Thailand Visa The Inconsistencies Of Consulates, Embassies And Immigration Offices

One of the most frustrating and confusing aspects of dealing with businesses in Thailand is the inconsistency in which rules are interpreted and enforced.  The Thai embassies, consulates and indeed, even the Immigration department itself, is no different.

A simple example is applying for a visa at a Thai consulate or embassy.  While one mission may require the applicant to provide screeds of documents, some of which may actually be followed up on and verified, other missions may require next to nothing, just an application form, a photograph and the fee paid!

As an example, in the case of someone applying for a non-immigrant O visa for the purpose of retirement, some missions may require the applicant provide a comprehensive medical report whereas other missions may not consider this necessary.  Some embassies require applicants applying for a B visa for the purpose of working in Thailand as a teacher to provide a police check – whereas others might not.  At the Thai embassy in Vientiane, Laos, many years ago, any teacher applying for a visa was asked the name of their school which was checked against an approved list held at the embassy.  If the school was on the list the visa was approved but if it wasn’t the visa was declined.  I never heard of any other embassy with such a list!  You get the drift!

The same applies at the various offices of the Immigration department within Thailand.  Some offices may approve a visa extension with minimal documents required whereas others may not.  As crazy as it sounds, it is sometimes worthwhile lodging your application at a friendly Immigration office.  The other thing to bear in mind is to bring everything you need with signed photocopies (always in blue pen, not red or black) of all documents, including every page in your passport, multiple photos, bank accounts – basically all important documents.

The people you are dealing with when you go through the visa process are government workers, often overworked and underpaid.  Their job can be taxing at the best of times.  Irrespective of how you feel you are treated and how the embassy / consulate / Immigration department staff goes about processing your application, it is not recommended that you engage any member of staff in an argument or worse still, make a complaint.  For sure, never be rude to the staff there.  They have the power to make your life very difficult indeed so smile, be polite and try and work through any issues.  It goes without saying that all dealings with any Thai officialdom should see you dressed in clean, semi-formal attire.

Please dismiss any ideas you have about offering tea money to procure the right visa quickly.  The consulates and embassies are generally very helpful (unless you are someone who has existed in Thailand long term on visa after visa after visa) and they will usually outline what you need to provide them with for the visa to be issued.  The offering of tea money is not usually a good idea.  At the end of the day, they DO want you to be able to enter Thailand as there is economic advantage to the country of which they are very aware.

With that said, when applying for visa extensions in Thailand, or should you have any visa issues that need working through, a small gift can go a long way.  It does not need to be anything expensive.  A pack of assorted imported cookies goes a long way if the officer is female and a bottle of Johnny Walker Black will soften the grimace on even the sternest male Immigration officer’s face.  Personally, I prefer not to go down this route.  If you do, it might be best to get a Thai friend or colleague to assist you in the protocol.

Some consulates and embassies have become known for being largely problem free.  Examples are the Thai consulates in Hull in England, Brisbane in Australia and Houston in the US.  All are known as missions that will issue a visa with a minimum of fuss.  The Hull outlet is especially good and even multiple entry visas are issued in record time.

On the other hand, the embassies in Phnom Penh and Singapore have gained a reputation for being more discerning and for being much less willing to issue a visa to someone who appears to have been living in Thailand on perpetual tourist or non-immigrant visas.

It is generally accepted that applying for a visa in your home country will be easier than if applying at an embassy or consulate in a neighbouring country.