Visa Run Memories
Anyone who has been here in Thailand for a long time more than likely has a good many visa run stories to tell or at least fondly remember some of them while also forgetting just how many visa runs a person has completed over all the years gone by.
Talk about the new overstay laws that may or may not be enacted reminded of the first 2½ years I was living here in Thailand after arriving in October 1986.
I entered on a 90 day tourist visa.
I stayed for the first 90 days and I was given a 30 day extension at the Suan Plu immigration office with no problems and plenty of smiles.
A few days before finally having to leave the country for a visa run to Penang I was talking to a friend who lived in the same apartment building about the upcoming visa run I would have to be performing. The same building that the famous serial killer Charles Sobhraj had lived in prior to the man swiftly leaving Thailand as he was suspect of his heinous crimes…but that is another story.
My friend informed me that there was a funny hitch to leaving the country concerning an existing immigration law attached to foreign visitors having to be Tax Assessed before leaving the country if they had stayed more than 90 days in one calendar year.
I was telling my friend I thought that I would not have to be assessed as I arrived on October 16th 1986 and now that it was nearly February 16th coming up I should not have to be tax assessed because I had not stayed more than 90 days in one calendar year.
I was thinking my friend was just pulling my leg a little and making me concerned over nothing but he said better to be safe than sorry so I decided to go over to the Government tax offices near by Kao San Road area and find out what he was talking about.
He claimed he had gone over there himself and explained some of what was to be expected and mentioned something about a guarantor, saying you will figure it out when you get over there.
The next morning I arrived at the tax office and asked about a tax assessment and sure enough I was told that you have to be tax assessed before leaving the country so I took a number and had a seat.
It was like so many of the government offices with small brown office desks everywhere, mostly occupied by pretty Thai girls and women wearing tight fitting government uniforms in a large room without any air conditioning.
The view was enjoyable and I contemplated myself having a Thai girlfriend at the tax office…my tax office “liaison” I was thinking…like the hot looking one, just over there, the one having such a perfect looking figure in her tight Thai government uniform and high heel shoes…as she knew the enticing effect of her clothing.
I waited for about 20 minutes while watching a number of other foreigners coming and going from the desks and or sitting and waiting.
Finally I was called over to a nearby desk and requested to fill out a form that basically confirmed that you had being in Thailand for more than 90 days in 1 calendar year and asked for your address and passport number and how much money you had brought into the country and some other details.
I pointed out that I had not been in the country for more than 90 days in one calendar year so I believed I did not qualify for this tax assessment and I asked why it was that I / We foreigners where required to come here in the first place.
The nice girl explained that the government says that us foreigners utilize the resources and services of the Thailand and the Government so we should also pay some tax if we stay here a long time or more than 90 days in one calendar year.
I said “Well, OK, I hear you but how much money are we talking here” and the lovely girl told me to wait while she assessed me anyhow and then she would ask her boss if I qualified to pay some taxes.
There was a whole lot of calculations made by her on her calculator and numbers scratched down and lines filled in and some erasements made and finally she comes to a figure of 190 baht to be paid…”but first let me talk to my boss” she said.
Meantime, while I am waiting for her to come back there is a long haired budget traveler sitting at the next desk, to the right of me and he is beginning to raise his voice demanding to know why he is required to pay any tax at all, as he is not a Thai citizen.
The government employee was trying to explain the reason but the guy was not accepting the reason and demanding to see the man in charge as he was refusing to pay the amount that he had been asked to pay…which was only around 119 baht..if I can recall correctly.
Then he looked over at me and started eliciting sympathy from me and I just shrugged my shoulders and said this was also my first time here, so I don’t know anything.
My girl came back soon enough and told me that her boss still said that I had to pay but she had re-adjusted the figure and now I was looking at a figure of 135 baht and told me I should keep this form for the future and show the tax assessment personnel I had made a previous tax payment even though I had stayed less that 90 days in one calendar year at the time, so I would pay less when I had to perform my next assessment, before I leave the country next time.
Then she says: “Look at this document and please complete the document”.
The other document was asking if I had any form of guarantor to be used and attached to my tax assessment document as a means to pay any further tax, in the future, if I was ever re-assessed and found to not have paid the correct amount.
I did not have any guarantor or recognized means for the government to collect any further tax from me so I had to say no to all the listed means or ways of having a suggested form of guarantee or guarantor.
So then, the girl, with a nice big smile, tells me that I have to have a guarantor or I can not complete the transaction without it and tells me I should go outside and?????
And step outside and???
Just go outside please and …just go outside…while she is nodding her head to the right, over and over again with a big Thai smile.
So I go outside and no sooner do I step outside the entrance of the building 20 or more Thai guys start to rush me and all of them are saying: “Galantuh, galantuh, you need galantuh. I be your Galantuh”
OK…I get it now, these guys here will be my official guarantor and this is what my friend had mentioned the day earlier but I did not fully understand him, while all these Thai guys are waving a document at me.
After asking how much and hearing the one guy say 500 baht I told him no way, 100 baht and he said 300 baht and I said 200 baht but he stuck to 300 baht so I figured what the hell, let me look at this document.
Basically it was in the name of a registered Tour Company that was acting as the foreigner's guarantor should the government ever pull the file and re-assess that foreigner should he or she not be available to be personally re-assessed and pay any more taxes.
What a racket and these guys are thick as flies trying to get in on the action from some archaic tax law that was dreamed up by some politician.
A guy had to wonder if all the guarantor agents had to pay some tea money to someone to get in on the action.
My guarantor filled in the form and took my 300 baht and kept his copy and sent me back inside to the girl with the nice smile who naturally said …”Oh, I see you have found a good guarantor…how fortunate for you my friend.” Wink, Wink.
I had to sign here and there and she stamped my passport with a tax assessment stamp and then I looked over at the budget traveler who was steadfastly refusing to pay anything and still demanding to see the Big Boss…who naturally was “Not available at this time, sir.”
I just wanted to get out of there and move on and I smiled and told the girl: “I am so very happy to help the Thai people and contribute to your tax system”
“Thank you, Thank you!”
I was almost tempted to say: “Does my tax contribution include a date with your co-worker over there…the one that I will not soon forget”
An interesting morning indeed.
I later learned that the stupid law was causing a lot of problems for all those travelers that did not know about this tax assessment law and showed up at the airport to be told they had to have the stamp in their passport or they would not be permitted to leave…as per the rules and regulations.
I could only imagine how may thousands of people showed up at the airport with their last dollars in their pockets and be told that they can not leave until they are “tax assessed” because their passport shows they spent more than 90 days in Thailand in one calendar year and there is no tax assessment stamp seen in their passport.
How many people had to get their bags back and re-schedule their flights (how many had to buy new tickets) and go back into town and get a hotel and then find the tax office on a working day, Monday to Friday…Saturdays and Sundays closed…”So solly Falang..no can help you!”…while trying to figure out how to get some money to stay 1 or more days and secure some money for the taxes to be paid.
Talk about travelers frustration and anger for sure!
Eventually in 1988-99, when there was a change of Government they abolished the law but meantime, every time I had to do a visa run to the Malaysian border or go to Penang for a new visa I had to have a tax assessment stamp in my passport if my days spent in Thailand added up to more than 90 days in one calendar year.
I learned that the tax assessment can be performed at any district tax office anywhere in Thailand prior to leaving the country…so I would go to Hat Yai and get off the train…the train, the train … I can never forget the train…that long over night train ride to the border …the sound of the steel wheels on the tracks… clackity clack, clakity clack…insistently, finally arriving in Hat Yai and then on to catch the early morning bus, full of pretty Southern Thai school girls while on my way to the district tax office in Songkla with a pleasant view looking out at the beach and ocean.
There they would happily take your money also and assess you at half the price as compared to being assessed in Bangkok…why ..I don’t know?…just smile and pay!
It was all part of the travel adventure and I never minded paying it…like an airport tax …and the 2 to 3 day trip was always memorable and the scenery was always mesmerizing.
Then it was off to the Malaysian border by bus or by “rent and share a car arrangement”, out of Hat Yai or back to the train station to get the next train to Butterworth Malaysia and then over to the Island of Penang and the Thai Embassy for another multi entry visa.
I imagine many guys are familiar with what I have described and just how deeply etched into a persons mind certain aspects of living in Thailand stand out as part of all the unforgettable memories and events we experience while living here.
I will leave you now but maybe tell you about my 18 month over stay in 1991 and the bizarre immigration arrangements I had to go through before temporarily exiting the country…or maybe I will tell about the “hand job from hell” at the Thai / Malaysian border train station.
Wonderful trip down memory lane!