Bringing Your Thai Partner West
As an avid, long-time reader of the Stickman site, I have rarely seen any articles detailing the experience of bringing your Thai partner to a western country to live. As those of you who have done it know, it can be a costly and challenging proposition.
Let me detail some of my experiences in the hopes of helping anyone contemplating the move. Let me preface it by stating that I live in America, specifically the Midwest. The “Issan” of America. Not in the sense of being poor and impoverished, but, in the sense it is a largely agriculturally based economy.
Also, I met and married my wife here. In fact, I have only been to Thailand once for the second wedding ceremony with my wife’s family and friends. I mention this because I have no experience going through the onerous visa process. Many of you will be asking yourselves “then what does he know?” To which I would reply “nothing”.
I had no preconceived notions of all Thai females treating men as walking ATMs or fixers of sick water buffaloes. I just always knew I had jasmine fever from a young age. I can still remember an Asian girl I had a crush on in third grade. Anytime I saw a beautiful Asian female I could feel the blood flowing south. I just love long dark hair and eyes. And, it really helped that I love Thai food.
This is where the story begins. I met my wife at a Thai restaurant that I frequented on a regular basis. I loved chatting up the cute Thai girls that came and went on a regular basis. Most were in America on student visas but actively looking for a means to remain after their studies ended. When I met my wife, it was love at first sight for me, not so much for her. But, she came to realize I was a great guy with a good education and a respectable professional career. Really, I’m shy and modest so I didn’t come on like a Don Juan.
She comes from a family of educators. All her siblings had advanced degrees from good Thai colleges, for what that’s worth. She worked professionally but always wished to travel abroad. She had several college friends who had relocated to America so it was a natural next step for her.
My first recommendation is to find a girl who is already in your country. Number one, it shows they really do want to be abroad, and number two, takes the whole visa process out of the equation. It also buys you time to see if she really is someone you wish to spend the rest of your life with or at least ten years, we’ll get to that later.
After hitting it off, we decided to marry and move to my hometown which was halfway across the country from where she was located, a place she had never seen. I was lucky, she had already spent several years dealing with winters on the east coast. For anyone thinking of taking a Thai girl directly from the heat of Thailand to the depths of winter in your country, be prepared for an unhappy girl unless you are willing to keep the heat up in your house. If not, I don’t give you much chance of surviving! My wife still says she’s cold even when I’m sitting in shorts and T-shirt.
When you get your girl home, the first thing you need to do is locate a good Asian grocer. This is a MUST. Your girl will shrivel up and die on a strict western diet. Actually, more likely, turn into the fat pig you went to Thailand to avoid! Seriously, she will crave the foods she grew up with. Almost none will be found in your local supermarket. Trust me on that. You will need to find one of those stores that smell like they’re hiding a decomposing corpse in the back room. They will carry fruits and vegetables you have never seen before along with aisles of sauces and canned “delicacies” you could only imagine. As I mentioned, I love Thai food, so this is a place I love to visit.
If your girl doesn’t speak your native language, you are going to have to get her enrolled in a language school. This is probably the most important point to be made. She will have a rough time if she can’t communicate with you and the people she encounters on a daily basis. This is probably the key to success of your relationship. I was fortunate, my wife had already undertaken this step and we were able to communicate fairly well from day one.
The next thing you will need to do, if she is moving to a new area, is find her some friends to speak Thai with. Sure, she can talk to her friends on Facebook, Line, etc., but if you know Thai girls, you know they love to get together and eat. This really isn’t as hard as it seems. Amazingly, Thais are everywhere in America. You may not notice them but go to a Thai restaurant and they will know who’s who in your area. Be prepared, many of the Thais she meets will have “issues” that they will want to make your issues. Lose those numbers immediately. My wife has met maybe 2 or 3 Thais she still considers friends. Most come along with many relationship problems and dependencies. She is no different than you and me in not wanting to deal with other people’s problems. I can almost immediately tell which ones are going to be bad by how long they have been in the west and how much of the language they have learned. The ones with less are immediately avoided.
Eventually, if your girl is a practicing Buddhist, you will want to find her a temple to visit. This is a little more problematic for people living far from a major city. In my case, we have to travel about an hour and only visit on major celebrations.
So, now you’ve fed her and helped her meet some friends and shown her a place to worship, it’s time to go through the whole “green card” process. In America, you can marry a foreign national who has overstayed her visa. By starting the green card process, she is legally allowed to stay until a decision is made by the government.
The whole process will take about 5 years and $5,000 in fees, if you do all of the paperwork yourself. If you use a lawyer it could be considerably more expensive. It really isn’t all that onerous a process if you have your affairs in order. If you have no criminal record, are current on your taxes and have the various documents, it’s relatively easy but time consuming. Wading through the immigration website to determine the forms to fill out is the hardest part of the process. After you file the initial paperwork, Immigration will follow up with any other required forms. One thing you need to consider if you live in America, by starting the green card process, you are committing to supporting her for TEN YEARS at the current poverty level. So, if she decides to divorce you after getting her green card, you’re still on the hook for many more years. For some girls, that could be incentive enough to rope in a gullible man. And, we have encountered a few while finding her friends.
You will need to have many documents to prove you are actively living together and sharing your assets. They really are a stickler for proof. At first you may be leery of putting your new wife on your mortgage or bank account but you will need to have several ways of proving it’s not a marriage of convenience (for her). Since I hadn’t put my wife on my mortgage (she is now), we were initially rejected. This is a little scary after 3 years of marriage! We had ten days to come up with further proof or she would have been immediately deported. Thankfully, we had travelled extensively over the three years of the process and had pictures and past itineraries to prove it. Many pictures had family members in them also. Fortunately, that sealed the deal.
My wife reads, writes and speaks English to a high degree. This allowed her to sail through the final interview where they are required to answer five random questions. This was where several of her friends failed. They must at least be trained to answer basic questions such as their home address and phone number.
Trust me, there will be many rough stretches just like in a western-western relationship. You will have to be understanding and put up with some home sickness. You will need to put yourself in her shoes and see it through her eyes. That is why I believe it is best to find a girl that is already abroad. They have already taken the most crucial step. It is an expensive proposition so you don’t want to get started and have them flee back home. The government doesn’t give refunds!