Stickman Readers' Submissions October 18th, 2006

Visa Rules For Those Married To A Thai

For the past 2 weeks now I have been sitting here in a big comfy chair with one huge box of Popcorn watching with interest the new remake of an old movie in Thailand that we all know and love called the “reactive whims and changes of Thailand part III” and although it may not be up there with the likes of Rambo, Terminator, Rocky, American Pie, Tomb Raider, Die Hard and all those other Triple eye eye eye movies, it has been entertaining none the less.

So it was then that on the 1st of October the boys in charge of us Aliens decided to go ahead and implemented the new visa rules and as a consequence (depending on who you talk to) a general sense of apathy, confusion, anger and in some cases, downright malevolence from the foreign community has been the result. I am not going to go into all of the new visa rules here because I would have to debate every possible angle and scenario and I’m not interested in that and I also don’t think this is the right forum for that kind of thing either, besides Thaivisa does a good enough job if you want to keep up to date and follow the general nonsense that seems to be going on in the latest quirky saga of life for the expat in Thailand.

He Clinic Bangkok

What I do want to talk about however is the impact that the new rules are going to have on those of you out there who are a) currently married to a Thai lady, b) contemplating the idea and c) want to or currently live in Thailand and how these new rules affect you. Let me explain: First off… If you (like me) have a work permit, a good job, married to a Thai lady and living in Thailand, well great news – because things seem to be pretty much same old same old for now providing of course that we keep our job and keep having our visa and work permit extended. Super smashing, nice, lovely jubbly, easy peezy pudding and pie!

However, what happens if we decide to leave our job or are unfortunate enough to lose our job at this time as has just happened to three of my mates? Well…

If you have another job lined up, and its with an employer who is on the ball and willing to do the work permit and paperwork mountain that goes with it in the 7 day dash you are given, then you are going to be just fine and can continue as normal once the new stamp and Work permit are ‘awarded’ for your tenacity and life continues again for another year.

CBD bangkok

Now, let’s assume you don’t have another job lined up, well before the new visa regulations kicked in you had the chance as a married man with a Thai lady to just show 400k THB in your bank account followed by some paperwork and bobs your uncle and fanny is your aunt and another 1 year visa to support your Thai wife was in order! Super Duper! Smashing! Great!

Now for me, this was a great fall back position to have at my disposal because should I have needed it, it would have curtailed any nonsense to leave the country on a visa run and to having the hassle of obtaining a new Non immigration ‘O’ visa from an embassy somewhere outside of Thailand. As such, this ‘was’ actually one of the perceived privileges and perks of being married to a Thai lady because it gave you alternative options for staying in Thailand providing you had the funds to show for it which was an excellent incentive to be married (although this in itself should not be the reason for marriage.)

Unfortunately, over the years the blag artists out there have been exploiting this position somewhat and as a result they have now gone and spoilt it for the rest of us, although I may add at the expense of everyone else but not necessarily for themselves. But why do I say this? Well simply because over the years the blag artists have abused the system by choosing for whatever reasons to borrow the 400k from a friend for example for a few days in order to hood wink the Thai immigration authorities into thinking that they had the funds to support themselves and their wife. As such, immigration where always happy to continue to award them with a new non-immigration O’ Visa and once the visa was awarded, the blag artists would then hand back the borrowed money to whence it came thus allowing them to continue whatever existence they desired to have in Thailand. Good for them and also thanks to the grandfather process that Thailand likes to utilise, well it means that those who where currently here on a marriage visa per sae before October the 1st and who where borrowing the money in order to do so, can continue to stay in Thailand blagging their way through by showing the spurious 400k in their bank account. The only change for them now is that the 400k has to be in the bank for 90 days prior to renewal which in the big scheme of things is no biggy. Easy if you have the money and easy if you have a friend who is happy for you to sit on his money for 90 days first… (I apologise if you genuinely have the funds in place and aren’t one of the blag artists who borrowed the money to abuse the rules as this isn’t aimed at you guys)

However, thanks to the blag artists out there the Thai authorities have decided to finally twig on and have effectively closed this loophole for all ‘new’ requests for a marriage visa. It appears that the requirement of having 400k in the bank is no longer valid or allowed (hoorah I hear you shout) but no wait… What we who have not had a marriage visa issued before October the 1st now have to do is show a family income of 40k THB per month (which is 480k annual equivalent) instead and be able to either show a valid tax receipt for the income earned and/or to have an embassy notarised piece of paper that the income is genuine and coming in from overseas funds all to be shown at the time of your marriage visa request/renewal. Now this may not sound like an issue and apart from creating a skewed “I am alright Jack sorry about the rest of you suckers” view from the very same blag artists who created this problem in the first place, I think you should understand all of it first in all of its permutations before making up your own mind.

wonderland clinic

First thing to point out is that the 40k THB per month is ‘family’ income which means that it covers ‘any’ income earned by you and your wife ‘jointly’. Now this for me by itself is a bonus because previously the Thai partners’ income was excluded. So if your wife earns a monthly income of 40k THB per month then you are effectively a kept man and as such you can sit back and enjoy life as you don’t have to bring in the original 400k per year as you previously did before so you are effectively the winner in the game and the latest changes actually have done you a huge big favour. For me this one rule by itself means that if there was ever an incentive to get your lady off her derrière, to her getting a decent job and to her earning some decent clout well this is it. Needless to say my wife now has a CV for the first time in her career and is actively out there applying for better jobs than the one she has spent the last 3 years doing thanks to a size 8 shoe being shoved up her arse… call me a hard bastard if you like, shout at me and say that it’s my job to take care of the wife and be the bread winner in the living in the 1950’s Thailand if you want, but lads I tell you now, if Thailand wants to start fannying me around then now is the time to start asking my wife to start taking on some of the responsibility with it too… equality and all that!

Anyway, while I am waiting for my wife’s miraculous success to occur, and I cannot imagine that there are that many Thai ladies out there who can summon up 40k THB salary per month either (although I know there are some) then I guess the onus comes back onto you and me again to show proof of funds. Well if you are earning the money yourself whilst in Thailand from ‘Thai’ sources then the rules of immigration dictate that you will therefore already have a valid visa, a valid work permit and a tax receipt for the salary you claim to have earned during your stay in Thailand. If however you have been earning all your income illegally to this point in time then ‘oops!’ to you!

However, assuming you are earning a salary here legally and within the current rules, then this pretty much means that as you already have these things on you then it stands that you are probably here on a working visa so why on earth are you applying for a marriage visa anyway! Duh! However, if you are changing your working visa to a marriage visa based on you no longer working then at least for the first marriage visa request it would be a valid thing to want to do and providing you can show tax payments etc… then you will get you your first marriage visa without any real problems… But what happens if the salary you have earned under the banner of your work permit prior to applying is less than 40k (like many English teachers I know) do they need to show a tax payment difference to the equivalent of 40k per month (out of their own pocket) or will they simply be refused the marriage visa based on previous employment not having paid enough salary and therefore showing that not enough tax has been paid – See how you can start to see how this can get silly!

Ok then, let’s assume you got your marriage visa this year using your last job to show that you are fully paid up tax wise. What happens the following year when you come to re-new your marriage visa again (assuming you have not taken up working again). How are you going to show them income this time? Well, this time you will need to tootle along to your embassy and ask them to write a nice notarised letter confirming that you do indeed have the funds to earn the equivalent of 40k THB salary per month. This is great if you have a nice embassy like the American embassy for example who just ask you to pledge ‘hand on heart’, with the sound of the American national anthem being played in the background, to ‘swear the truth’ on the bible ‘that you have the funds available so help you God’. Boy! How good that must be. If you happen to be more of the British Isle ilk then please put up with it old boy, steady that stiff upper lip, take a morning run followed by a jolly British cold shower with those upper class bum bandits and be prepared like the good little scout that you are to have that dossier full of evidence at the ready. There’s a good chap! Oh and while you’re there, can you please show me where it was earned and if you have paid any tax onnit! Oh and don’t forget or fee too thank you! Chin Chin, Tally ho and chocks away old bean, wot wot!

So there you are, you have managed to finally get your notarised letter of proof of earnings and off to immigration you go… now let’s assume that they now want the evidence of the money ‘coming’ into Thailand, well that’s where you then get stung because if you are going to bring in the money from an overseas account, you are going to be subject to exchange rate and bank transfer fees and as such the 40k THB suddenly starts looking like 45K to 50K THB per month in real terms… what a bummer eh! What’s more, who is to say that the Thai authorities in their double taxation wisdom won’t be asking for proof of tax payments on this self declared source of income? Ooerrr! Now that is going to be a right old pain especially if your money is being earned shall we say from gross interest in an offshore account or from gross earnings from Internet trading or other Internet business activities that you have been hiding behind… urk!

So let’s get creative then. What if you do already have a chunk of money sitting in a Thai bank account and you don’t want to bring in anymore money into Thailand from your overseas accounts (and let’s face it why would you want to until you ‘really’ needed it), well this is where you will have to bite the bullet a little because the only solution I can see here if you want to be successful in convincing immigration that the tax collectors have indeed collected, is to effectively take yourself out of the loop and to ‘bumping’ up your wife’s alleged earnings by paying the tax on the equivalent of 40k per year (which in reality I think works out to be about 2,700 baht per month or 32,400 per year) and by doing so, you are showing the authorities that you are a kept man, that you don’t earn a salary yourself and as such you ‘as a family’ are safe to proceed to the one more year in Thailand visa queue…

Call it the Thai / Farang family tax if you will. Basically in their bid to get rid of those who don’t contribute to Thai society, what the authorities are now saying is that if you want to stay in Thailand with your Thai wife and children and god knows who else you support then they want to at least see a tax levy and payment from you for the tune of circa 32,400 THB per year for the sheer bloody privilege and don’t forget this levy excludes all those extra costs you may be incurring in your own individual existence in Thailand.

Now I know some people will cry fowl at this number and rant and rage at it, while others will simply shrug their shoulders and say that it’s a small price to pay to continue staying on in Thailand, even citing that its nothing in tax terms or nothing compared to the council tax or to the cost of flights or visa runs and so forth compared to what they could be paying back home on the same money for example… and to be honest each of us is different in this respect but just be aware that these are the new rules and that you should take them into consideration when you want to marry a Thai lady and stay in Thailand.

There are going to be variations on the above because if your wife earns 20k then the onus on you is to earn the other 20k, if she earns 15k then you have to contribute 25k and so on and to be honest, if you are struggling to earn 20k or 25k or 30k here then you really do need to ask yourself just what it is you are doing here (at least in my opinion), which brings me onto my friend. He has been here now for 6 years, has a wife and a daughter, doesn’t have a degree but a TEFL certificate an experience as a teacher, but due to the rules or the fact that the school won’t get him a work permit, he has to work illegally here as a teacher and comes and goes every 90 days on a non immigration O visa from Penang. He never had the original 400k per year to show so he can’t claim grand father rights on the marriage visa either and I have no idea what is going to happen to him. He is too young to retire, too old to go back home and is currently living in some part of Limbo land… what’s he meant to do, wave good bye to his wife and kid and just disappear or do the Thai authorities wish to say to his Thai wife and kid that they forfeited any rights as Thai citizens to have a home life with the husband around because she took the decision to marry a Farang and if she doesn’t like it that they too must get out of their own country or lose their husband too… I feel sorry for my mate because he works hard, has no ‘real’ opportunities to get work legally even as an English teacher and now due to the new rules, has limited options open to him to continue to stay with his wife and kids. Thailand says ‘get a job’ and pay your taxes if you want to stay. We say, “stop putting adverts for ‘Thai’s need only apply’ in the newspaper and give us the opportunity to get a job then”… catch 22. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

Just for the record by the way if you are married here and on a retirement visa then as long as you are on your 800k per year or equivalent retirement visa then you are ok but should you wish to move from your retirement visa to a marriage visa then you will be faced with all of the above… just be aware of that before you go relinquishing what you already have.

Anyway, continuing on, hands up all of you who thought it stopped there?

Well sorry to advise but it doesn’t because another thing to come out of this is the ‘rumour’ that the police will be checking on those of us who are married by doing follow up visits to see if (and this is the bit that makes me laugh), to see if the couple really do love each other. Now clearly this was designed to stop the scam marriages from taking place but let me ask, how are they going to acid test if a couple really love each other? Do they expect to see some shagging going on or some foreplay? What happens if you have just had an argument or the missus is on a sulk moment, or perhaps a frying pan thwacking session has just occurred as can happen in some marriages because they like the making up part? I mean come on this is all nonsense. Will we be subject to a Mr and Mrs quiz next or perhaps have to do an interview with immigration police where we have to answer questions on each others favourite perfumes and aftershaves like they did in the movie ‘green card’… at least there the incentive was to get a green card, whilst here its to stay with your wife! Who the hell is to say that the Thai police and immigration have the right to say who loves each other and who doesn’t when the majority of them cannot even tell the difference between one Farang and the next?

As you can see, due to these changes, those of us who are married to a Thai no longer have the original secure(ish) backdoor alternative option for residing here as we used too (except those with grand father rights) and should those of you who work here decide to take time out or seek alternative options in your career and income lifestyle then be aware that life is going to be a little bit more of a pain here for both of you as the tax man will come after you relentlessly year after year to ask for his continued annual residency fee and you thought it was just the naughty night time bars that had to pay additional levy’s to the clandestine authorities.

So where does this leave the married guys then? Well you can leave Thailand of course (wife and kids not mandatory) and go elsewhere and from what I hear, many are doing just that. You can decide to stick it out and just wait and see if the dust is going to settle and allow things to relax a little or change shape again (I know a lot of guys who have simply refused to do any more visa runs opting instead to stay here illegally taking the view that it is the lesser of the two evils) or if you are like me, you are just eating your pop corn and watching to see what will happen next because it doesn’t affect us until we either lose our current job, voluntarily leave our job (and why would we) or face our next visa renewal next year sometime.

Now before I go, I heard last night that a local school here has just sacked all of its teachers and this is nothing unusual at this time of year as schools tend to rotate its foreign teachers in the October break but one cannot help wonder if it may have something to do with the requirement for visas and work permits that are now expected to be issued and it was easier to just ditch the Farangs in favour of Thai English teachers instead. One cannot help but be sceptical with these things. I also heard a rumour from one of my lawyer friends that several large hotel chains where muttering in a meeting he attended that these past two weeks have seen their revenues drop by 15 million baht… which raises questions of downstream impact. I also heard another rumour that the A class Condos will be coming down in price over the next 3 months as the level of expats renting or buying is likely to fall too and that maybe in 3 months time the landscape of Bangkok at least will be different in the number of white faces being seen out and about (a lot less is what I am hearing)… but of course these are all just rumours but it’s amazing how quiet it seems to be getting out there on the streets at the moment and although this could be attributable to the Coup and the recent floods, I can say that walking through MBK, Siam and paragon last night made me feel like I was walking in a ghost town for the better part of it.

The people I do feel sorry for at the moment are those who are now left in some sort of limbo land and who are either considered to be too old to go anywhere else or too young to stay (The Thai’s on one hand cannot believe a 39 year old can have enough money in the bank to survive here, only to then do their level best to rip him off of any money he does have with the other hand…) but let’s face it, unless you have a valid job here (which is tentative and valid for 1 year at a time anyway, which isn’t great for long term planning) or that you are over 50 and can have a retirement visa here with sufficient funds for the rest of your life then the rest of us, including those with a Thai wife, kids and extended family here, are seriously being told that you are going to have to consider your reasons and motives for being here and for those of us who do stay well we are just going to have to dig that little further into our taxable pockets while jumping through the Thai circus hoops whilst whistling Yankie bloody doodle Dandy!

So let me ask you finally, for those of you who are still hankering for a new life with a new Thai wife by your said in Thailand… are you still sure you want to put yourself through all of this?

Stickman's thoughts:

There have been few casualties of the visa war just yet…I predict a few will appear soon though…

nana plaza