowing this was illegal. Fortunately I’ve used my skills elsewhere and did some private teaching.
    Good luck when you get back.

    Liked by 1 person


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