While in Finland this January I applied for a new passport as the old one was expiring later this year. I had no idea how getting a new passport could also affect my banking back in Guangzhou. In Finland the passport number changes every time you get a new passport. And in China your passport number becomes your identity number that is needed in many official documents and papers.
So yesterday I went to the ICBC, a bank where I’ve been a customer for four years now. Visiting the bank is never a quick trip and this time I had to wait hour and a half before it was my turn. When I handed in my papers and documents for changing euros to renminbi, I also mentioned that I have a new passport now. He started going over their computer system and seemed a bit puzzled. He called over his supervisor as well and they asked me if I happened to have my old passport with me as well. Luckily I did.
They had no idea how they could be certain that I had changed my passport legally, which is a bit strange to me as changing a passport is something everyone has to do. They demanded me to get a document from my embassy to prove that I had gotten a new passport. I don’t even know if such a document exists!
In the end they changed my euros to renminbi by using my old expired passport! Next time they told me to get the document from my embassy, but I told them it would be much easier to just open a new bank account. And that’s what I have to do as soon as I have the time to waste a few hours at the bank again.
I can still access my online bank and withdraw money, but if someone sends me euros, there’s no way I can get them changed to renminbi! It seems that I just have to get a new bank account every five years when I get a new passport. Have any of you experienced this dilemma?
I can only imagine how hard it would be if I decided to follow the Finnish custom to change my last name when married. But I don’t have the patience to go over that paperwork so I’m happy to continue using my rare last name.
I just hope there isn’t any other surprises around the corner for me and my new passport number.
photo: Zhejiang News