Stickman's Weekly Column June 17th, 2001

Those Dodgy Visas!



The friendly, fun seeking nature of the locals makes life in Thailand very pleasant and one can find that it is hard not to walk around with a permanent grin on your face. But there are a few times of the year when one gets a little nervous, when one wonders how much longer this wonderful existence will last. It's visa time! Anxiety doesn't just creep up on you but rather a wave of stress slams into you as you wonder how the immigration official could possibly overlook the fact that two thirds of your passport is taken up with Thailand entry and exit stamps, the remainder being stamps denoting 15 minute intervals in neighbouring countries.

While I have never heard of anyone being turned away at the border, it could potentially happen. How would it feel if the official at the border didn't believe that you wanted to continue your 4 year existence in Thailand on another tourist visa. What would happen to your apartment? What about all of your possessions? Your friends? Job? What about teeruk?!

Not only is there the stress and worry of whether the visa will be granted, but also the hassles and time that it takes to do a visa run. It's a trip to the nearest border by road, or perhaps even a flight to a neighbouring country and a couple of unwanted days in a country where som tum isn't available and tom yum gung can't be head for less than 200 baht – and even then it just doesn't taste right. And worst of all, the indignity of having to deal with God, the embassy official who has the power to grant or deny you your next visa, thus forcing you to try your luck at the border for a measly 30 days tourist visa.

But all is not lost and help is at hand – for a price, of course!. There are currently eight firms advertising various visa services in the Bangkok Post, including the holy grail, the one year visa! Thai Visa, the most famous visa firm, used to have a hold on the market but when poor old Lars got busted by the authorities a year or so ago for alleged visa fraud, no new companies seemed to enter the market to take over where he left off. But in recent times ads have started to reappear in the Bangkok Post and most days, you will find ads for the same eight companies offering visa services.

In an effort to find out what services these firms offer, I sent the following email to the eight firms and their replies are included in the table below.

I saw your ad in the Bangkok Post as a specialist in visas and other matters. I am an American expat living in Bangkok and I would like to get a non-immigrant B visa. I do not want the hassle of leaving the country. Can you help me? What would the price be of this visa? Is there any other relevant info that I need to know?

Thank you for your assistance.

All of the companies replied promptly except for Siam Visa International Law who took four days to send what was obviously just a standard form email response. Ponthep Law were also emailed but they didn't bother to reply. I tried emailing ICR twice but both times the email "bounced". These last two companies obviously don't realise the importance of email contact… The English and layout of the replies have been tidied up a little, but other than that, they remain unedited.
Loyola One Stop
Business Service

Our company provides all kinds of legal services to our customers, including visa, but to extend your visa with us you should be qualified to get it i.e. should be employed by a company, and hold a work permit or have plans to open your own company or be married and support a Thai citizen. If none of those can be applied to your case we cannot help you with the visa. But there are a lot of other companies that would take your passport out of the country and return it back to you, it is not a legal practice, but quite a few companies still do it.

Please if you want to make everything legal way, contact us and we will see what we can do.

H Toosi Law Office
I would like to thank you for considering our services. The Non-Immigrant visa services offered by some agents without the applicant actually leaving the country are fakes and has made many foreigners end up in jail. The long term visa is granted to foreigners under certain conditions and categories listed at our web site www.htoosi.com. I would be more than happy to offer my services in this regard if necessary.
Siam Capital
Management

You have to leave the country and re-apply at any Thai Embassy for a new visa to come to Thailand. It could be a tourist visa or a non-immigrant visa depending on your eligibility. Please call the relevant embassy for more information regarding their requirements. Without knowing more about your personal particulars, I am sorry we cannot give you any advice yet.
Visa News / Thai
Laos Expat Services

These are the options for one year multi entry visas:

Married 12,000 baht,
Have a child in your name 12,000 baht,
Have company papers, tax clearance, work letter 12,000 baht,
If none of the above, a perfectly legal one year non Imm O or B multi entry.

Validated for the first 3 months 15,000 baht
More info below.
<went on to give EXCELLENT info – Stick>

Express Visas
We offer you one year multi entry non-immigrant B visa, 15,000 baht + 3 photos, and 2 weeks to process.
Siam Visa
International Law

This company sent a standard information file without answering the email. Their response was totally unclear and while they quoted prices for a one year visa at 10,000 baht, they also said, "All foreigners who wish to apply for company registration, a one year visa or a work permit must obtain a Non-Immigrant Visa at any Thai consulate outside of Thailand. Explanation should be given to the consulate as to the reason for your visa request." This just totally confused everything.

What we have represents a fascinating bunch of replies. It's interesting to see that some firms are steering clear of this potentially lucrative business and that not everyone is on the dodgy visa game. It seems that the standard price for a one year visa, be it non-immigrant B or O, is 15,000 baht. It should be noted that there are a few other folks around town offering this service who I didn't contact. Some firms did mention that this practice is illegal so one must consider that.

While the way the visa is procured is dodgy, the likelihood of problems is low and for many, it is nice to know that such services still exist. However Stick's advice is that if at all possible, try and get it all done correctly through legitimate means. If you do have a problem while your visa is being procured in a dodgy manner, you might suffer all sorts of difficulties. Just imagine it, one of those bloody farang hunting rubbish cops hits on you for throwing away a cigarette butt and you end up in an argument, the cops are summoned and it is the one policeman in all of South East Asia who won't accept a pay off. Even 2000 baht won't cut it and insists on seeing your passport! Off you go to your apartment to find a passport that is quite possibly thousands of kilometres away! For this reason alone, be wary about using such firms.

A reader sent in the following analogy about farang / bargirl relationships and I really like it. Special thanks to the "Walt, the Aloha Man" for allowing me to include it.

Let me tell you of my mango principle about girls who work in the various facets of the easy money night life trade. Comparing the girls to mangoes, I tell my friends that if you want a good mango you have to put some effort into it and climb the tree. Usually the really good mangoes are at the very top where they get good sunlight. Once a mango hits the ground it is usually too late unless you pick them up at once. Once the mango is on the ground for a while, the mango gets rotten really fast. Of course picking up a mango from the ground is much easier than climbing the tree. So when my friends moan and groan about their bad experiences with the night girls I remind them of my mango principle.
Chelsea Bar in Sukumvit soi 33 has erected a sign stating that the usual happy which runs from 4:00 – 9:00 PM has been extended for the duration of the rainy season and the happy hour prices are in effect all night. This bar always seemed a bit quieter than most of the other bars in the soi so this happy extension seems to be a good idea and should contribute to boosting business in Chelsea over the next few months. Will any of the other bars in the soi follow?

I just hate these lists in various magazines that read something like "You haven't been to XXX until you have XXX" and then goes on to list about 100 things of which no more than ten have any appeal to the average person. Having said this, there is one place that everyone coming to Thailand should visit and that is the Too Lae Dee (translated = cheap and good) diner which is just inside the entrance of Foodland Supermarket on Sukumvit Soi 5. The best time to go is late, as late as possible. Few places in town provide such a fascinating view on the tangle of relationships that farangs and bargirls get into and you see a fascinating slice of central Bangkok's very cosmopolitan residents. If you are the party hard out late type, this is absolutely the best place to sit, drink a few coffees and watch as both you and Bangkok recover from yet another hangover.

The small diner just inside the entrance to Foodland Supermarket
on Sukumvit Soi 5 is well worth a visit for everyone visiting Thailand.

One of my favourite places for decent Western food is Woodstock bar in Nana Plaza. But what is the deal with the waitresses in there? Every week and I mean this, EVERY week, they have new service staff. Unfortunately this results in you receiving the wrong food, your change being stuffed up, mixed up checkbins and even being forced to speak Thai as within the first month or so, their English is virtually non existent. Where are all of these girls going? Are customers sweeping them off their feet and whisking them away to the Farangland? Or do the waitresses notice that all the girls in the bars around them are earning 5 – 10 times more than them and they defect over to the dark side? But so long as the chef in charge of hamburgers stays, all is not lost!

About 18 or so months ago, the Bank Of Asia started opening its branches on Saturdays and a few of the other banks quickly followed. Given that banks in Thailand close at 3:30 PM on week days, this was very much welcomed. However, walking past a couple of banks on Saturday, I notice that most are now closed. Was Saturday business not what they thought it would be?

As already mentioned, the visa laws are one big hassle and for the folks employed in the Kingdom, it often seems that no-one in your company or school really knows what is going on. This is all exacerbated by the fact that a lot of employers actually do a bit of a fiddle with the visas. English language schools are amongst the biggest culprits here such as the schools which sell you fake credentials allowing you to get a work permit and another school which just submits a copy of a bogus degree with the new employee's name, irrespective of whether that employee has their own qualifications or not! Not only is getting your work permit and visa a hassle initially, but cancelling it is one big hassle too.

A friend has experienced nothing but trouble this week and has been hit with a 7000 baht fine due to work permit and visa hassles. The fellow left one school and went immediately to work for another. He checked and then verified the situation of his work permit and visa with the administration officer at each school and both said that all was in order. Sadly, it wasn't. It seems that he didn't get his visa status changed and that seven days after cancelling his work permit, his visa automatically became invalid – as it is tied to the work permit. Neither school, both of which gave him bad advice, would apologise for the error, let alone offer to liaise with Immigration to get it sorted out. The schools made sure that they fulfilled all of their obligations, but did little to assist or advise him and ultimately misleading him. It's sad that he is a teacher on a meagre salary – its going to be a dry month until pay day for him! It definitely seems that if you have a job, it's best not to walk out as many people used to do in the past. If you have a work permit, there are certain obligations that you need to fulfil, otherwise you will face a nasty fine that just keeps accruing and accruing until you settle it.

Food vendors near Mahboonkrong were screaming and yelling the other day as a fellow from the Ministry of Works pushed this concrete cutting contraption up one of the lanes close to their vendor carts. At 50m away from this contraption, the noise was loud, at 30m it was deafening and at 10m it was quite simply unbearable. I don't know if the fellow pushing it was deaf, but if he isn't already, he surely will be. Someone forgot to tell the guy that a baseball cap doesn't protect your hearing and that earmuffs are needed for that. There must be some sort of safety procedures whereby the poor fellow pushing along this portable deafening machine be supplied with ear muffs?

This concrete cutting contraption upset many residents of a soi near MBK as it
took the fellow almost two hours to push the deafening machine up the soi.

Nothing scares the owner of a small Thai store more than the big neon sign with red, white and green and those two famous numbers, Seven 11. Seven 11 has been aggressively opening new stores all over the city and since the introduction of the sky train, they have opened a huge number of stores right next to or very close to all of the BTS stations. Smaller stores that may have operated in the neighbourhood for years, possibly even generations, suddenly find their turnover plummets as customers will more often than not go to Seven (falling tone, if you say it to a Thai). It may just be business, but it sure as hell fires up the anti-farang sentiment amongst the owners of small businesses who madly see it as some sort of American plot to take over Thailand. Yeah, whatever.

Out of curiosity, I wonder just how many farangs live in Bangkok? My guess is somewhere around about 60,000 – 80,000 – which is a fairly big contingent. But no matter how many farangs there are in Bangkok, we will always be a tiny minority. There really seems to be a growing wave of nationalism sweeping over Thailand at the moment and a lot of old hands are talking about a definite shift in attitude by the Thai people towards foreigners. It's not a 180 degree change, but there has been a significant shift.

G Spot bar in Nana Plaza is one of the few bars where girls not only dance nude, but some also sit around and flirt with customers while still in their birthday suit. On Friday night, all of the girls in this bar were dancing with their bikinis well and truly on. There wasn't one set of breasts to see, let alone anything more. The word was that the cops were doing the rounds and the girls had to keep their gear on. So why was it that the next bar that all of the girls were dancing with nothing on? Did someone in the first bar forget to make a donation to interested parties?

Also at Nana, my faith in the Thai's willingness to spend money on maintenance has been restored. The sign at Pharaohs bar is back to life!

The Pharaohs Bar sign is back in all of its glory as one of Nana's
permanent residents tries to take a nap.

Across the road from Nana Plaza, Nana Disco seems to be abiding by the Interior Minister's wishes and is closing down at 2:00 AM sharp. Party revellers find themselves lost and unsure where to go next, knowing that most other locations will be either closed or are about to close too. On Friday night, the bar voluntarily closed at 2:00 AM – and there weren't even any cops there to force them into it.

Quite a few of the stores in Pantip Plaza, particularly those stores towards the back of the world's largest pirate software centre are now selling CDs for 100 baht each. If more shops start offering CDs at these prices, what will happen to Hollywood IT Centre, which has the advantage of cheaper CDs than Panthip, but offers little else? Well, it is less crowded. Oh, and RAM is now down to 2000 baht for 256 megs / 133 speed RAM!

While it was actually first published last year, I finally got around to picking up a copy of Nick Nostitz's "Patpong: Bangkok's Twilight Zone". Set all over the capital and not just Patpong as the title betrays, this is a superb portrayal of seedy farang nightlife in our favourite city. Somewhat dark and more than a little depressing, ace photographer Nick captures Bangkok beautifully. While this work will not appeal to everyone, for me this book is right up there along with Stephen Leather's "Private Dancer" as a definitive piece on Bangkok's wild nightlife. A full review of the book and a lengthy interview with the author will follow elsewhere on the site in the next few days.

Stickman is falling behind with the comings and goings around town and here are two pieces of news that are a little dated, but still of interest nonetheless. The first piece is only rumour – and I'm surprised I haven't heard it from anywhere else, but it comes from a very reliable source and I therefore believe it to be true. I'm told that one of the girls working on Soi Cowboy was killed in a motorbike accident at the Asoke intersection about a month ago. No more details were given about the girl, except that it was a collision between two motorbikes at high speed around 3:00 AM. The second piece, also from a month ago is 100% confirmed. Anyone floating around the scene at this time last year may have remembered a peculiar little French man who was videoing all and sundry with a small digital camera. Well it seems that this man was part of an organised sex tour and he recorded not only what was going on in the scene, but also other folks on the tour. He went on to sell the piece to Real TV and it screened in Thailand about a month or so ago. But I missed it, damn it!

For those wanting to become a Stickman apprentice, correctly answering the following question will be a step in the right direction (answer published next week):

The numbers 14, 15, 16, 16, 17, 17 are:

A. The price of a litre of petrol in baht for the months January to June of this year.
B. The real ages of six girls working in a farang orientated gogo bar in Bangkok.
C. This week's winning lottery numbers.
D. The total number of hits this website has had over each of the last six days.

A reminder that Nanapong Dance Contest #5 will be held at Rock Hard A Go Go in Clinton Plaza on Saturday 23 June. If you are in Bangkok, GO THERE! It will be a great night!

Your Bangkok commentator,

Stick

teeruk – Thai for darling

som tum – papaya salad