Posted by: 1of10boyz | September 4, 2013

Authenticate Me – Part 2

So I need to authenticate my marriage certificate. You can read more about what that means in Authenticate Me – Part 1. It is all about meeting the requirements that are now consistent across China for my wife to get a Residence Permit Visa. We need this to prove that she is able to live with me here. This is the first year that our area of China has had this particular requirement, though it has existed in many other locations throughout the country previously.

In order to get my authenticated marriage certificate I need to sign a legal power of attorney to allow the lawyers to act on my behalf getting the certificate. Now there wouldn’t really be a problem doing this were I in the US or even close to the US Consulate or US Embassy. I would just walk in and get one of the Foreign Service Officers to perform this function for me. I am not in a situation where that is possible. I need another alternative and the only choice is a completely Chinese version. I am not sure what this is or even what it means but I think it really makes for a good story.

The task is simple, it is to get one form notarized; but nothing is as simple as it might seem here in China.

I learned that there is such a thing as a Notary Public here in China; that makes sense right, of course they have to do the same kinds of things as we do for legal documents. I have learned that this is the same process that is used to provide an “official” birth certificate for a Chinese person, same process different forms.

Getting this notarized form should be something we can just take care of locally. I learn that there is actually a function within the local government that does this. I learn that the firm that is helping me with the document process will accept the local Notary so I don’t have to go to “the city” and visit the sovereign US soil right here in the middle of China. I can just go to the government buildings here in Haiyang and get myself notarized. Since there is no chance I can do this on my own the first order of business is to get our local “Johnny-on-the-spot” company to assist me with the locations and translations.

We use this company for lots of things but most often we use them as the interface between the property management company for the building that we live in and their workers. It is so much simpler telling them what is wrong with the apartment (like the mold problem I told you about) and getting them to ‘babysit’ the actual work process. Yes it really is often that hard to get someone to fix a leaky faucet or to scrape the mold off your walls and fix the leak that destroying your apartment every time it rains. I work with the WEC HR department to get permission to use this company to help navigating through the process.

Once the approval is obtained, they find out where we need to go and what times they actually work. Now this is more important than you might think as these really are government workers in a communist country where everyone takes a nap at lunch. This nap luxury is instilled in them from the moment they begin school and carries into retirement. The last thing we want to do is show up at the government offices while everyone is asleep.

I am told that the expected cost for getting my notarized form will be about 350 RMB, roughly $60 USD. That doesn’t sound so bad given that the US Consulate/Embassy will charge me $50 USD and I would have to pay for a roundtrip ticket to either Shanghai or Beijing, some cab fare, some lunch, etc. to do it via a Foreign Service Officer. I am also told that it will take a week.

Yes, a week. I don’t even know how to describe the disbelief that I have. I now know that I am about to begin a process that doesn’t relate to anything I have ever experienced in my life. This is more complicated that it sounds. This is more difficult that enlisting in the US Navy, that only took a weekend. How is that even possible, a week to notarize my signature. Seriously?

We leave work and drive into downtown Haiyang to pickup our translator/tour guide; what else would you call someone that is about to lead you on a great Chinese adventure? We suspect that the lines will be shorter at the Haiyang city offices right after lunch. Our logic is that if we get there a little before the opening time, we might get there before everyone else gets there because they have to finish their nap too. We are spot on in our guess, there is parking right in front of the building and the building guards/Q&A desk are just waking up when we arrive, really.

I have to admit that the building is massive and is really quite modern. I guess I always judge my next experience by what I have seen in the past and much of China is not very modern. Haiyang is not fitting the norm; the building must be only 1 or 2 years old. They are really trying to become a next tier city. With only 700,000 people it is barely classified as a city, and just they probably stretch the classification at that. That is only a little less than 150% of what lives in the ENTIRE State of Wyoming, and it only counts as a 5th Tier city. You can see why I don’t mind living out away from town now can’t you.

We get directions to the location for doing this task and off we go. The building has many little booths where the workers are assigned; each one has a number above it so that they can be easily distinguished from the identical one next to it. We end up at the ones in the 180s. Yup, probably 200 booths each with a government worker in it, since most of them are just returning from their naps I can’t judge how busy they normally are, but at this moment, they may only be 20-30 people needing government services. I have no way of estimating how many others lurk in the offices and other areas of this building that I can’t see. I imagine that there has to be several hundred more.

We arrive at our booths and the translator describes what we are trying to accomplish. We suspected or were told that they would need a translation of what we were signing so we had already prepared this in advance so that we could hopefully minimize the delays and problems. The translation of our documents will prove to be of no help for us. They will keep it however and we will still pay for “professional” translating services.

We are asked to fill out a couple of forms in addition to providing our passports which are copied several times. We are signing forms that are completely in Chinese. The translator tries to give us the basics of what they are but we really have no way of really knowing. If they had placed confession statements or denunciation statements in front of us we would have probably signed those too. It really was that crazy.

We have signed several hand-written forms that we learn are really the forms that actually allow the staff to put our information into the computer and begin the actual form process we need. Yes, we signed forms so that they could create other forms. The original hand-written forms disappear and we never see them again.

After being in the building for about 90 minutes we finally get a stack of forms back, a total of ten BESIDES the original one form that we came to get notarized. Remember I need one notarized form for my lawyers in the US. We are told that we need to sign each form, no problem at this point, I am willing to sign just about anything. Now that they are signed they bring out the finger print ink, I really am not surprised, we make people print their thumb at the banks in the US for the checks we are cashing now; they asked me to place my thumb print over the top of each signature, like someone can really forge my signature especially in China.

Now this isn’t my first time in front of the ink pad. I have held security clearances and have had a number of opportunities to ink the paper or transfer my prints. We cause a lot of discussion when we roll our prints across the signatures instead of just press them down. I guess they don’t see many of the “professional” finger printers in the notary office.

We have finally made it to the end of the process; we pay them 200 RMB for the government services of notary and another 140 RMB for the professional translations that have to happen. We are told that our documents will be ready in just 3-4 working days. They tell us at that point we will get our BOOK back. Did I hear them right a book? I only needed a notarization on one page and I am getting a book!

We depart and I can only chuckle at how this has gone. It is a story that is beyond my comprehension. How can something that is so easily done in the US be so complicated here? Seriously, you are only agreeing that the person signing the form IS that person specified on the form based on the documents provided.

We return on the 4th day after they had called the translator to let her know that our documents were completed and ready to be picked up. The government workers are happy to see us again, it really is a nice experience to be welcomed almost everywhere we go. They reach into a drawer and retrieve a stack of white folders, easily 50-100 in the stack. They fish through the pile until they find ours.

It is a white printed folder that has pages bound inside. The notarized form is there with my signature on it and the red chop that indicates this is the notarized version. Behind it are 4 additional forms, two in English and their related translations. These forms basically say that the only thing that is being certified with this book is the signature on the form really belong to me.

So, there you have it, the notarized form that you could easily get from the local bank for free if you have an account with them, is a completely different animal when you try to do it in China. I will never look at the Notary Public process the same for the rest of my life.

These kinds of adventures are what make this international experience so wonderful. Sure it would be easy to let this frustrate and discouraged by these kinds of things, after all it is not what I would consider normal. However, these are the kinds of experiences that can really be enjoyable if you have the time to look at them as an adventure in what life might be like for the people you meet every day while living in a foreign country.

I had to send the form to the lawyers in the US. We live too remotely for FedEx to actually work but DHL works. We got the form on Thursday afternoon and put right in the envelope to go out. I sent it out as International Overnight which doesn’t really mean overnight. I watched the tracking number and finally arrives at its destination on Wednesday morning the following week. The process had already made a lot of progress because my wife started her part of the paperwork when I did. Actually the only thing that remained by the time my Notarized form arrived was the trip to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC. The next Monday the Marriage Certificate was accepted and returned where it was sent to the Immigration team that helps us here in China. Now all I need is my wife back in China so we can run back up to Yantai and get her on a Residence Permit Visa instead of the tourist visa she will come in on.



  1. Man I’m going through kinda the same thing, though I’m waiting for my Taiwanese fiancé to get her immigration papers passed so we can go to the States and get married. Fun dealing with all the paperwork, isn’t it?!? Best of luck!

    • I have a friend that married a Chinese woman here in China and is now trying to get her paperwork in order to go and visit his family.It has been a serious challenge for him. I tell him that the biggest problem is they see his picture and her picture and they get very suspicious. They must think it is a green card scam because there is no way that this beautiful woman is married to this old man for love.

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