Renewing Retirement Visa in Nakhon Si HELL
This past week I have had the “unique” experience that others have mentioned but never in my 6 years in Thailand have I experienced it until this week. The mission was to renew my annual retirement visa. I previously lived in Hua Hin and all 4 renewals were at the Immigration Office there. The process was straightforward and the requirements for renewal were exactly the same as posted on the government website and printed on a flyer in their office.
I gathered all of the required paperwork together and set off for the 86 km trek to Nakhon Si Thammarat Immigration office which is the province we live in now. When I entered the office and submitted the papers, the person asked for my passport. Woops, I completely forgot it @#$%^&*()! When getting into the car for the return trip I glanced back at the door to see the hours the office was open. Posted on the door was 8:30 – 16:30 and I specifically looked to see if there was mention of being closed for lunch.
Off we go to return home to fetch the passport. We get it and immediately turn around and do the trip again stopping for lunch along the way. We arrived at the Immigration office at 12:50 and not too surprised that they were closed for lunch. After waiting for over 30 minutes someone found a small business card taped on the side (not the front) of the building with the lunch hours posted and a phone number to call. They called the number to learn that the staff would not return until 2 PM for whatever reason.
At 2 PM they arrived. They took my papers and passport and the head man of the office took the chair in front of the window. He immediately started telling me that I was missing things, one of which was a letter from the bank dated within 24 hours of that day. I protested saying that I had only received the letter from the bank on the previous Friday (it was Tuesday) when they told me I could pick it up. He then said I needed a copy of my passbook, which I had completely failed to realize that I needed to include since I had never submitted this bank letter before but always had the income verification from the embassy. Unfortunately I very ignorantly protested that I had never had to provide it in the past. He was right on that one and I was wrong but the way he delivered the message was crude. In addition he said we needed pictures of wife and I in front of our house, inside the house and in back of house (pictures that could be taken anywhere in the world). What was frustrating was the manner he delivered his message. It was like expressing contempt that I wasted his time with an incomplete application. He even did not like the two page application I presented him that is on the government website that allows you to type out the application and print it. He told me it had to be one page and on that thin paper they use for their forms. Now this was new as I had never had that problem in Hua Hin. It was plain that he was going to stick it to me because of my protests to him (my mistake).
Went back home and thought we would next try the Immigration office in Surat Thani (which is closer) as the wife said she had “heard” that we could go to either office to renew.
I reprinted the application with Surat Thani as the office and the next day off we went for a ride through Surat Thani to find the office. As usual, wife did not know where it was so a lot of stopping to get more misdirections. We finally found the Immigration office (after one false stop) and was told that we could not process there but had to do it in Nakhon Si Thammarat where we lived. Wife asked officer to check the paper work to see if it was correct. I only had the minimum government requirements. She said it was all OK.
Off we go back home to add more papers, eat lunch and make the 4th trip in 2 days to an Immigration office many kilometres away.
Now I had everything I was told I would need on our previous inglorious visit to Immigration in Nakhon Si Thammarat. Arrived around 2 PM and office was open and Mr. Congeniality was not around so gave the papers to a lady there. She looked over the papers and said that they wanted a copy of our bank passbook that had a transaction on it for that day showing that day's balance. HUH—this is not in the requirements. The lady even told us that two people had come in earlier with the embassy income verification documents and they would not accept them without a “current” copy of their (dated today) bankbook. Off we go to Tesco a kilometre down the street and a Bangkok Bank branch, make a 100 baht deposit, update the passbook, go to another store and pay 2 baht to get a “current” copy of the updated passbook. In the process we ran into a neighbor who was renewing his visa that day also. He had the same bank book problems we had encountered.
When we returned from Tesco, the lady completed all of the paperwork, stamped all the stamps in my passport and wrote all the necessary numbers in it.
Lessons learned: When wife says she knows where something is you must expect a few stops to ask people who really might know where it is. Never underestimate how much trouble an Immigration Officer can cause you by making up his own rules. After living here for 6 years I should have known to not say anything during the whole process as it only serves to inflame the situation. In the future will only visit this office for visa renewal and do all of the 90 day check-ins elsewhere.
I think it is widely known that with government offices, there are some which are more user friendly than others. I think it is also widely known that government officials have a degree of flexibility with their interpretation of the rules.
When I go to Immigration I take a plastic folder with all my documents and copies of everything so if I am asked for anything extra, I have everything there with me already and can just hand over a copy of what is needed. Do that and you won't have any problems and everyone will be happy!