Immigration Department, Here We Are Again
Yesterday was my first attempt at applying to extend my visa (non-immigrant OA retirement visa) for a year, an annual pilgrimage to Immigration that I am obliged to make if I want to stay here. The cost is 1900 baht which is less than the 2088 baht my
(UK) embassy charged me for a letter confirming my pension income. This letter was one of the necessary supporting documents which accompany the application form TM7. The other letter was from my Thai bank confirming my bank balance. Capital
and income combined need to amount to 800,000 baht per annum. The capital element needs to have been in the account three months prior to the application for extension. To make sure the information I submitted was up to date I called in to
the bank on the same day as my visit to the Immigration Office and they produced the letter on the spot, only charging me 100 baht. My embassy required me to go back the next working day. The only other documentation I needed was a photocopy
of my passport.
So I pitched up at the Immigration Office in Bangkok just after lunch. I was directed to a room upstairs and my heart sank as I saw how crowded it was, how small it was, and that there were only two people actually processing applications.
After wandering about aimlessly looking for some kind of ticketing system I was directed to desk 4 and a guy handed me number 36. Numbers 27 and 28 were then being processed. Two hours later it was my turn. By this time I was beginning to
lose the will to live as well as starting to have nightmares about the spread of swine flu: half of the office staff were sporting surgical masks. I tended to shift my seat every time the person sitting next to me sniffed.
Things started to get a bit surreal when one of the women processing the applications took out a rubber mallet and started pounding away at the rubber stamp she was using on someone’s passport. Was the ink pad dry? Were her hands
tired and she couldn’t press hard enough? Or was she on a power trip? Her colleague didn’t have one.
Then a monk came in. Does a monk need a visa to stay in his own country? I suppose he might have been from outside Thailand. I fully expected that he would be allowed to jump the queue (which wouldn’t have been a problem) but,
no, he got a number like everyone else.
The numbers were edging towards 36 and I was on the edge of my seat when the spitting image of Cosmo Smallpiece (of comedian Les Dawson fame) came in carrying a waste bin. He even talked like Cosmo! Things were starting to swim before
my eyes, but no matter, it was my turn and I had done my homework (or so I thought).
I should have realised that I was completely in the hands of the immigration official who had the power to request further documentation and I got a bit of a jolt when her opening remarks veered towards the documents I had to present
when I applied for the original visa in England. Surely she didn’t want to see them!? Luckily she seemed only to want me to list them (police check, health check etc…was this a test?) but I’m going to bring them next year just
I found myself smiling coyly when she asked how old I was (62). This seemed to amuse her and after that things were more straightforward. One glitch was that my passport expires in six months so I have to return with my new one to get
it stamped again. I don’t need to apply or anything but it’ll probably be a long wait for a 5 minute procedure.
Anyway, I got my stamp, then I had to go to a second desk to pay the fee, then return to a third desk next to the first one for a guy to write something in a huge ledger and staple the receipt into my passport then I had to give the passport
to a fourth desk (all more or less touching each other) for a woman to remove all the paperwork I had supplied and give me my passport back. Phew! I was out in a flash.
But I was not free yet because coincidentally I also had to do my 90 day reporting again and this entailed a trip to another room down the corridor. A visit to the gents was required to fortify me for another long wait, but, lo and behold,
the new system which saw me in a corridor on the 5th floor upstairs instead of in the main body on the ground floor at Suan Plu was actually much more efficient because less crowded and the whole thing was done in two minutes flat.
Luckily by now it was 5.00 p.m. and the pubs were open! I was glad I’d had a good lunch before I went in, though.
PS The next day I discovered something I wished I’d known before I went to renew my visa. Apparently I don’t have to wait until my passport expiry date before renewing it. I can renew it up to nine months before expiry and the (UK) embassy
will credit me on my new passport with any whole months outstanding. Grrr! I could have done all this when I was getting my income confirmation letter from the embassy and saved myself another visit to Immigration and the embassy.
Time spent at Immigration is never fun and while you spent most of the afternoon there, I hate to say it but many have spent much longer there!