I went to the American embassy in Ulaanbaatar last week. I had to get additional visa pages in my two and a half year old passport. I have been to the Chinese embassy here a few times. Let me compare and contrast the experiences.
Entrances – The entrance to the Chinese embassy is a door in a concrete wall. Nothing really indicates that it is a door entering an embassy. The American embassy entry had a covered area by the parking lot for people to wait out of the elements to be allowed into the buildings.
Scheduling – I have just stopped by the Chinese embassy and submitted my visa application. For the American embassy I had to make an appointment online, print out the confirmation of the appointment, and bring it with me to gain entrance.
Guards – The Chinese embassy had one guard. He seemed to be there mostly to tell people to put their cell phones away. The American embassy had a guard by the parking lot that checked my passport and appointment sheet. Then another guard approached and examined them. they let me pass into a door where I was wanded with a metal detector after removing all my metal items into a bucket. Then I was let pass into another area where a guard behind glass was passed my passport and he ran a computerized check on it. After passing him I had to stow my items in a small locker and walk through a metal detector. I was given a tag with a number on it to wear on my shirt. I exited the opposite side of the building and walked through a small courtyard and entered another building where a guard ushered me into the waiting area to sit.
Waiting area – The Chinese waiting area is barren other than some pieces of paper with instructions taped around, a table with copies of forms and pens, and otherwise is just hard walls and flooring. The American embassy waiting area had a magazine rack with literature in Mongolian and English, posters about what types of visas are available to foreigners interested in entering the US, 15 comfortable chairs, a television, wood trim, attractive walls, and carpeted flooring.
Queuing – The Chinese embassy you get in line and wait your turn. The American embassy you sit until it is your turn.
Service – The Chinese embassy staff are quick, curt, and business-like. Twice I have asked for multiple entry visas but have been denied both times. (I had no problem getting one when I applied from one while in the US.) The American embassy staff were nice about the poor quality of one of the bills I was using to pay for my additional visa pages. She was understanding that I didn’t know the right PO Box for the school and double checked with me about how many inserts I wanted to put into my passport.
Overall quite a different experience between the two!
- Posted in: Travel