Stickman Readers' Submissions August 26th, 2005

What’s The Matter With Embassies Today?

About four weeks ago we tried to apply for a student visa for Australia. It was for our adopted daughter. As she is in her 4th or last year at a Thai government university she has to do four to five months of work experience or internship as they call
it here before she can graduate with her BA degree.

We thought no problems at all. She had a letter of invitation from a registered Australian company, a letter from my wife and me that she can stay with us free of charge and also a letter from her university that her overseas study is approved by the
university and the Thai Ministry Of Education.

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Her university phoned the visa section of the embassy and was told that they have to contact the newly established visa center. Ok, no problems, however her university phoned the visa center and could get no information whatever out of them in regard
to the forms needed, which papers to bring etc. They only said the best way is to contact a visa agency as they know which forms to use and would guarantee the issue of a visa.

As I was told about this I could not believe it and tried my luck. True enough the so called visa center does not have any useful information; they also referred me to a visa agency or to look the information up on the internet. This we duly did and could
not find a visa category which would apply to her case. But we found out that she needs a medical checkup from an approved doctor. Ok we went to the next city and had this done. As we do not live in Bangkok but 800 kilometers away and could not
get any information we flew down to Bangkok, with all the paperwork to have a try to find out what is required.

In Bangkok I found out that the visa center is a privately owned Thai company. They have 4 or 5 visa agents operating out of their front office from tables set up for them; they do offer their services and warranties. To tell the truth it looked like
a visa mafia operation. Never mind we went to the counter and handed over all our papers, the girl looked at them and obviously did not know what to do or which forms we had to use. Finally she accepted the forms after we paid the visa fee and
the handling charges raised by the Thai operated visa center. I really had to insist that she takes the medical examination results and the chest x-ray negatives. She said that would not be necessary. However the visa information on the net points
out that this is necessary for the visa. We finally were given a date to pick up the passport.

As our daughter was too busy with examinations I flew down to Bangkok on the due date. I was informed that the passport had not arrived. I should contact the embassy about it. Well I phoned the embassy and was told I have to contact the visa centre. They
again told me to contact the embassy, after going in circles for about 4 or 5 times I decided to stay another day and contact my embassy in person. I also wanted to give them a change of address as I had moved house since the last time I contacted

The next morning I arrived at the gate of the embassy and was refused entry by the Thai security people. I was told that I would need a prior appointment before I can enter the complex. I politely ask them to use their phone to contact the Australian
consul for my change of address. I was refused to do this and they said I could use a public phone. Well I tried this and got an answering machine, ok I tried the numbers the machine gave me but no success. It went round in circles. I could not
get any consular officer on the line.

There are a few disturbing points with this affair.

Most important, I could not contact my consul. What would have happened if there has been a real emergency? The poor Australian citizen would not get any help at all by being prevented to contact his consul in person or even by getting anywhere
trying to phone for assistance. I really do believe the consulate is there to help Australian citizens if needed and that the Thai security people have no right to stop an Australian to directly contact their consular officers. They are Thais
and employed by the Australian embassy and should in any case contact a consul and act by whatever decision the consul makes, not refusing on their own.

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The second disturbing point is the visa centre issue.

Ok, for security reasons they don’t like the visa seekers to come to the embassy, understandable. But that does not mean that they should hand it over to a private Thai owned company, their staff is obviously very poorly trained, if at all, they
seem to be more interested to keep the visa agencies which operate out of their front office in money. I finally start to believe that there is very little chance of a visa being issued if you don’t pay an agency. This is not a healthy
situation at all and will finally cause great problems. Also with this running around catch 22 situation I believe that the integrity of the whole Australian visa section in Bangkok will suffer.

Now five weeks later we still have no information about the visa or if there are any other forms or information is required. The university is getting very upset and intends to make a formal complaint through the Thai foreign office to the Australia ambassador.

I debate myself if I should complain about the two issues to my member of parliament. I already contacted him for advice and he is prepared to raise the issue with the government. I will just wait and see; I am afraid that any action at this time might
jeopardize the visa issue. I do like comments by other people if they had similar experiences. Please contact me via Stickman; you never know who reads these submissions.

Regards; Upset and angry.

Stickman's thoughts:

Some embassies in Bangkok can be a pain to deal with though I have to say that the few dealings I have had with the New Zealand embassy have been very positive.

I do not know the specifics of how the visa centre for the Australian embassy works, but in their support, a friend applied for a visa there Friday before last and it was issued the next day. She too was a Thai woman.

nana plaza