■ 21:56 (UTC±00:00), 17 DEC 2014 | GBR HARROW, GREATER LONDON
Croydon, to me, was this fantastically crazy mix of the UK, Hong Kong, and Mainland China in the weirdest possible mélange, especially architecture-wise. (The presence of Tramlink added a more Helvetic factor to the whole thing, too.) To me, the architecture, indeed was just simply the wildest mix I could — and could not — conceive. The buildings by East Croydon Railway Station looked particularly “interesting”, so to speak. (Only the black-and-white “brick cube” buildings in Fengtai, southwestern urban Beijing, were weirder still in appearance.) Even those by Wellesley Road looked like a mélange between Connaught Road Central in Hong Kong, Puhuangyu in Beijing, and post-World War II Britain.
And I’d have never really found out much about Croydon — if I hadn’t been there recently to get my Registration Certificate, which was recommended if I wanted to get Tracy her Residence Card. UK law actually says you don’t need them at all if you have all your docs in order (especially if you’ve an EEA Family Permit) — but then again nobody wants to wait for hours trying to legally cross the border — so a Residence Card makes life that much easier.
These Residence Cards are good for 5 years, but there’s something they didn’t tell you — waiting times are upwards of 6 months, and they actually take your passport away for the whole six months. Hence went our first planned trip back to China straight down the sewer. (Oh well.)
To prove I was eligible for one, all I needed were a few payslips from my university, plus my new, David Feng passport and ID card, a hugely complex formed filled in, and — that was pretty much it. I could get mine the same day (really not fair, though: Tracy had to wait all those months).
There was an easier option for me to get to Croydon by taking Southern train services from Harrow & Wealdstone station, which wasn’t all too far away, even on foot. However, they were far too risky, as I’ve on my iPhone repeated warnings Southern were interested (or were actually) running trains late. So I decided to go via Central London and take a Thameslink train there (from London Bridge station).
I actually missed my appointment a few days back — but thankfully, they still got me in on a new appointment. Obviously you went through security and the regular ritual — getting out of the place was more like getting out of a space shuttle or something (they had to make sure you were in between two sets of fully shut doors before they let you back into nature). Thankfully, the wait inside the Home Office building wasn’t too long, and they even had a Costa to kill off time. (Obviously, worried at whether or not I was good for the Registration Certificate, I didn’t so much as start blogging about this. But I could remember that my tea ran semi-cold before the gentleman working on my case came back to me — with the Registration Certificate in hand. Ah, what sweet victory — what a nice gentleman — and what super-cold-and-awfully-tasting tea!)
The next day, I stayed up through to almost 06:00 (AM!) — I in essence didn’t take the night off at all. I spent about £10 on postage alone — with yet another huge form filled in for Tracy, plus all documentation — originals and photocopies. Everything was perfectly labelled (the Swiss way), and I enclosed it all in three separate packs — each colour-coded. This was done in such a way it was bound to make sure we got our Residence Card as quickly as possible.
Then we sent it off from Harrow Post Office. Life hasn’t been much the same since. Since I couldn’t convert my Swiss licence to a UK driving licence yet, I now have to carry a passport booklet with me all the time as a form of ID. Tracy now only has her Hong Kong / Macao permit as any form of photo ID issued by a governing authority (and we didn’t really bother with a Chinese Travel Document).
If we’re lucky, we’ll get ours by next summer. As much as I have bones to pick with visa issues in China, I can guarantee I will never look at Chinese immigration police funny again (even for regular residence permits, it is rare to wait for even a full month). These guys are So. Much. Faster… ■ ■ ■