Retirement Visa vs The Visa Run
Retirement Visas Vs The Border Run
My friend and I, both over 50 (just), and living in Thailand on retirement Non-Immi-O visas, so never having to leave Thailand, frequently listen to other people of a certain age complaining about the 3 monthly border runs.
Talking with some of these border runners, listening to them, squaring up to go get a retirement visa, then backing out at the last moment and doing the Cambodia, or Malaysia run one more time, I think I have come to understand why these good folks have not yet got themselves fixed up with retirement visas, despite being of age and, seemingly at least, having the means.
It is fear, pure and simple, of being summoned to the headmaster's office. I don’t know if visa agents can legally obtain retirement visas, as it would seem by our experiences, and just using plain logic, that personal visits are necessary. In fact the 30 days interim stamps (In the days when the applications had to be processed in Bangkok) used to say ‘Applicant must contact this office again in person on…’
For the last two years the renewal has involved only reporting to the Immigration Office, showing a bankbook with a balance of 800,000 Baht plus, accompanied by a letter from the bank confirming same, filling in one form (my aforementioned friend reports that the officer gets out his file and fills it in for him), and of course providing the customary passport copies and photos. All is then done politely and efficiently in 15-40 minutes. Note: An income of 65000 Baht a month, proven by foreign based documents, can be used to offset the 800,000 in the bank requirement.
The people that I refer to as the border runners, seem to be terrified that if they go into an Immigration Office they will only be going out again via the guarded bus to the airport. They lack the confidence that their record will stand up to the scrutiny of uniformed officials in a place built for that purpose, or that they themselves will be able to say the right things to keep out of trouble, and not reveal past misdeeds, real or imagined.
Of course some people have good reason to be fearful, having previously given up their passports to agents, whether to have the documents sent in a bundle across borders while they stayed at home or stamps forged while they sat in an anteroom.
I like to think that anyone I have encountered who may have used such methods was of gullible or lazy intent rather than criminal, although undoubtedly a criminal act was committed. Passports and visas exist to go with their rightful holders across borders, and to ensure that said holders can securely stay across that border for and under the stated terms. Taking your passport, if they can get their hands on it, across borders is what terrorists, money launderers, paedophiles, as well as, it seems, agents do. I guess it is small wonder that those who have used agents once continue to do so.
I can sleep at night (as does my famous friend, he reports) without fear of Immigration Officers battering down my door in the early dawn, not because I think I am any better a person than the rest, but because I would not be comfortable with breaking the rules, which are eminently reasonable and not that hard to comply with, and more precisely for fear of the possible consequences of non-compliance. I also want to be able to stand proudly in front of the Headmaster’s desk while my squeaky clean ‘report card’, gets endorsed, not wait biting my nails while my passport reappears from God knows where.
Perhaps in the light of the many recent admonishments of officers and punishments of wrongdoers for involvement in these offences, Thailand could now publish an amnesty for anyone who thinks they may have been ill-informed or used poor judgement in the past, and let them off with a caution, provided they now come forward to clean up their act, and get their legitimate stamps.
I am led to believe that in the majority of cases anyone owning up to having made such mistakes are treated in this way, but I have not heard of any official policy to that effect.
Interesting thoughts. I like what you say about the rules being "eminently reasonable". They are indeed.