After being on a variety of visas over the last 18 months or so since I arrived here it was finally time to get my first 12 month non-O ‘retirement’ extension. Although the renewal and extension are theoretically straightforward if you have all the paperwork in order, the expat internet forums are full of stories about Immigration officers wanting extra paperwork that is not officially required so it is a good idea to do a renewal as early as possible and not to leave it to the last week or so, just in case you do need to provide extra paperwork.
My extension was not due until the end of the month but I trotted off to Immigration last week to get it done early. Immigration is on the other side of town from me, getting there involves a Skytrain trip to the end of the line and then a taxi ride, so it is not something you want to do too often or repeat unnecessarily so I took along all the officially required paperwork to prove my finances were adequate (photocopies of my bank book plus a letter from the bank confirming my account plus my bankbook) and copies of my passport data and visa plus anything I could think of to cover all the horror stories on Thaivisa.com about proof of address and income source “just in case”.
I got there around 10.30, got my queue number for the retirement/family visa section….#107, with 77 people waiting ahead of me, so they had only processed 30 people in 2 hours ? Uhmm…I think I’ve got a bit of a wait, certainly will not get done before they close for lunch. Looking at the people seated in the waiting area I could see a couple of probable retirees, a few couples with thai spouses but most of the crowd were Indians presumably renewing their family visas.
I watched some people come and go to get an idea of how fast the queue was moving, some of the interviews went for 20,25 minutes or more which was not encouraging.
Finally at around 3.15 they get into triple figures …100,101 all get called and served. #102 ? nobody moves. 103? 104? 105? 106? nobody moves. #107 ! I give the officer my application, passport and the bankbook and passport copies, tick, tick tick ….you need a copy of this visa from last year, go and get it copied downstairs and then come back and see me again. That was the only hitch, apart from time spent running off downstairs it probably only took about 8 or 10 minutes and I was out with my 12 month extension freshly stamped and signed. There were no questions about how I was supporting myself (to make sure I was not working illegally) or proving where I lived, nor any of the other stories from Thaivisa.com.
But after waiting nearly 5 hours to get that done, the waiting was not over yet as there was a horrendous queue for a taxi because it was raining. I teamed up with a English girl to share a cab back to the Skytrain, it took us around an hour to get to the front of the line. When our cab finally turned up one of the Indian guys tried to jump the line and grab it but this English girl with a very prim and proper upper class accent promptly and bluntly told him where to go !
So with about an hour of travel each way that was eight hours spent for around an eight minute interview, what a waste of a day ! And what a waste of paper, I’m no fanatical greenie but I reckon there must be at least one tree’s worth of paper used every day at Immigration. There were several large cubicles packed full of paperwork ..what do they do with it all ? there must be warehouses full of visa renewal applications somewhere around Bangkok. Some of the people looked to have about 20 or 30 sheets of paper with their applications. Perhaps immigration bosses own the copy shops downstairs ?
Oh well, I’m legal for 12 months so I don’t have to venture out to Chaeng Wattana again until then